Under the Paris Agreement, Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.Footnote 1 The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change was developed with the provinces and territories and through engagement with Indigenous peoples to meet Canada’s emissions reduction targets.Footnote 2 This framework will identify opportunities to innovate the economy through clean technological solutions.
To help achieve these targets, the low-carbon assets through life cycle assessment (LCA2) initiative, will develop important outputs that create a science-based approach to support the selection of materials and designs that offer the lowest carbon footprint while offering the lowest total cost of ownership.
This initiative will support low-carbon procurement, and its anticipated outputs will be collaboratively developed by a balanced stakeholder consortium. Outputs will include the following:
- infrastructure specific life cycle assessment (LCA) guidelines/tools
- related procurement specifications
- low-carbon benchmarks
- a Canadian life cycle inventory (LCI) database
Led by the NRC and managed collaboratively by the NRC’s Energy, Mining and Environment Research Centre and the Construction Research Centre, this initiative directly supports and impacts a number of Government of Canada initiatives, commitments and government priorities. A steering committee formed from consortium members will provide strategic direction and ensure outputs are aligned with the needs of design, engineering, and procurement professionals.
The LCA2 initiative is a collaboration between the NRC and other federal government departments, academia, non-government organizations, industry partners, and low-carbon asset experts from across Canada.
The NRC will lead a consortium on low-carbon built assets for real property investments, focussed mainly on buildings. It will also have the potential to expand to include roads and other civil infrastructure.
The steering committee will direct and fund nationally led projects that work with existing public- and private-sector projects and industry experts to:
- raise awareness of life cycle assessment and life cycle inventory in industry and government
- build capacity for LCA analysis
- develop and launch a Canadian LCI database
- conduct pilot projects
- coordinate the management of existing environmental product declaration programs to support this initiative
- develop a framework for LCA and total cost of ownership (TCO) estimation, as well as guidance methodologies and documents for specific categories of assets
- support or propose new LCA tools, or revise existing tools, that use the above framework and methodologies to create comparable whole-life carbon and TCO assessments for built assets
The initiative’s steering committee will provide input and direction on how the project will achieve its goals. Committee members will also be responsible for approving new project proposals and will allocate funding from a joint project fund.
The steering committee will review and refine the initiative objectives, as required.
The initiative will establish a centralized Canadian LCI database. This will help reach the full potential of low-carbon assets and allow for fair comparison of new projects, both for life cycle greenhouse gas emissions and the total cost of asset ownership. The database will be accessible to the public, transparent, science-focussed, regionally relevant and will continue to grow as new information becomes available. It will also have the potential to expand to include additional low-carbon opportunities in transportation, fuel pathways and more.
Whole-built, low-carbon asset guidelines, benchmarks and enhanced tools (asset-specific) will also help measure, evaluate and track the full life cycle of the carbon emissions of built assets. These guidelines and benchmarks will leverage the LCI database, stimulate innovation in low-carbon materials, technologies and design, and contribute to aligning capital investment decisions with sustainability policies across Canada.
Michael A. Lacasse