Applying LCA in decision making- the need and the future perspective

Dong, Y. (Guest lecturer), Simona Miraglia (Guest lecturer), Stefano Manzo (Guest lecturer), Stylianos Georgiadis (Guest lecturer), Sørup, H. J. D. (Guest lecturer), Elena Boriani (Guest lecturer), Hald, T. (Guest lecturer), Thöns, S. (Guest lecturer), Hauschild, M. Z. (Guest lecturer)

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations

Description

There is nowadays a need of including sustainable considerations in the policy and decision making. Sound decision making requires evidence-based support, i.e. decision analysis to help decision makers in identifying the best alternative based on the associated impacts. Decision analysis includes four steps: 1) structure decision problem; 2) assess possible impacts associated with alternatives; 3) determine stakeholder preferences and 4) evaluate alternatives. Decision analysis can be performed applying different tools, such as cost-benefit analysis (CBA), risk assessment, and life cycle assessment (LCA).
LCA is a decision analysis tool that focuses on environmental impacts. One limit is that LCA is based on defined impact categories and therefore does not provide information for those impacts and consequences out of the LCA scope. However, the LCA framework closely follows the decision analysis scheme and has the potential to be integrated with other decision analysis tools to enhance their assessment of environmental impacts.
To understand why LCA is needed in the policy decision context, we looked into the decision support for policy in several disciplines. Taking sustainable transport policy as an example, the traditional decision analysis tool for choosing the best alternative is CBA. CBA mainly analyses socio-economic impacts, such as travel time savings and costs, while only some environmental impacts are considered; i.e. the damage costs of greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matters, SOx, NOx and noise. Therefore, current transport policy making rarely reflect a full environmental profile of the suggested alternatives. Making decisions based on incomplete information may lead to sub-optimal solutions, especially where the environment is a major concern. There is a growing attention of conducting LCA in transport. Some identified environmental hotspots, such as consumer and household behavior, which may be the focus for future policies. Others assess the environmental impacts associated with building infrastructures and vehicle use. These studies verify that LCA can successfully quantify the environmental profile of alternatives in transport policy, if the relevant physical changes, e.g. vehicle travel distance and new infrastructures, are well-defined. However, before integrating LCA with other decision analysis methods for decision support, the study system, objectives, scopes, evaluation metrics and uncertainty handling need to be aligned.
Period7 May 201711 May 2017
Event titleSETAC Europe: 27th Annual Meeting – Environmental Quality Through Transdisciplinary Collaboration
Event typeConference
LocationBrussels, Belgium
Degree of RecognitionInternational