LCIA framework and cross-cutting issues guidance within the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative

Francesca Verones, Jane Bare, Cécile Bulle, Rolf Frischknecht, Michael Zwicky Hauschild, Stefanie Hellweg, Andrew Henderson, Olivier Jolliet, Alexis Laurent, Xun Liao, Jan Paul Lindner, Danielle Maia de Souza, Ottar Michelsen, Laure Patouillard, Stephan Pfister, Leo Posthuma, Valentina Prado-Lopez, Brad Ridoutt, Ralph K. Rosenbaum, Serenella SalaCassia Ugaya, Marisa D. M. Vieira, Peter Fantke

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    Increasing needs for decision support and advances in scientific knowledge within life cycle assessment (LCA) led to substantial efforts to provide global guidance on environmental life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) indicators under the auspices of the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. As part of these efforts, a dedicated task force focused on addressing several LCIA cross-cutting issues as aspects spanning several impact categories, including spatiotemporal aspects, reference states, normalization and weighting, and uncertainty assessment. Here, findings of the cross-cutting issues task force are presented along with an update of the existing UNEP-SETAC LCIA emission-to-damage framework. Specific recommendations are provided with respect to metrics for human health (Disability Adjusted Life Years, DALY) and ecosystem quality (Potentially Disappeared Fraction of species, PDF). Additionally, we stress the importance of transparent reporting of characterization models, reference states, and assumptions, in order to facilitate cross-comparison between chosen methods and indicators. We recommend developing spatially regionalized characterization models, whenever the nature of impacts shows spatial variability and related spatial data are available. Standard formats should be used for reporting spatially differentiated models, and choices regarding spatiotemporal scales should be clearly communicated. For normalization, we recommend using external normalization references. Over the next two years, the task force will continue its effort with a focus on providing guidance for LCA practitioners on how to use the UNEP-SETAC LCIA framework as well as for method developers on how to consistently extend and further improve this framework.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
    Pages (from-to)957-967
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Life cycle impact assessment
    • Characterization framework
    • Uncertainty assessment
    • Human health
    • Ecosystem quality
    • Natural resources

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