corsus at COP27: Life cycle assessment is the basis for many assessment approaches

After the keynote by Alexander Müller, TMG, and further presentations by Ulf Jäckel (BMUV), Ahmed Amdihun (IGAD), Joao Campari (WWF International), Roy Steiner (Rockefeller Foundation) and Kathleen Merrigan (Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems), Ulrike Eberle from corsus explained the connection between LCA and TCA in her presentation on True Cost Accounting (TCA) at the Food Pavilion of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheik on November 15.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the methodological basis for many valuation approaches, including true cost accounting. The development of methods for LCA began as early as the 1970s. The international standard valid today was published in 2006 – the ISO 14040 and 14044. The standard describes the mandatory approach for estimating the environmental impact of products (eLCA). For the estimation of social impacts, the social LCA (sLCA) was developed. In 2020, the guidelines to be used for this were published, updating the first guidelines from 2009. In TCA, based on life cycle inventories and impact assessment results, the true costs of, for example, food are calculated by valuing the costs of the environmental impacts caused in monetary terms.

COP 27 food4climate

Ulrike Eberle, Ahmed Amdihun (IGAD), Roy Steiner (The Rockefeller Foundation), Joao Campari & Martina Fleckenstein (WWF Int.)

For many years, life cycle assessment has been an established method for quantifying environmental and social impacts – including those of food. Many valuation approaches, such as true cost accounting, are based on the results of life cycle assessments. Environmental labels are also often based on the results of life cycle assessments. Examples of this are the Planet Score and the EcoScore, which were developed in France for the environmental labelling of food. But also the evaluation method ‚SEP – SDG Evaluation of Products‘, which was developed by Ulrike Eberle and Julius Wenzig as part of a research project at the University of Witten/Herdecke, is based on the methodology of life cycle assessment. The assessment method measures the contribution of products to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The communication tool to be developed as part of the “CLIF – Climate Impacts of Food” project funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection (BMUV) will also be based on life cycle assessments.

Even though the method of LCA is continuously being developed and there are still some methodological issues to be solved, the results produced today by LCA and also TCA are a good basis for developing strategies for a socio-ecological transformation of our food systems. In particular, the estimation of the impact of food production and consumption on climate is very robust. As a result, we have long known that animal foods cause significantly higher climate impacts than plant foods. With the Eat Lancet Commission’s recommendations for a diet that benefits the planet, we also have recommendations on how to eat healthily and ecologically. Nevertheless, consideration of environmental impacts should not be limited to climate impacts, and strategies urgently need to consider social impacts and everyday demands. In terms of implementation, therefore, the guiding principle should be “sustainable choices must be easy choices.”

Link to Video:

Download of the presentation of Ulrike Eberle: COP27-Eberle

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