Blog

SDG education performance

June 10, 2020 by admin

We are proud of our hosting University, Aalborg University (AAU), where both Jannick Schmidt and Bo Weidema work part time as researchers.

AAU takes the impressive lead position with respect to quality education (SDG 4) on the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2020 and a number 10 in relation to sustainable energy (SDG 7). Overall AAU scores the 23nd place among 766 universities from 85 countries.

Well done AAU!

The ranking is a global performance table that assesses universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using calibrated indicators to provide comparisons across three broad areas: research, outreach and stewardship.

Read more: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/rankings/impact/2020/

20 years

May 31, 2020 by admin

Our company, 2.-0 LCA consultants, celebrated its 20 years birthday on May 1st 2020 by issuing a quiz, where the below text had blanks instead of years, and the task was to fill in the correct years.

Out of the 12 blanks, the year that turned out to be most difficult to get correct was 2014, the year our sponsorship for BONSAI begun. In fact, only one person got that right, namely our winner.

The winner, with the largest number of correct answers, 10 out of 12, is Guillermo García-García, University of Sheffield, who has chosen as his prize a EUR 2400 voucher towards the course fee for his next course at the International Life Cycle Academy.

A prize was also drawn by lot among all who participated. The lucky winner of this prize is Daina Romeo, EMPA, who has chosen as her prize a free membership of the 2.-0 SDG club.

Thank you to all that quizzed with us.

The Quiz (with correct answers)

Our work with IO- and hybrid-LCA databases began in year 2000 with an International workshop in Copenhagen financed by the Danish EPA. Already then, the idea of a global multi-regional hybrid LCA database was aired. The work resulted in a Danish LCA database and later several EU projects, notably FORWAST, CREEA and DESIRE, culminating in the latest hybrid version of Exiobase 3. The work is currently continued in our Exiobase Update club.

Our work with Social LCA began in year 2002 with a presentation in conjunction with the ISO TC207 meeting in Johannesburg. The presentation concluded that “The principles of life cycle impact assessment are also relevant for social impact assessment”. From 2004, we contributed with a vice-chair to the work of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative cross-cutting “Task Force on Social Aspects in LCA”, which resulted in the 2009 Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products. The work is currently continued in our Social LCA club.

Since 2004 we have offered privileged access to a range of working documents and tools to members of our Executive club.

Our work on monetary valuation as part of Life Cycle Impact Assessment began with a project for the EU JRC in Ispra. Based on the year where we finished this project, the resulting monetary valuation method was baptised Stepwise2006. Later, we participated in drafting the ISO 14008 on monetary valuation, published in 2019, and now we continue the improvement of the scientific quality of the method in our Monetarisation club.

Indirect land use change has been on our agenda since 2007, and we continue to develop the quality of the data and models through our iLUC club.

Since 2011 we have sponsored the International Life Cycle Academy, to ensure the continued provision of high-quality training opportunities in quantitative sustainability assessment.

Since 2014 we have sponsored BONSAI, with the aim that all data, software and algorithms to produce “product footprints” are maintained as open source

Consequential modelling has always been indispensable for our work with LCA. During the years, we have given a lot of advice to developers of standards and guidelines, and in 2015 we collected much of this as a free web resource: consequential-lca.org.

In 2017, we launched the SDG club, a crowd-funded project to place each of the indicators for 169 targets of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals into a comprehensive, quantified and operational impact pathway framework. Since 2018 this project runs under the auspices of the UN Life Cycle Initiative.

 

Politicians listen: Biomass is not CO2-neutral

February 18, 2020 by admin

A government hearing on biomass in the Danish Parliament has being going around social media lately, not so much because of the content, but because American star-journalist Michael Grunwald tweeted about the sober way the politicians behaved during the hearing: “I couldn’t tell which pols were in which party or what biases any of them had about the topic being discussed. It really seemed like they were there to learn. And by the end it was clear they had.”

We are proud to say that our CEO, Jannick Scmidt was an invited expert witness at the hearing, alongside foreign expert witnesses such as Searchinger. In his allotted 10 minutes, Jannick managed to clarify the intricacies of direct and indirect land use consequences as well as the overall climate consequences of burning biomass for energy. The take-home-message to the politicians were: If you ask if biomass is climate neutral, then a resounding ‘no’ is the only possible answer.

Then, Jannick explained why: When you burn forest biomass you release CO2. The re-growth of the forest takes time, so the uptake of CO2 from the air happens over a long time compared to the instantaneous release when burning. This difference in timing of the release and uptake of CO2 is important because less CO2-emissions are needed now, while a reduction in CO2 has less importance if it happens later. Secondly, if the biomass is grown in biomass plantations, then the land cannot be used for food production, and this will in the end lead to expansion into nature as well as increased fertilizer use on other land. This mechanism is called indirect land use change (iLUC). Globally, according to IPCC, CO2 from deforestation contributes with around 11% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, even if biomass is harvested without affecting the cultivated land, for example, when tree tops, smaller branches, and forest debris are removed as part of a forestry operation and used as fuel, this leads to CO2-emissions now, instead of the slower decomposition on the forest floor with a more gradual CO2 release. So when the politicians decide to allow burning of forest residues, this leads to CO2 emissions and subsequent environmental impact right now, on their watch.

We can only hope that Michael Grunwald is right that the politicians listened. At least the message is clear.

Links:

The meeting (in Danish) is recorded and can be found via this link, as can the Danish abstract

Michael Grunwalds tweet about the Danish hearing on Threadreader

Rebound effect – beyond conventional wisdom

October 22, 2019 by David Font Vivanco

Resource efficiency has traditionally been a key pillar of energy and broader environmental policy. This is why more efficient cars, lighting, and irrigation systems, to name a few, have been widely endorsed by both private and public management. Yet this pervasive efficiency narrative is now being challenged by the so-called rebound effect. So what is this rebound effect and how does it affect everyday choices?

Let’s assume a case where Mike and Penny want to replace their old car with a new one that is 10% more fuel efficient, believing they will save the environment a 10% energy use.

But what happens if the couple actually change their driving behavioural due to the perceived efficiency change? For example, they might now spend the resulting economic savings from reduced fuel use on other products, including additional driving. Also, their driving behaviour may change in light of their perceived ‘good deed’. Indeed, they may feel morally licensed to buy a bigger car, turn the AC more regularly, or even buy a second car (Santarius and Soland 2018). All of these indirect consequences constitute the so-called rebound effect. When a given resource efficiency measure leads to overall increased resource use, we speak of a backfire effect or the Jevon’s Paradox in relation to the seminal work by William Stanley Jevons (1865).

Estimating the rebound effect entails isolating the effect that any perceived efficiency plays on resource use. In other words, Penny and Mike would have needed to first estimate their current energy use, and then estimate which share would be attributable not just to driving the car, but to the change in efficiency of the new car with respect to the old one. Such a daunting task has led to multiple approaches and ultimately a polarised debate between those who argue that rebound effects are modest in size, easily addressed, and generally overplayed (Gillingham et al. 2013) and those who argue that the Jevon’s Paradox takes place in multiple contexts and a better understanding of rebound effects is needed to guide environmental policy worldwide. Some of us from the latter group have edited a Research Topic in Frontiers in Energy Research and Frontiers in Sociology entitled “The Rebound Effect and the Jevons’ Paradox: Beyond the Conventional Wisdom” (editorial).

This special issue focuses on unconventional approaches to study rebound effects. The Research Topic includes seven theoretical works and case studies that shed new insights into the study of rebound effects: from the theories of complex adaptive systems and moral licensing to applications of system dynamics and industrial ecology models.

Dr. Tamar Makov from Yale University and I contributed a paper on rebound effects from smartphone reuse going beyond the traditional focus on energy efficiency to show how rebound effects may apply to circular economy strategies (Makov and Font Vivanco 2018). We show how imperfect substitution between recycled and new products, together with re-spending of the cost savings, could erode around one third—and potentially all—of the emission savings from smartphone reuse. Could this also apply to Penny and Mike’s car?

The special issue demonstrates the limitations of the current framing of rebound effects and show how this phenomenon has deeper roots in system behaviour, human psychology, and social organisation. The articles reinforce the argument that rebound effects are larger than many have assumed, and therefore present a critical challenge for environmental sustainability.

The critical challenge is to reconcile the economic growth with sustainability ambitions and bring the rebound effect issue into the policy arena (Font Vivanco et al. 2016a). For genuine sustainability, a good understanding of rebound effects is needed to avoid unintended consequences. I believe the life cycle-based approaches combined with tools that capture complex human and broader systemic behaviour, such as econometric (Font Vivanco et al. 2016b), quasi-experimental (Makov and Font Vivanco 2018), and macro-economic (Font Vivanco et al. 2019) tools offer untapped potential for business and governmental organisations to mitigate rebound effects and achieve their sustainability targets.

References

Font Vivanco, D., Kemp, R., and van der Voet, E. (2016a). How to deal with the rebound effect? A policy-oriented approach. Energy Policy, Elsevier, 94, 114–125.

Font Vivanco, D., Nechifor, V., Freire-González, J., and Calzadilla, A. (2019). Economy-wide rebound makes UK’s electric car subsidy fall short of expectations. Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, (accepted).

Font Vivanco, D., Tukker, A., and Kemp, R. (2016b). Do Methodological Choices in Environmental Modeling Bias Rebound Effects? A Case Study on Electric Cars. Environmental Science and Technology, 50(20).

Gillingham, K., Kotchen, M. J., Rapson, D. S., and Wagner, G. (2013). Energy policy: The rebound effect is overplayed. Nature, Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved., 493(7433), 475–476.

Jevons, W. S. (1865). The Coal Question. An inquiry concerning the progress of the nation and the probable exhaustion of our coal-mines. Macmillan and co., Cambridge, UK.

Makov, T., and Font Vivanco, D. (2018). Does the Circular Economy Grow the Pie? The Case of Rebound Effects From Smartphone Reuse. Frontiers in Energy Research, Frontiers, 6, 39. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fenrg.2018.00039/full

Santarius, T., and Soland, M. (2018). How Technological Efficiency Improvements Change Consumer Preferences: Towards a Psychological Theory of Rebound Effects. Ecological Economics, Elsevier, 146, 414–424.