Together with Dr. Stephan Krinke of Volkswagen, Dr. Vanessa Bach of the Department of Sustainable Engineering is publishing a Special Issue of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment on decarbonization and carbon neutrality.
Information can be found in the English-language announcement below.
Climate or carbon neutrality is a key concept to tackle climate change in both public and private organizations. To achieve carbon neutrality, decarbonization strategies are needed. Most scholars and stakeholders argue for a hierarchy of decarbonization approaches. As an example, Andrews defines the four steps of Avoid (carbon intensive activities), Reduce (material and energy demands by increasing efficiency), Replace (fossil fuels and materials by renewable alternatives), Offset (those emissions that remain after the previous steps) (Andrews 2014). Other scholars propose just two or three steps, but there seems to be a general agreement on two issues - also reflected by the United Nations Climate Change Race to Zero Initiative (UNFCCC 2021):
- Reduction priority: all reduction measures take priority over compensation measures as they are less prone to assumptions, more tangible, more time-independent and verifiable.
- Compensation necessity: all decarbonization strategies need compensation measures as there is no alternative way to achieve net-zero emission. While they are the lowest priority and should be limited to cover the “unavoidable” residual emissions, they are also a necessity for becoming carbon neutral.
For both options, a life cycle perspective is inevitable. All decarbonization steps need to embrace the life cycle perspective in order to be effective, in order to avoid double-counting, in order to avoid carbon leakage and ultimately problem-shifting as well as green-washing. While we hopefully all agree on this principle, it is less obvious what we can already offer as LCA community in terms of solutions and what we still need to address in terms of remaining challenges for a scientifically robust assessment of carbon neutrality. Further details on relevant aspects and topics can be found in the Editorial by Finkbeiner and Bach (2021).
The intention of this Special Issue is two-fold. First, we want to encourage a more proactive role of this community in the carbon neutrality and decarbonization debate as we have important and relevant knowledge to contribute. Second, we want to encourage further research efforts to tackle the substantial accounting challenges that are still unresolved.
With the special issue “Life Cycle Assessment in the Context of Decarbonization and Carbon Neutrality” we intend to offer a forum to contribute to the issues raised above and invite Research Articles, Short Original Communications, Review Articles, Commentaries and Discussion Articles on all aspects relating to this topic. Relevant topics include:
- Introduction and discussion of standards and guidelines for carbon footprinting and carbon neutrality
- Application and case studies of decarbonization including examples that show the trade-offs with other environmental aspects
- Contributions to the methodological challenges for decarbonization and carbon neutrality claims, especially
- Methodological solutions for renewable material and energy accounting,
- assessments and methodological aspects of compensation and offsetting approaches, as well as
- Avoided emission accounting.
Online submission opens: 1 April 2021
Full paper submission deadline: 31 January 2022
Announcement of final decision: 31 May 2022
Dr. Vanessa Bach
Chair of Sustainable Engineering
Technische Universität Berlin
Dr. Stephan Krinke
Head of Sustainability – Strategy and Programs