Life Cycle Impact Assessment - Task Force 2: Natural resources and land use
This task force aims at establishing recommended practice and guidance for use for natural resources and land use categories, i.e.: water resources, minerals resources, energy carriers, soil resources and erosion, land use, salinisation and desiccation and biotic resources. It will address both midpoint categories and their relation to damage categories such as the biotic and abiotic natural environment.
Dissipation of resources and especially water resources is of significant importance in the development of sustainable industrial and consumption practices. The current inability of LCIA to account for water usage is a significant deficiency, which needs to be addressed in the short term. This resource impact category is especially crucial for developing countries, in which a large part of resource extraction take place. Developing the assessment of related impact categories such as salinisation, dessication and erosion is essential to contribute to avoiding relevant impacts in these countries.
Work program and process
A common framework needs to be first defined for a consistent assessment of resources, taking into account their functional value and their dissipation through use and/or disposal, addressing the proposals made in chapter 12 of the Background document III, in conjunction with previously existing methods. This work proposes a generalised framework for assessing the impacts of using resources, biotic and abiotic. This framework contains two constants which need to be quantified for each abiotic resource considered, at present referred to as the resource limit and back-up technologies.
The definite challenge for water resources lies in its regional and local specificity. It is necessary to identify sources of data for describing freshwater quality (and reserve availability) and future water technology scenarios, possibly differentiated per geographical region, and also to identify possible pathways towards intrinsic impact categories. The use of water from sensitive coastal or marine water systems, e.g. estuaries, must also be investigated further.
For land use, work will focus on the synergies between scientific knowledge on the impact of land use on e.g. biodiversity and specific LCA research carried out on land use and land transformation. It has first to frame the field, identifying which issues can be well covered by LCIA and which ones should be rather investigated with other tools. This initial step should lead to the definition of the functional components of the assessment.
The task force will see if two subgroups would make sense as land use involves specific questions and scientific expertise. The following work programme is foreseen:
• Workshop on LCA and natural resources (2004). This workshop and connected preparatory work aims to summarise the field and to define further work topics in this area. It will constitute a basis for future developments considering with a focus on water and abiotic resources, checking and enhancing agreement on the proposed framework for resources as given in chapter 12A of the background document III of the LCIA definition study together with considering other proposals. Venue possibilities would be at the end of one of the coming international meeting on minerals or linked to another symposium.
• Depending on workshop findings: Conduct a literature review to identify sources of data for the ultimate resource limits and to identify possible backup technologies for specific metallic and non-metallic minerals, including scenarios for future energy technologies.
• Conduct a literature study on water use in LCIA to identify sources of data for describing freshwater quality (and reserve availability) and water technology scenarios, possibly differentiated per geographical region. In the longer term workshops should be considered to facilitate and coordinate ongoing research.
• Workshop on Land use and biodiversity (2004). This workshop and connected preparatory work aims to reach some consensus about appropriate indicators and functional components at different levels of detail. There are a number of diversity indices that have been developed for use in aquatic ecosystems and deal with fish, plants and macroinvertebrates. But aquatic diversity indicators have not been extensively incorporated in LCIAs, and a great deal more effort needs to be put into this area of research. Indicators need to be tested against different definitions of biodiversity to assure that they are effective indicators of the impact category. Also discussion on links between land use indicators and final damage indicators for acidification, eutrophication and ecotoxicity need to be undertaken.
In addition to pursuing work initiated in the workshop described above, other efforts for 2004 should focus on erosion and salinisation/ dessication to frame the field (see chapter 5 of the definition study).
Working web site at FKZ