LC-IMPACT | A Multidisciplinary Approach to Success
After nearly four years of hard work, a research team led by Mark Huijbregts completed the LC-IMPACT project, an EU grant developed to further improve life cycle impact assessment methods. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the project was a success. The LC-IMPACT team presented their results this May at SETAC in Glasgow.
By Mark Huijbregts
Nearly four years ago, I had a “now or never moment.” I had been working on Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) for a number of years when the opportunity arose to write a grant proposal on this topic, funded by the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
We drew up quite a team, including many people I had already worked with, and officially got the grant. The project gave all of us a great chance to connect with each other.
In 2010, we had our first meeting with 16 partners, here in Nijmegen. I gave a presentation about the goals, and what I thought was particularly important, such as how to deal with uncertainty, and developing methods for the global scale. Over the course of the project we also met in Denmark, Zurich, and Brussels, to discuss these topics in more detail, also with external experts. Throughout the entire project, we maintained a positive atmosphere. Everyone wanted to work on the project.
As a researcher, the project was really close to my heart. What I liked about it is that you can rank different types of stressors. You can give an overview on what type of impact should be addressed first, so that you can start with the most important ones. LC-IMPACT also gave my collaborators and myself a chance to dig into very different natural sciences, from atmospheric science to soil science to toxicology to environmental chemistry.
I believe we accomplished two goals to help further the development of LCIA.
The first was a global assessment of environmental impacts. Many projects were only focused on North America or Europe, when they should be able to assess any human activity around the globe, in places like Australia and China. At the same time, apart from coming up with a global average, we should also be able to do LCIA in a regionalized kind of way. This is because the impact can be different from one place to another.
The second goal was to look at underdeveloped impact assessment categories, like noise, fish catch, and pesticide exposure. We wanted to develop a new methodologies that can take these factors into account with LCIA.
Overall, we met our goals, though there is still of course work to be done.
The next step will be to create one unit for ecosystem damage by which all of these categories can be ranked. As it stands, it was hard to ‘keep all of the frogs in one basket.’ We are not there yet in terms of a fully operational methodology, but I believe we are close. I would like to continue working on this for the next year or so, to get it fully operational, where everything is nicely linked together.
To me, this project was indeed worth it. The role of coordinator was very intense and took a lot of my energy. Bringing together different scientific fields — including some from outside the LCA discipline — took a lot of courage and effort, but the outcome was, in my opinion, largely successful and encouraging.
We presented the results at SETAC’s 23rd annual meeting in Glasgow earlier this month, and we had quite a nice audience. It was difficult to condense nearly four years of work into a two-hour meeting, but I think it was well received.
Learn more about LC-Impact, contact our experts or visit the LC-Impact site