Transport and Covid-19: responses and resources

Charting a Low-Carbon Path: The Technical Aspects of Life-cycle Assessment

Carl Adler outlines the features of the ITF’s Life-cycle  Assessment Tool for India – a hands-on instrument for decision-makers and researchers to identify sound transport policies in an ever-changing world.

India, now the world’s largest country, is at a crossroads. The nation’s economy is growing rapidly and its future on the global stage looks bright. As India’s influence enlarges, it is critical that the country’s transport systems develop in thoughtful and sustainable ways. Life-cycle Assessment, or LCA for short, is a way for decision-makers to see the carbon emissions resulting from all stages of a vehicle’s life and can inform vehicle implementation decisions.

The ITF Transport Life-cycle Assessment Tool for India includes thirty-two passenger vehicle types that operate using different power trains and fuel sources. The tool allows for three different energy scenarios that account for contemporary Indian energy production methods, as well as the option to define a fourth scenario with potential future energy sources in the country as India transitions to renewable electricity generation.

Eventually, the tool will be updated to allow for the analysis of cradle-to-grave emissions of freight vehicles. The ITF Transport Life-cycle Assessment Tool for India is tailored to Indian transport realities and its interface makes it useful to users with differing levels of experience with transport data analysis.

Pre-loaded parameters

In order to facilitate easier and more widespread use, the ITF Transport Life-cycle Assessment tool for India comes with pre-loaded parameters. These values reflect Indian emissions realities and commonly used technologies. With the tool’s pre-loaded parameters, policy makers and other individuals who may not be transport data analysts can use the tool to determine the efficacy and impact of utilising implementing different vehicles in India.

Having an LCA tool that can be used by a greater number of people, particularly decision makers, encourages the adoption of  vehicles that accelerate the decarbonisation of the Indian transport sector.

Although it has pre-set parameters that make it easy to use, the LCA tool is entirely customisable. Users with a good knowledge of transport data analytics can input their own values to get an accurate idea of a particular vehicle’s cradle-to-grave emissions in a particular context.

Adapting to changing transport realities

The tool’s adaptability also serves to future-proof it. Thus, as India’s transport realities change over time, the ITF Transport LCA tool can be adapted. New vehicle technologies, changing energy mixes and growing demand can all be accounted for within the tool.

Finally, the LCA Tool can be used to determine what happens if Indians adapt different types of vehicles at different scales. This feature holds significance because decision-making authority for vehicle fleet adoption and accelerating the uptake of green mobility lies at different levels of government within the country. Using LCA, policymakers can easily see the carbon emissions and savings resulting from vehicle implementation at different scales.

The ITF LCA tool for India uses data specific to the Indian context to assist in the formulation of decarbonisation policies that work. Gathering sound data for India has been the single biggest challenge for the creators. Authorities often do not collect specific data or they are gathered at different levels of government across the country. Going forward, the LCA tool could be made more useful by having readily available emissions data from clearly identifiable governmental sources.

A sound evidence base

The ITF Transport Life-cycle Assessment Tool for India has generated a great deal of interest in India’s academic community. Incorporating LCA in academic instruction can be a way to both raise awareness of LCA’s utility and create advocates for sound data collection.

The tool strengthens the policy process by giving users of different backgrounds an opportunity to see what happens with different shares for different vehicles on Indian roads. The tool’s features also make it resilient against circumstances, for instance as a change in India’s energy mix.

A life-cycle assessment tool that can be used by policy makers, data analysts and academics for their specific interests will provide a sound evidence base for policy decisions and help the world’s most populous country to achieve a cleaner mobility future. 

The ITF’s LCA tool was developed as a part of the NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA). This project is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) supports the initiative based on a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is responsible for co-ordinating the implementation of the Initiative.

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