Title: Integrated assessment of environmental impact of Europe in 2010: data sources and extrapolation strategies for calculating normalisation factors
Citation: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT vol. 20 no. 11 p. 1568-1585
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC95525
ISSN: 0948-3349
URI: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11367-015-0958-8
DOI: 10.1007/s11367-015-0958-8
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Purpose. Assessing comprehensively the overall environmental impacts of a region remains a major challenge. Within life cycle assessment (LCA), this evaluation is performed calculating normalisation factors at different scales. Normalisation represents an optional step of LCA according to ISO 14040/44 which may help in understanding the relative magnitude of the impact associated to a product when compared to a reference value. In order to enhance the robustness and comprehensiveness of normalisation factors for Europe in 2010, this paper present a methodology for building an extended domestic inventory of emission and resources to be used in the context of Product Environmental Footprint Material and methods. The normalisation factors (NFs) for EU 27 in 2010 are based on extensive data collection and the application of extrapolation strategies for data gaps filling. The inventory is based on domestic emissions into air, water and soil and on resource extracted in EU, adopting a production based approach. A hierarchy hasebeen developed for data sources selection based on their robustness and data quality. Data gap filling has been based on proxy indicators, capitalizing existing statistics on pressure indicators. To calculate NFs, the inventory has been multiplied by the characterization factors at midpoint as recommended in International reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook (EC-JRC, 2011). Results and discussion. The resulting NFs presents several added values compared to prior normalization exercises, namely: more complete inventory; robustness evaluation of the data sources; more comprehensive coverage of the flows within each impact category; overall evaluation of the robustness of the final figures. Few flows (NOx, SOx, NH4 etc) are driving the impacts of several impact categories, and the choice of the data sources is particularly crucial, as this may lead to differences in the NFs. The adoption of domestic NFs may results in overestimating the relative magnitude of certain impacts, especially when those impacts are associated with traded goods from or to outside the EU 27. Conclusion. Normalisation factors may help identification of the relative magnitude of the impact. Nonetheless, several limitations still exist both at the inventory and at the impact assessment level. Those limitations should be clearly reported and understood by the users of normalisation factors in order to correctly interpret the results of their study. Indeed, the efforts towards more robust normalization reference are needed both at the inventory and at the impact assessment side, including more robust impact assessment methods as well as better coverage of substances for which an inventory data is available but the characterization is missing. Strenghts and limitations of the current exercize have, then, implications also in other application context where integrated assessment of impacts is needed and were data gap filling and estimation of potential environemntal impacts is needed.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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