Key issues and options in accounting for carbon sequestration and temporary storage in life cycle assessment and carbon footprinting

2 June 2012



Biological sequestration can increase the carbon stocks of non-atmospheric reservoirs (e.g. land and land-based products). Since this contained carbon is sequestered from, and retained outside, the atmosphere for a period of time, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is temporarily reduced and some radiative forcing is avoided. Carbon removal from the atmosphere and storage in the biosphere or anthroposphere, therefore, has the potential to mitigate climate change, even if the carbon storage and associated benefits might be temporary. Life cycle assessment (LCA) and carbon footprinting (CF) are increasingly popular tools for the environmental assessment of products, that take into account their entire life cycle. There have been significant efforts to develop robust methods to account for the benefits, if any, of sequestration and temporary storage and release of biogenic carbon. However, there is still no overall consensus on the most appropriate ways of considering and quantifying it.

By Miguel Brandão, Annie Levasseur, Miko U. F. Kirschbaum, Bo P. Weidema, Annette L. Cowie, Susanne Vedel Jørgensen, Michael Z. Hauschild, David W. Pennington and Kirana Chomkhamsri