The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 1912–1927 | Cite as

Towards harmonizing natural resources as an area of protection in life cycle impact assessment

  • Thomas Sonderegger
  • Jo Dewulf
  • Peter Fantke
  • Danielle Maia de Souza
  • Stephan Pfister
  • Franziska Stoessel
  • Francesca Verones
  • Marisa Vieira
  • Bo Weidema
  • Stefanie Hellweg
CRITICAL REVIEW

Abstract

Purpose

In this paper, we summarize the discussion and present the findings of an expert group effort under the umbrella of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Life Cycle Initiative proposing natural resources as an Area of Protection (AoP) in Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA).

Methods

As a first step, natural resources have been defined for the LCA context with reference to the overall UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) framework. Second, existing LCIA methods have been reviewed and discussed. The reviewed methods have been evaluated according to the considered type of natural resources and their underlying principles followed (use-to-availability ratios, backup technology approaches, or thermodynamic accounting methods).

Results and discussion

There is currently no single LCIA method available that addresses impacts for all natural resource categories, nor do existing methods and models addressing different natural resource categories do so in a consistent way across categories. Exceptions are exergy and solar energy-related methods, which cover the widest range of resource categories. However, these methods do not link exergy consumption to changes in availability or provisioning capacity of a specific natural resource (e.g., mineral, water, land etc.). So far, there is no agreement in the scientific community on the most relevant type of future resource indicators (depletion, increased energy use or cost due to resource extraction, etc.). To address this challenge, a framework based on the concept of stock/fund/flow resources is proposed to identify, across natural resource categories, whether depletion/dissipation (of stocks and funds) or competition (for flows) is the main relevant aspect.

Conclusions

An LCIA method—or a set of methods—that consistently address all natural resource categories is needed in order to avoid burden shifting from the impact associated with one resource to the impact associated with another resource. This paper is an important basis for a step forward in the direction of consistently integrating the various natural resources as an Area of Protection into LCA.

Keywords

Abiotic resources Biotic resources Land LCA LCIA Method review Soil Water 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Johannes Drielsma (Euromines) for valuable comments on the manuscript and for fruitful discussions as well as two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments and helpful suggestions. This work was supported by the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. P. Fantke was supported by the Marie Curie project Quan-Tox (GA No. 631910) funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. D. Maia de Souza is funded by the Alberta Livestock Meat Agency Ltd., grant number 2015E034R.

Supplementary material

11367_2017_1297_MOESM1_ESM.docx (227 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 226 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Sonderegger
    • 1
  • Jo Dewulf
    • 2
    • 3
  • Peter Fantke
    • 4
  • Danielle Maia de Souza
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Stephan Pfister
    • 1
  • Franziska Stoessel
    • 1
  • Francesca Verones
    • 8
  • Marisa Vieira
    • 9
  • Bo Weidema
    • 10
  • Stefanie Hellweg
    • 1
  1. 1.ETH Zurich, Institute of Environmental Engineering, Chair of Ecological Systems DesignZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Sustainable Organic Chemistry and TechnologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.European Commission–Joint Research CenterInstitute for Environment and SustainabilityIspraItaly
  4. 4.Quantitative Sustainability Assessment Division, Department of Management EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  5. 5.Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional ScienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  6. 6.Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research CentreLethbridgeCanada
  7. 7.Department of Energy and TechnologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  8. 8.Industrial Ecology Programme, Department of Energy and Process EngineeringNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  9. 9.PRé ConsultantsAmersfoortThe Netherlands
  10. 10.The Danish Centre for Environmental AssessmentAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark

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