Global guidance on environmental life cycle impact assessment indicators: impacts of climate change, fine particulate matter formation, water consumption and land use

Olivier Jolliet*, Assumpció Antón, Anne-Marie Boulay, Francesco Cherubini, Peter Fantke, Annie Levasseur, Thomas Edward McKone, Ottar Michelsen, Llorenc Milà i Canals, Masaharu Motoshita, Stephan Pfister, Francesca Verones, Bruce Vigon, Rolf Frischknecht, Michael Zwicky Hauschild (Editor)

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Purpose: Guidance is needed on best-suited indicators to quantify and monitor the man-made impacts on human health, biodiversity and resources. Therefore, the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative initiated a global consensus process to agree on an updated overall life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) framework and to recommend a non-comprehensive list of environmental indicators and LCIA characterization factors for (1) climate change, (2) fine particulate matter impacts on human health, (3) water consumption impacts (both scarcity and human health) and 4) land use impacts on biodiversity. Methods: The consensus building process involved more than 100 world-leading scientists in task forces via multiple workshops. Results were consolidated during a 1-week Pellston Workshop™ in January 2016 leading to the following recommendations. Results and discussion: LCIA framework: The updated LCIA framework now distinguishes between intrinsic, instrumental and cultural values, with disability-adjusted life years (DALY) to characterize damages on human health and with measures of vulnerability included to assess biodiversity loss. Climate change impacts: Two complementary climate change impact categories are recommended: (a) The global warming potential 100 years (GWP 100) represents shorter term impacts associated with rate of change and adaptation capacity, and (b) the global temperature change potential 100 years (GTP 100) characterizes the century-scale long term impacts, both including climate-carbon cycle feedbacks for all climate forcers. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) health impacts: Recommended characterization factors (CFs) for primary and secondary (interim) PM2.5 are established, distinguishing between indoor, urban and rural archetypes. Water consumption impacts: CFs are recommended, preferably on monthly and watershed levels, for two categories: (a) The water scarcity indicator “AWARE� characterizes the potential to deprive human and ecosystems users and quantifies the relative Available WAter REmaining per area once the demand of humans and aquatic ecosystems has been met, and (b) the impact of water consumption on human health assesses the DALYs from malnutrition caused by lack of water for irrigated food production. Land use impacts: CFs representing global potential species loss from land use are proposed as interim recommendation suitable to assess biodiversity loss due to land use and land use change in LCA hotspot analyses. Conclusions: The recommended environmental indicators may be used to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals in order to quantify and monitor progress towards sustainable production and consumption. These indicators will be periodically updated, establishing a process for their stewardship.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
    Issue number11
    Pages (from-to)2189-2207
    Number of pages19
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Climate change
    • Fine particulate matter
    • Human Health
    • Land use
    • LCIA framework
    • Water consumption
    • Water scarcity

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