LCA guidelines and requirements
Understanding our LCA requirements
Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) stands as a cornerstone in calculating carbon credits. This method meticulously models the environmental impacts associated with all the material and energy flows throughout a product or service's life cycle. Adopting a "cradle to grave" perspective, LCA scrutinizes every stage of a product’s life, from raw material extraction, processing, usage, to end-of-life waste treatment.
Riverse Carbon Credits Calculation through LCA
The essence of calculating carbon credits via LCA lies in contrasting the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a project scenario with those of a baseline or reference scenario — essentially, the scenario that would have unfolded without the project's implementation. This comparison reveals the GHG emissions avoided or removed by the project, translating to the number of carbon credits it earns.
Adhering to robust methodologies
To garanty accuracy in LCA, Riverse Standard recognized only the following methodologies:
- Carbon Footprint: Defined in ISO 14067, focusing on the quantification of a product's carbon emissions.
- Cradle-to-Grave LCA: As per ISO 14040/14044, this offers a comprehensive assessment from the product's inception to its disposal.
- GHG Protocol’s Product Life Cycle Accounting Standard: A framework for life cycle GHG emissions accounting.
- Type III Environmental Declaration: In line with standards such as ISO 14025 and NF EN 15804+A1/A2, this declaration provides transparent environmental data.
- European Union PEF (Product Environmental Footprint): A method to measure the environmental performance of products across the EU.
Sector-Specific Methodologies by Riverse
Riverse extends detailed sector-specific methodologies, incorporating guidelines on managing multifunctionality in LCAs (system expansion, substitution, allocation), recycling/circular processes, and specific data requirements. Projects must align with both the General LCA Methodology and relevant sector-specific methodologies.
In cases where a Riverse sector-specific methodology is not available, scientifically backed proposals for establishing an LCA method are welcome. These proposals undergo rigorous evaluation by Riverse’s Technical Advisory Committee and, if necessary, validation by an external third party.
The General LCA Methodology Process
The General LCA Methodology unfolds in distinct steps:
- Definition of scope: Establishing the boundaries and objectives of the LCA.
- Data collection: Gathering relevant data on material and energy flows.
- Environmental Impact calculation: Focusing on climate change impacts and GHG emissions.
Definition of the scope
Defining Functional Unit (FU)
The 'Functional Unit' serves as the reference point to which all environmental impacts in the assessment are normalized. It ensures that the comparisons made between the project and baseline scenarios are consistent and meaningful.
Functional units must encompass a range of characteristics to provide a comprehensive picture. These include:
- Type of Product/Service: Defining what is being assessed, such as a unit of electricity or a construction material.
- Amount: Quantifying the product or service, like the amount of electricity or the area of insulation.
- Performance Specifications: Outlining the quality or performance criteria the product or service must meet.
- Geographic Location: Specifying where the product is produced or the service is provided, as environmental impacts can vary significantly by location.
- Duration: Including the lifespan or operational period where relevant, particularly for products or services with long-term usage.
To illustrate, here are some examples of functional units:
- 1 kWh of Electricity Produced in France: This unit focuses on the environmental impact of producing a specific amount of electricity in a particular geographic setting.
- 1 m² of Wall Insulation for a House with a Lifetime of 50 Years, in Germany: This unit takes into account the material used for insulation, its expected lifespan, and its geographic specificity.
- 1 Tonne of Treated Textile Waste in the UK: Here, the focus is on the treatment of a specific amount of waste, highlighting the type of waste and its location.
System boundary considerations
Defining System Boundary
The system boundary is crucial as it encompasses stages directly involved in a project's life cycle, such as raw material extraction, processing, manufacturing, distribution, use, retail, and waste treatment. Additionally, important indirect stages like leakage sources and rebound effects may be included separately.
Visualization and Cut-Off Rule
Visual representations, such as diagrams, are highly recommended to clarify the system boundary for both the project and baseline scenarios. These diagrams should illustrate included processes, cut-off points, and groupings into main life cycle stages.
A practical approach in LCA is applying a 1% cut-off rule. This rule allows for the exclusion of processes contributing minimally (1%) to total impacts. These exclusions must be justified through a screening study or by referencing similar project LCAs.