General LCA framework
General LCA Methodology
Carbon credits are calculated using life cycle assessment (LCA). This method involves modeling environmental impacts of all material and energy flows across the life cycle of a product or service. It uses a “cradle to grave” perspective, considering life cycle stages such as extraction of raw materials, processing, use, and end of life waste treatment.
Carbon credits are calculated by comparing the GHG emissions of the project scenario to the emissions of a baseline scenario, or reference scenario, that would have occurred without the implementation of the project. The difference in GHG emissions between the two scenarios translates to the amount of GHG emissions the project can be credited with avoiding/removing, and the number of credits they may be issued. Details on selecting the baseline scenario are in the section above.
Calculations of GHG emissions for the baseline and project scenarios must follow a robust, recognized methodology for LCA or similar life-cycle based method, such as:
- Carbon footprint (as defined in ISO 14067)
- Life Cycle Assessment, cradle-to-grave (ISO 14040/14044)
- GHG Protocol’s Product Life Cycle Accounting Standard
- FDES (according to the NF EN 15804+A1 standard)
- European Union PEF (Product Environmental Footprint)
Detailed sector-specific methodologies are provided for each type of project covered by Riverse. These include guidance on aspects of LCAs such as dealing with multifunctionality (i.e. system expansion, substitution, allocation), recycling/circular processes, and specific data requirements. LCAs must follow both the General LCA Methodology and the relevant sector-specific methodology.
If a Riverse sector-specific methodology does not exist for a given project type, documented scientific research can be proposed to establish an LCA method. This measurement will then be evaluated by Riverse’s Technical Committee of other experts and validated by an external third party if necessary.
The General LCA Methodology is described below according to the main steps:
- Definition of the scope
- Collecting material and energy flow data
- Environmental impact calculation (at least climate change impacts/GHG emissions).
Definition of the scope
A functional unit is the reference value to which all impacts are normalized. The same functional unit must be chosen for the project and baseline scenarios, to ensure an appropriate comparison between the two scenarios.
Functional units should include characteristics such as:
- Type of product/service
- Performance specifications
- Geographic location
- Duration (where relevant)
Some examples of functional units are:
- 1 kWh of electricity produced in France
- 1 m2 of wall insulation for a house with a lifetime of 10 years, in Germany
- 1 ton of treated textile waste in the UK
The system boundary must include stages directly involved in the life cycle of the project, such as raw material extraction, delivery of supplies, processing, manufacturing, distribution, use, retail, distribution, and waste treatment. Important indirect stages may also be included in separate results, such as leakage sources and rebound effects.
It is highly recommended to provide diagrams depicting the system boundary of the project and baseline scenario. These should detail what is included in the analysis, the cut-off points for upstream and downstream processes, and groupings of processes into main life cycle stages.
A 3% cut-off rule is used to determine what processes within the system boundary may be excluded from the LCA. Processes with the lowest contributions to impacts, which account for a total of 3% of impacts, may be excluded from the LCA. These processes should be identified and justified with a screening study, or by using examples of LCAs of similar projects.
Collecting material and energy flow data
All measurements from the project scenario must be verifiable and based on recent conditions. These measurements include quantities (volume, mass, number) and type of products and inputs.
All background data (i.e.: emission factors, rates of recycling, composition of national electricity grid) must be derived from traceable, unbiased, reputable sources.
LCAs must use the most recent data available. Data coming directly from the project (i.e. foreground data) should be no more than 1 year old. Background data (i.e. market averages, global statistics) should be no more than 3 years old.
For geographic accuracy, national-level background data should be prioritized. Local (region, state, city-scale) or global sources may be used if justified in the DPD.
Environmental impact calculation
Although many types of environmental impacts can be modeled with LCA, only the climate change impacts (measured in CO2e) are used to calculate the number of carbon credits to issue a project. Results from other environmental impact categories may be used to determine eligibility of a project (i.e. respecting the Do No Harm principle or for justifying co-benefits).
It is encouraged to use complementary, non-LCA environmental indicators when relevant. These may include site-specific impacts (i.e. local pollution), hazardous waste production, and local biodiversity impacts.