Title: Life cycle assessment for the impact assessment of policies
Authors: SALA SERENELLAREALE FRANCESCACRISTOBAL GARCIA JORGEMARELLI LuisaPANT Rana
Publisher: Publications Office of the European Union
Publication Year: 2016
JRC N°: JRC105145
ISBN: 978-92-79-64813-7
ISSN: 1831-9424
Other Identifiers: EUR 28380 EN
OP LB-NA-28380-EN-N
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC105145
DOI: 10.2788/318544
Type: EUR - Scientific and Technical Research Reports
Abstract: The European Communication on Better regulation (CEC, 2015) has been complemented with a Better Regulation toolbox which lists models and methods for the impact assessment of policies. Life cycle analysis has been listed among the tools, aiming at supporting the assessment of impact and benefits associated to different policy options. While the use of LCA in the context of business can be easily identified (decision-making, communication towards consumers, customers and/or governmental bodies), the full range of LCA uses in policy making is not well known as it has never been overall investigated. This knowledge gap can limit the LCA use in the context of policy, in turn, contrasting with the European Commission’s objective of making smart the regulation. In this context, the present report pursues a two-fold aim: i) to provide a first framework of potential roles of the LCA in the whole policy cycle, with particular reference to the impact assessment, ii) to provide discussion elements and inputs for LCA enhancement in the context of policy cycle. The proposed framework and related discussion elements/inputs has been built through the review of existing environmental policies, the review of Staff Working Documents relating to policies on Energy, Climate action and Environment topics, the definition of the most advanced state-of-art of LCA methodology. Due to its main features (Life cycle perspective and systemic approach), the LCA plays a relevant role all along the policy cycle, from policy anticipation and problem definition, to the policy evaluation. LCT and LCA have been integrated in several EU environmental policies over the last two decades and LCA is mostly mentioned as implementation measure. In the path of the policy cycle, the steps in which LCT and LCA could add more value are theoretically the first ones (policy formulation and policy impact assessment) as a proactive analysis to develop, evaluate and compare the different policy options and, in turn, to support the policy-makers in the adoption of the most suitable option. The Impact Assessment of policy (IA) addresses all dimension of sustainability, i.e. economic, social and environmental. Some LCA elements are particularly relevant for addressing sustainability problems, such as the life cycle perspective, the identification of the most important burdens and most relevant life cycle stages contributing to environmental and social impacts, identification of environmental (and social) “hot spots” of goods/ services/ systems/ technologies/ innovations/ infrastructures, identification of unintended burdens shifting between environmental (social) impacts (reducing one impact while increasing another) and over life cycle stages. In the context of the challenges posed by environmental sustainability assessment, LCA play a key role as it can provide support to policy-makers towards more transparent and evidence-based decisions, as requested by the Better regulation. A broad and international discussion on the need of a guidance for the application of LCA in the policy is ongoing. Several elements may affect the final results and policy support, including: data quality, modelling approach, methodological choices, uncertainty analysis etc. Further guidance tailoring LCA for policy needs are of upmost important. In this context, methodologies for capitalising existing knowledge are needed as well as methodology for robust and systematic sensitivity analysis.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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