Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals Using A Planetary Boundaries-Based Life Cycle Assessment

Massey University, Palmerston North
Friday, 2 June 2017

A talk by PhD candidate Chanjief Chandrakumar on his PhD research. Details below.

It takes place on Friday 2 June 2017, 10.30 am at Massey University, Palmerston North, RC2.143  (and video linked to Albany, AL106.15)                           

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that assesses the potential environmental impacts of products and processes from a life cycle perspective and contributes to improving products’ eco-efficiency. The improved eco-efficiency creates a perception that the product having the minimal environmental impacts is “green” or “sustainable”, however, this perception may become questionable when considered in terms of alternative patterns of global consumption and production. Therefore, scholars have started integrating Earth’s carrying capacity references to develop absolute sustainability assessment methods overcoming this limitation. The attempt to integrate the Planetary Boundaries (PBs) framework into LCA impact assessment methods is one of them. Meanwhile, in September 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a set of goals covering a wide range of sustainable development issues. Although consensus has emerged within the scientific and political communities that the environmental boundaries for Earth system processes need to be incorporated when operationalizing SDGs, until recently, no theoretical frameworks have been developed (or published) on how to integrate the idea of PBs with the SDGs. Hence, we present an approach by linking SDGs with the PBs in an LCA framework: (i) explore the links between the PBs and SDGs; (ii) estimate country-specific limits; (iii) allocate the national limits within the economic sectors; and (iv) assess the sectors’ current environmental performances using an LCA, and benchmark the sectoral environmental performances against the estimated limits. In this study, an application of the approach is presented to investigate whether the environmental performances of the chosen economic sector(s) in New Zealand is (are) aligned (or not) with the SDGs. The proposed approach will be useful to estimate impact reduction targets if the sectors have transgressed their limits and if not, distance to limits ratios can be suggested. Overall, the study guides the New Zealand decision- and policy-makers to effectively operationalize SDGs within the ecological limits of the Earth system and to contribute towards a global agenda: achieving sustainable development by 2030.

The slides for the talk are available