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Keywords:

  • Responsibility allocation;
  • Greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Best available technology (BAT);
  • Decision making

ABSTRACT

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

In recent years, several methodologies have been developed for the quantification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, determining who is responsible for these emissions is also quite challenging. The most common approach is to assign emissions to the producer (based on the Kyoto Protocol), but proposals also exist for its allocation to the consumer (based on an ecological footprint perspective) and for a hybrid approach called shared responsibility. In this study, the existing proposals and standards regarding the allocation of GHG emissions responsibilities are analyzed, focusing on their main advantages and problems. A new model of shared responsibility that overcomes some of the existing problems is also proposed. This model is based on applying the best available technologies (BATs). This new approach allocates the responsibility between the producers and the final consumers based on the real capacity of each agent to reduce emissions. The proposed approach is demonstrated using a simple case study of a 4-step life cycle of ammonia nitrate (AN) fertilizer production. The proposed model has the characteristics that the standards and publications for assignment of GHG emissions responsibilities demand. This study presents a new way to assign responsibilities that pushes all the actors in the production chain, including consumers, to reduce pollution. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2014;10:95–101. © 2013 SETAC


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

Since the first meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, climate change has been recognized as a major world problem (United Nations 1992). The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change considers climate change to be a problem with common but differentiated responsibilities that should be assigned in proportion to the contributions of each part (present and past emissions) (Page 2008). The first step to confronting climate change is measuring the impacts of human activities on the atmosphere. Since 1992, many improvements have been made in this area, but less has been accomplished with respect to the allocation of responsibility. Responsibility for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be taken to tackle a problem that society does not perceive as proximate.

We are not discussing allocation as currently considered in life cycle assessment (LCA) (allocation of impacts of multifunctional processes), but rather from a social or legal perspective. Allocation of GHG emissions responsibility is not about quantifying the emissions associated with certain processes (recycling, coproducts, and so forth) but rather about determining who is liable for each instance of GHG emissions (or any other impact). In this context, we have 2 main groups of responsible subjects linked to emissions sources: producers and consumers. Whether these “subjects” are people, organizations, or countries does not matter. However, “producer” and “consumer” can be labels with very fluid meanings in discussions of life cycles with several stages. Consequently, an important step is to define what is being consumed (similar to defining the functional unit in LCA) to make it possible to distinguish between producers and consumers.

At the same time, the European Union (EU) and the United States have been developing pollution control standards for the industrial sector to guide companies in polluting less. In the EU, the standards are called the best available techniques (EIPPC 2007), and the equivalents in the United States are called the best available control technologies (USEPA 2013). Both standards serve as references for pollution control while preserving economic viability. In this study, we refer to these standards as the best available technologies (BAT).

The objectives of this study are to analyze the current approaches to this problem, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current approaches, and if necessary, to create a new way to allocate emissions between producers and consumers. The allocation framework should provide both consumers and producers with incentives to achieve greener development.

CURRENT APPROACHES

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

Three different types of approaches to assigning responsibility for GHG emissions exist: the producer approach, the consumer approach, and the shared responsibility approach.

The best examples of the producer responsibility approach are the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change National Inventories, required for the accomplishment of the Kyoto Protocol (United Nations 1998). In these inventories, each country is responsible for the emissions produced inside its borders. As part of this approach, companies or organizations account for their own emissions according to corporate carbon footprint standards. The main corporation standards are ISO 14064, the GHG Protocol for organizations, and PAS 2060 (BSI 2010; ISO 2006; WBCSD and WRI 2004). The standards outline 3 scopes, with only scope 1 emissions (combustion in the organization's buildings and organization-owned transport vehicles) being assigned to the organization. Determining scope 2 emissions (provided-energy-related emissions) is also mandatory, but they are not assigned directly to the organization. The calculation of the emissions under scope 3, which comprises other indirect emissions, is also recommended. Assigning the responsibility to the producer is technically the easiest approach. The key issue in this case is to determine the system boundaries of the producers appropriately. If this is accomplished, the approach is applicable regardless of whether the scope is territorial or company related.

The producer responsibility approach is the one used by the EU to organize the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). According to the 2003/87/EC directive (European Union 2003), companies are legally responsible for their fixed installation emissions but not for their indirect emissions, including the electricity production–related ones. Furthermore, mobile machinery and facilities are not taken into account. In fact, only a few activities are included under the EU ETS (European Union 2003; European Union 2009), all of them involving a small number of installations emitting high volumes of GHGs. The EU ETS priority is to have authority over the main emission sources and control them easily. Therefore, the limitations of the EU ETS as a producer approach, which are technical and political in nature, have presumably been judged to be secondary.

The third approach is the consumer responsibility approach, reflected in LCA, product carbon footprint standards (PAS 2050, the GHG protocol, and ISO 14067) and environmental product declarations (Lenzen et al. 2007). In this approach, the whole life cycle of a product or service is evaluated, and responsibility is allocated to the consumer. Several researchers are working on disaggregating emissions by steps along the production chain to improve the accuracy of this type of analysis (Kovács 2008; Berzosa 2011). The focus of the analysis approach is the production chain, rather than company activities that are not related to production processes. This approach presumes that consumer demand is the primary factor in maximizing emissions reduction. At the international level, several studies have focused on the implications of consumption-based accounting of emissions for developed and developing countries (Peters et al. 2009; Peters et al. 2012). This approach has the advantage of involving the most developed countries in leading the global mitigation effort (Davis and Caldeira 2010).

Several approaches to sharing responsibility between producers and consumers have been proposed (Bastianoni, Pulselli, and Tiezzi 2004; Gallego and Lenzen 2005; Wiedmann and Lenzen 2006; Lenzen et al. 2007; Andrew and Forgie 2008). In this context, 2 main proposals merit discussion. The first, by Bastianoni et al. (2004), puts most of the emphasis on the last steps of the production chain, arguing that these steps have the most influence on the emissions of the whole chain. In this approach, consumers and the final production steps can put pressure on upstream emissions from the demand side. To assign weights, Bastianoni et al. (2004) divide the sum of the produced and upstream emissions at every step by the total cumulative emissions in the chain (Table 1). In contrast, the approach proposed by Lenzen et al. (2007) is based on allocating emissions to producers in proportion to the value that they add to the final product. The remaining emissions are allocated to the consumer. These authors argue that in the production chain, the companies that provide more added value are those that control the chain and have the most influence on the total GHG emissions. This allocation framework requires that prices all along the production chain are known, as well as added values as percentages of the whole price. The added value percentage is multiplied by the emissions produced plus inherited at each step to determine the allocated rate, and the remaining emissions carry forward to the next step. In the final step, the consumer inherits all the remaining emissions. These emissions are linked in some way to raw materials and are embodied in the energy of the product (the production costs). Table 1 shows how allocation is implemented in the above-mentioned approaches.

Table 1. Summary of allocation method in the approaches cited in this studya
 Producer 1Producer 2Consumer
Production emissions = aProduction emissions = b
Economic net output = $1Economic net output = $2
  1. a

    An explanatory example of a little product chain with two producers and one single consumer is shown. VA = economic value added; P1 = emissions allocated to producer 1; P2 = emissions allocated to producer 2.

Producer basedab0
Consumer based00a + b
Bastianoni et al. (2004)inline imageinline imageinline image
Lenzen et al. (2007)inline imageinline imageinline image

CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

The 3 main approaches (and their sub-approaches) described above each have their own assumptions, allocation framework, strengths, and weaknesses, as detailed in Table 2.

Table 2. Main characteristics of the responsibility allocation approaches cited in this study
ApproachMain AssumptionAllocation FrameworkStrengthsWeaknesses
ProducerOnly the one who emits should pay for itAll to producersIncentivizes better productionGlobal trade inconsistent
   Easy to applyCarbon leakage
    No cooperation between producers
ConsumerDemand is the “driving force” for production (and pollution)All to consumersIncentivizes responsible consumptionDifficult to apply
   Global trade consistentLow transparency
Bastianoni et al. (2004)Last steps of production chain have more control over itVaries by the cumulated/total emissions relation at each stepAllocate emissions to producers as intermediate product consumersVariable by the number of steps of production chain
Lenzen et al. (2007)The steps that add more value to the product have more influence over emissionsVaries by the added/total value relation at each stepInvariable to changes in number of production chain stepsVariable by the changes in the economic value of materials or products

Producer-based allocation schemes have undesirable implications, such as the absence of incentives to improve the whole supply chain in cooperation with all the chain actors (Lenzen et al. 2007). Companies are incentivized only to improve their own processes, for which they are responsible. Energy and product consumption are not pushed down in this approach. This behavior can actually have the perverse effect of increasing total lifecycle emissions. The EU ETS and the Kyoto Protocol do not value the capacity of countries or companies to reduce emissions by making decisions as consumers of energy and other resources. In some economic sectors, such as the service sector, in which almost all the emissions come from purchased energy or products, this norm is not effective in achieving emissions reductions. Several researchers (Ferng 2003; Peters and Hertwich 2008) have argued that in terms of international trade, producer responsibility is not consistent with global trade and is inadequate for exporting countries. Should producer countries be responsible for emissions embedded in products that are not consumed within their countries? Current geopolitical relations make the implementation of this approach more difficult than others, especially with respect to allocation of international transport responsibilities and other aspects of producers' boundary definitions. In addition, territorial-based allocation has another undesired effect: carbon leakage caused by companies migrating to unregulated countries (Ferng 2003; Peters and Hertwich 2008). As long as global consensus under the Kyoto Protocol cannot be achieved, environmental legislation and control in developing and nonparticipating countries will not be improved.

Assigning all of the responsibility to the consumer, based on the argument that demand is the only driving force of either production or service provision, is also unrealistic. The main obstacle to this approach is the lack of direct incentive to improve industrial processes, in contrast to the producer approach (Bastianoni, Pulselli, and Tiezzi 2004). An incentive to reduce the carbon footprints of products is present, but this reduction is usually used as a marketing tool (WRI and WBCSD 2011). This approach has an additional problem: The analysis is more difficult than that for the other approaches, because of the difficulty of covering the whole life cycle. The production chains are complex and usually involve a large number of companies around the world. This complexity makes it difficult to obtain quality data for use in analysis, but it is also the reason for the major advantage of this approach: it is consistent with the realities of global trade (Peters 2008).

The shared responsibility approaches, like the consumer responsibility approach, require broad knowledge of the production chain. Data on the value added at every step are required for the approach proposed by Lenzen et al. (2007). However, this information is often confidential. In addition, the shared responsibility approaches proposed to date have some methodological weak points. The approach proposed by Bastianoni et al. (2004) is sensitive to variation in the number of steps along the supply chain. Introducing new steps leads to a change in all the allocations. The approach proposed by Lenzen et al. (2007) does not have this problem, but it is sensitive to every change in the price of every coproduct or raw material; consequently, in this approach, the allocation must be revised often, and the footprints calculated become invalid over time.

THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

As mentioned previously, all of the approaches described in this study have some weaknesses that call into question their validity for use in allocating emissions. The underlying concept of all of these approaches is that decision makers should bear responsibility for GHG emissions. The first approach assigns this decision-making role to producers. The second approach emphasizes demand as the driving force of production, which assigns the decision-making role to consumers. The shared responsibility approach tries to overcome this dichotomy by trying to distribute the burdens between producers and consumers.

The consumer is responsible for his buying, but he is not responsible for the way in which a service or product is made. Therefore, as Lenzen et al. (2007) did indirectly, we opt to allocate the impacts of raw materials and the ecosystem impacts associated with their extraction to the consumer. However, the producer makes decisions about the ways in which raw materials are transformed into a product, so the producer bears responsibility insofar as different ways to manufacture a product exist. In the hypothetical case that a product is manufactured using the BAT, the producer would have no further opportunity to reduce the related emissions at a reasonable cost. Therefore, all of the emissions are linked to demand and should be assigned to the consumer. Based on this assumption, a new shared responsibility framework could be proposed. This framework consists of using the BAT as the baseline against which the most appropriate allocation of emissions can be determined. Hence, we propose allocating to the consumer only the emissions generated when the BAT along the whole product chain is used and allocating the difference between the real and BAT emissions to the respective producers of nonoptimally performed steps. Taking this approach, we can express emissions responsibility allocation for a hypothetical product chain with n production steps as follows:

  • display math
  • display math

To apply this approach, one must define the BAT for almost all industrial and other production processes. The European IPPC Bureau (EIPPC) and the USEPA have established the BATs for many processes, making the BAT approach easier to apply (EIPPC 2007; USEPA 2013). Nonetheless, the GHG emissions balance of some of these BATs must be calculated because the BATs established by the EIPPC and the USEPA are focused on the main pollutants associated with each process, which are not always GHGs. In addition, the best reference practices for all services must be defined to expand the BAT approach beyond the product context. The definition of BATs is a key issue in applying this approach, and international consensus is required to accomplish this task.

The BAT concept is closely linked to the LCA philosophy, so it treats the BAT as a good environmental option over the whole life cycle. Furthermore, it includes other criteria such as economic feasibility. The BAT is the point at which producers can no longer decrease their impacts at a reasonable cost. Thus, the BAT approach is intended to be realistic, as it focuses on the attainable aspect of environmental impact reduction strategies.

However, a quick look at the BAT approach raises several questions, highlighted below.

  • How is BAT defined when the producer either accepts or outputs more than one product or service (i.e., multifunctional processes)? In this case, correspondent allocation rules (mass-based, economical-based, system expansion, and so forth) should be applied, as determined by the LCA approach used in each case. This issue has existed in the LCA methodology for years (see Kim & Overcash 2000), and a consensus on how to address it has not been reached. The main issue here is defining the impact linked to each product when multifunctional processes are involved rather than the applicability of the responsibility allocation approach per se.
  • Should there be only one global BAT for each product or service? This is a key issue. We cannot apply the same BAT for the entire world because the available technologies and resources are not the same for all countries and regions. We therefore advocate establishing BATs based on a country's development and its geographic context. However, the number of BATs for a given product should be limited to keep the BAT allocation operative. Again, an international discussion and consensus are needed. The existence of different regional BATs for the same product results in differences in the emissions allocated to the consumer and introduces the effect of green consumer demand under this approach.
  • How can the BAT approach push consumers toward greener demand? The BAT allocation framework alone does not encourage consumers to demand greener products and services because there are no differences in consumer-allocated emissions between products made under the same BAT (differences only exist between different [regional] BATs, as mentioned before). Thus, to generate competitive advantages for greener companies that have measurable repercussions in the real world, the BAT approach should be accompanied by fiscal incentives for the greenest consumers or by taxes imposed on the most polluting producers. The objective of this type of tax is to push producers toward the BAT or force them to raise the prices of their product. The existence of different BATs for a given product should be considered when designing the economic incentives and taxes. However, the design of economic incentives and taxes to encourage BAT use is beyond the scope of this study, because it introduces an additional variable that generates a complex casuistry.
  • How should situations in which a producer switches to a less polluting technology but increases emissions over the life cycle be addressed? An example of this is a producer switching to a more carbon-intensive material that reduces direct emissions. There could be a case in which the less polluting alternative for some of the producers involved is not the BAT product or service, as the BAT has to be defined from a life cycle perspective. The producer who chooses a more carbon-intensive material to reduce direct emissions is responsible for the upstream over-emissions, so he should be penalized, so those over-emissions should be allocated to him. One of the main implications of the BAT approach is that life-cycle thinking is needed.
  • What is the BAT for the transport stage? The best practice in this area is to avoid transportation as much as possible. The best product is therefore the one whose life cycle takes place in the same location. Although this situation is not feasible in many cases, it is not operational to assess the best means of transport in every situation, so we proposed to allocate these emissions to the next step, as a way to penalize traveler products. Transport companies do not make decisions about delivering products to one place or another; they only respond to the demands of the consumer (understood here as the recipient at each step).
  • How should we assign emissions if the production stage is less polluting than the current BAT? An example of this is an industry exporting heat for building heating or electricity generation. The emissions linked to the product and allocated to the consumer would be lower than similar product ones, yielding a “greener” and more attractive product for consumers. As long as the responsibility is associated with some type of economical penalty (taxes, no advantages, emissions rights, and so forth), the incentive for the producer is that he may be able to offer a similarly priced or even less expensive product at an improved cost–quality ratio. This can be accomplished through innovation or better use of byproduct or process energy that improves the existing BATs. Furthermore, we think that there should be a complementary way to reward and incentivize a company's efforts, but proposing fiscal or other incentives is beyond the scope of this study.

CASE STUDY

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

To illustrate the BAT approach and compare it with the other options, we present as a simple example a cradle-to-gate assessment of a fertilizer, ammonium nitrate (AN), which is widely used in agriculture. The data used were obtained from a chemical company (Yara International ASA 2010). The use stage, in which the fertilizer emissions vary by application and weather conditions, is not taken into account, cutting off the analysis at the consumer's gate. We assumed that ammonia, which is the main raw material for AN, is produced at the same industrial plant as AN, so there is no transport between these stages. AN production includes both nitric acid production (with N2O emissions) and solidification of the fertilizer. European average values are assumed for the distribution (transport and delivery) emissions. To include Lenzen's proposal, the value added at each step was defined as follows: 50% for ammonia production, 20% for AN production, and 10% for distribution.

Two cases were considered. One is called the BAT case, in which all of the processes (except transport) are supposed to be accomplished with the best available techniques. The other case is that in which the emissions are based on European averages of non–BAT-using plants. All the conditions mentioned are valid for both cases. The results of the emissions allocation according to the main responsibility approaches described in this study are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Responsibility allocation results in the case study of Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer (AN) according to different allocation approachesa
ApproachCaseStepsTotal
Ammonia producerAN producerTransporterConsumer
  1. a

    All figures in kg CO2/T AN. Differences between a BAT and Non-BAT Ammonia and AN producer are the energy source used (natural gas vs other fuels) and plant energy efficiency. In addition, the BAT AN producer uses N2O abatement technology and exports heat from nitric acid production, whereas the Non-BAT AN producer does not. Based on Yara International ASA (2010).

  2. b

    Note that values in Producer rows show the emissions generated in each production stage.

  3. BAT = best available technologies.

ProducerbBAT7964713501302
 No BAT88117863502702
ConsumerBAT00013021302
 No BAT00027022702
BastianoniBAT2223533633631302
 No BAT2668058158152702
LenzenBAT398174736571302
 No BAT44044518216342702
BATBAT00013021302
 No BAT851315013022702

Along the fertilizer production chain, the largest amounts of emissions are associated with the ammonia and AN production steps, as shown in the “Producer Approach” rows. The main difference between the BAT and non-BAT techniques is in the AN production stage, where BAT reduces emissions by a factor of nearly four. Distribution emissions are not relevant.

DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

As Table 3 shows, there are substantial differences between the approaches considered in the way emissions are allocated. The producer and consumer approaches require little comment, but the 3 shared-responsibility approaches demand a more detailed discussion. First, consistent with the approach proposed by Bastianoni et al. (2004), nearly the same emissions were allocated to the AN producer, the distributor, and the consumer, whereas their contributions are clearly different. Bastianoni's argument about the later steps in the production chain permitting more decisions is controversial, because the distribution step has no influence over the fertilizer production. In addition, the approach proposed by Bastianoni et al. (2004) has an inconsistency issue when more steps are introduced in the production chain, as discussed before. However, the approaches proposed by Bastianoni et al. (2004) and Lenzen et al. (2007) assign responsibility for a larger amount of emissions to the consumer, particularly in the nonBAT case. This encourages the consumer to choose the BAT product.

The approach proposed by Lenzen et al. (2007), which is based on the concept of added value, fails in comparing 2 products with the same economic margins. In our 2 cases, the distribution stage logically has the same margins, as long as the cost of transporting and delivering the same amount of fertilizer does not depend on how the fertilizer is produced. However, according to the approaches proposed by Lenzen et al. (2007) and Bastianoni et al. (2004), distributing a more polluting product will assign more emissions to the distributor. In this case, the final distributor has no influence on the production of the product, so he should not be responsible for different amounts of emissions, depending on the production activities. Lenzen et al. (2007) did not mention transport stages in their paper (Bastianoni et al. [2004] did, but only as a subject of future research). Nevertheless, the transport sector is an important stage in any LCA.

The mentioned weaknesses are not present in the BAT approach, which is focused on allocating emissions to those that have the ability to avoid or reduce them. This is a key feature of the BAT approach, which thereby combines the best of both the producer and consumer approaches. Producers are motivated to reduce emissions as much as they can afford to without sacrificing competitiveness, whereas consumers become responsible for demand-linked emissions. Once the emissions are allocated in this way, economic incentives to reduce emissions will optimize emission reductions at a reasonable cost, without imposing burdens on actors who cannot improve the environmental impact of a product in a relevant manner (as other approaches do).

Under this allocation framework, the nonBAT AN producer is charged almost half of the total emissions (those that can be avoided by implementing the BAT), whereas none are assigned to the BAT producer. If there were a carbon tax, the nonBAT AN producer would amortize the costs of changing to the BAT in a short amount of time. In this situation, the nonBAT ammonia producer would not feel compelled to change the technology he uses because the differences between the BAT and nonBAT emissions are much smaller (only 85 kgCO2/T) than those allocated to the AN producer (1315 kgCO2/T). However, if any producer does not use the BAT, he will pay for the excess emissions produced.

This carbon tax has the same objective as the EU ETS. In both cases, only the nonBAT producer is required to pay the tax or purchase additional carbon emission rights. These fewer emission rights could come from leading factories that work below BAT emissions, rather than being released each year by the EU authorities.

Whether there should be a specific carbon BAT or only a BAT for all environmental impacts is a subject for discussion. In this preliminary examination of this issue, we refer only to GHG emissions to describe the approach. However, this is not intended to be the ultimate result of our research into this issue, because the BAT approach, like LCA, is intend to cover all environmental impacts. An impact normalization method is needed to integrate all environmental impact categories, so one must specify how BAT is defined in this new paradigm, and this definition also depends on the normalization method used. The inclusion of multiple impacts in the BAT definition increases the complexity of the BAT characterization.

One of the main advantages the BAT approach has compared with other shared-responsibility approaches is that it is easy to implement when all the GHG emissions for BATs are determined. The main difficulty is determining the BAT for all products and services. A producer then only needs to know his emissions if he is not using the BAT. In contrast to other shared-responsibility approaches, this approach does not require that a producer knows others' emissions to calculate his own emissions. That simplicity is only present in the producer responsibility approach. Emissions allocated to the consumer are also easy to determine because they are determined by the applied product BAT plus the final distribution (transport) emissions. The exceptions are for products manufactured with emissions below the BAT baseline, which have to be certified. However, the BAT approach is also consistent with global trade in that the international transport emissions are assigned to the next step or the consumer.

Another important characteristic of the BAT approach is its strength. Using the BATs as a reference provides a clear and expertly defined framework for comparing all production emissions. The BAT approach has a physical basis rather than an economic one, so the allocation of GHG emissions responsibility does not change with price fluctuations. However, BATs are not a fixed concept: they must keep evolving as technology evolves. Therefore, to make the BAT approach feasible, there should be a continuous expert-level effort to update BATs, as currently occurs in the EIPPC group.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

In this study, popular approaches to GHG emissions allocation were analyzed. Some weak points of these approaches were identified and discussed. A new alternative to allocating GHG emissions responsibility, referred to as the BAT approach, is presented, and its ability to overcome the problems associated with the other popular approaches is described. The main advantages and disadvantages of the BAT approach are shown in Table 4. As the case study considered demonstrates, the BAT approach is the only approach that can achieve optimal GHG emissions reduction in each step of the production chain by allocating to the actor in each step the emissions that he can avoid. However, the BAT approach needs to be combined with either economic incentives and disincentives or regulatory requirements to achieve the desired reductions in environmental impact.

Table 4. Summarized advantages and disadvantages of the BAT approach
AdvantagesDisadvantages
  1. BAT = best available technologies.

Assigns the responsibility for the emissions to the ones most able to achieve reductions in those emissions (similar to the producer approach)Defining the BAT has the potential to be very complicated, notwithstanding the BATs are defined for some industrial processes nowadays.
Still maintains some incentive for the end-user to choose alternative, lower emission products (similar to the consumer approach)At this moment, it does not do as good of a job incentivizing the transporter towards using the least environmentally burdensome form of transport
The amount of emissions each user is responsible for in the product chain is clearly and easily calculated 
These excess emissions will be constant and predictable until the BAT definition is updated 

Additional work in this area is required. The main task yet to be performed may be the complete evaluation of all BATs, in terms of GHG emissions, and their expansion to other fields, such as housing, the construction sector, and services. Testing the BAT approach by applying it to some real and more complex products or services and comparing it with other approaches may help to improve this new method.

Acknowledgment

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES

An earlier version of this work was presented at the 18th SETAC LCA Case Study Symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark (November 2012). We would also like to thank the 2 anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments, which improved the quality of this paper.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. CURRENT APPROACHES
  5. CRITICAL REVIEW OF THESE APPROACHES
  6. THE BEST-AVAILABLE-TECHNOLOGY APPROACH
  7. CASE STUDY
  8. DISCUSSION
  9. CONCLUSIONS
  10. Acknowledgment
  11. REFERENCES
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