The Value of Life Cycle Analysis to combat against “Greenwashing”*

You probably know that burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide (CO2) - one of the greenhouse gases that cause the global warming of the planet - and other pollutants. But we often forget that CO2 emissions and contamination also occur during the extraction, refining, and transportation of oil products. For Small Island Nations like those in the Pacific, transportation of fuels plays a proportionately larger role in generating the carbon footprint of fuels.  

New Solar Home System installed in a church building on the island of Mo'unga'one in Tonga.

You may think renewable energy technologies such as solar photovoltaic, wind, and hydro power are totally free of GHG – it is true during the usage phase, but these technologies require energy and materials to be manufactured. The energy required is often sourced from fossil fuels and the materials often necessitate mining activities which also depend on fossil fuel. In the case of isolated installation, the use of batteries adds another GHG emission layer.

Quantifying all the impacts over the life cycle of any product is a complex issue, but it is necessary in order to avoid shifting pollution to other sectors and to be sure that we really reduce our environmental footprint on an absolute level.

IUCN Oceania Regional Office has analyzed the projects completed thus far under its energy programme - Pacific Small Island Developing States Energy, Ecosystems and Sustainable Livelihood Initiative (Pacific SIDS EESLI).

The posters (please see Downloads) indicate the actions conducted under various national projects and the resultant benefits in terms of reduced GHG footprint. We have compared the GHG emissions of the new scenarios to baseline scenarios (where fossil fuels continued to be used at previous consumption) in order to quantify the tonnage of GHG emissions avoided.

Through the analysis of the projects, we see that renewable energy production still has significant environmental impact, though lower than fossil fuels. That is why we all have to use electricity generated through renewable sources as efficiently as possible and avoid superfluous or excessive use. Sufficiency, Efficiency and Renewability are the three ingredients of a sustainable energy future.
Cumulatively, each year projects completed under Pacific SIDS EESLI have saved over 900 tCO2eq as compared to a scenario where fossil fuels continued to be used. Pacific SIDS EESLI have increased the resilience of Pacific Islanders in a climate challenged region and raised awareness of the impact human activities may have on the environment.

* Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental impacts/benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice. Greenwashing can make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is.

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