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ANEC position. Environmental assessment goes astray. A critique of environmental footprint methodology and its ingredients.

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40 pages
Ce rapport affirme que les consommateurs européens sont souvent inondés d'informations confuses et trompeuses quant à l'empreinte carbone des produits qu'ils achètent. Selon l'ANEC (Association européenne pour la coordination et la représentation des consommateurs dans la normalisation), le problème réside dans la méthodologie de l'analyse du cycle de vie que la Commission européenne met actuellement au point pour évaluer les effets sur l'environnement des produits, services et organisations. Le rapport formule une proposition afin que les instruments tels écolabels et labels énergétiques soient davantage développés et propose également un cadre pour le développement d'indicateurs avec des informations pertinentes sur les produits et les services, via l'utilisation d'un large éventail de méthodes d'évaluation et non le recours à une méthodologie unique.
Bruxelles. http://temis.documentation.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/document.xsp?id=Temis-0076910
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ANEC POSITION  ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT GOES ASTRAY  A CRITIQUE OF ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT METHODOLOGY AND ITS INGREDIENTS
 Contact: michela.vuerich@anec.euMichela Vuerich (ANEC) –  Ref.:EN-CA08fi-G-02012ENV- lan  ANEC, the Europeran Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation Av. de Tervueren 32, box 27 – 1040 Brussels - +32 2 743 24 70 -www.anec.eu       
 
 
Foreword
ANEC-ENV-2012-G-008final 22 May 2012
The following paper was prepared in response to the Commission's DG Environment effort to develop "a harmonised methodology for the calculation of the environmental footprint of products (including carbon footprint)"1 the aim "to with reduce the environmental impacts of goods and services".
This method builds "on the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook as well as other existing methodological standards and guidance documents (ISO 14040-44, PAS 2050, BP X30, WRI/WBCSD GHG protocol, Sustainability Consortium, ISO 140 25, Ecological Footprint, etc)".
Consequently, the critique is not focussed on the emerging organisational (OEF) and product (PEF) environmental footprint methodology but addresses the relevant underlying concepts and instruments. In fact, the OEF and PEF methodologies are by no means new, they rather constitute a remix of existing tools and related guidance.
The OEF/PEF initiative of DG Environment was unfortunately not preceded by an in-depth investigation about fundamental limitations of existing approaches (in particular of Life Cycle Assessment, LCA) on the one hand, and a broad discussion about stakeholder perceptions and expectations regarding environmental assessment and related indicators on the other hand. This was a serious omission resulting in a questionable outcome with a potential to constrain environmental assessment and mislead environmental policy.
Any method development should not be seen as an end in itself. A method is suitable only if it fulfils its target – in this case to contribute to environmental policy making in a meaningful manner. Hence, a methodology discussion must have a wider scope – it must be embedded in a syst em of political target setting and decision making.
Last but not least, instruments must show their value in practical life before existing and well-proven tools are abandoned. Othe rwise serious damage is likely to occur.
           
                                                1 http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/product_footprint.htm
 
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  CONTENTS
ANEC-ENV-2012-G-008final 22 May 2012
Summary .................................................................................................. ...3 Introduction .............................................................................................. ..4 1. Research based ANEC positions.............................................................. .5 1.1 LCA methodology ................................................................................ ..5
1.2 Questionable benefits of EPD/CFP information .....................................7 1.3 Construction ........................................................................................ ..9
1.4 LCA Impact assessment ......................................................................1 1 1.5 ISO standards for LCA, EPD, PCF .........................................................1 6 2. Other LCA limitation reviews .................................................................1 7 2.1 General limitations .............................................................................. 17 2.2 LCA and Risk Assessment .................................................................... 19 3. Case examples – the real world of LCA ..................................................2 0 3.1 Packaging............................................................................................ 20 3.2 Nappies ............................................................................................... 21
3.3 Hand drying......................................................................................... 22 3.4 Biofuels ............................................................................................... 23 4. Does standardisation help? ...................................................................2 6 4.1 Enhancing precision ............................................................................ 26
4.2 Other aspects ...................................................................................... 27 5. Corporate indicators.............................................................................. 27 6. PEF specific remarks ............................................................................. 29 7. The alternative approach: tailor-made environmental Key Performance Indicators.................................................................................................. 30 7.1 Basic principles ................................................................................... 30 7.2 3-level framework for tailor-made environmental KPI identification...32 8. Links to political instruments ................................................................3 4
 
9. Annex ................................................................................................... .36
 
 
 
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Summary
ANEC-ENV-2012-G-008final 22 May 2012
The Commission develops a harmonised methodology for the calculation of the environmental footprint of products, services and organisations with a view to assess, display and benchmark their environmental performance based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach. The pr oposed method is fundamentally flawed and not fit for the purpose for different reasons, which we examine in this paper.
LCA methodology has unique advantages when analysing the environmental performance of products as it allows in principle – based on an accounting of all relevant material flows throughout the entire life cycle – to obtain a complete picture of certain environmental burdens associated with a product. This allows comparisons across technological boundaries and to identify relevant stages in the life cycle, as well as improvement options.
By contrast, LCA methodology features fundamental shortcomings including dependency on numerous subjective choices, lack of adequate data and limited precision. The history of LCA has shown clearly these constraints with heated debates following publications of comparative studies and accusations of manipulation. In some cases European policy was completely misguided based on flawed LCA results (see e.g. biofuels). These limitations cannot be overcome by another layer of rules in addition to exis ting standards – they are inherent in the system of life cycle assessment.
In addition, LCA is definitely not THE t ool which can suitably characterize all environmental impacts. Many impacts cannot be reasonably related to reference flows referring to a functional unit and aggregated throughout the life cycle, because the effects are space, time and threshold dependent. Some of the LCA impact categories are of questionable scientific validity or outdated. Sound environmental assessments require a mix of different tools (environmental impact assessment, human health and environmental risk assessment, technology assessment, etc.) taking due account of their strengths and weaknesses.
Life cycle assessment is a suitable tool for orientation at the onset of indicator development or regulatory requirement setting. However, suitable production, consumption or disposal indicators are typically more robust, in many ways more meaningful or relevant, cheaper; they can be measured and are easier to verify. Consumer information based on a choice of LCA indicators is useless and a step in the wrong direction – even if linked to rating scales which will often not be possible. The reason is that the poor precision of the method will not allow the establishment of bands comparable to the energy labelling scheme (where, despite well-defined test protocols, tolerances can be as big as the width of one band). Irrespective of this, consumers need a clear indication of a superior product by a traditional type I label. The significance of (several) life cycle indicator results is difficult to assess even for experts, let alone the average consumer. Apart from that, such indicators will be of little interest as they are not related to consumer needs. Bombarding consumers with such information may meet some advertising needs to give some
 
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