Gathered in Milan, the LCA4Regions partners explored how LCA and LC thinking approaches can support the monitoring and evaluation of policies. The different perspectives discussed point in the same direction: seeing the benefits it brings, further efforts should be taken to develop circular economy indicators based on LCA.

LCA4regions partners put an end to nearly two years of online work and finally met in person for their sixth Transnational Learning Journeys (TLJ), from 22 to 24 November. Organised in Milan by the  Region of Lombardy. The event was part of Lombardy’s Second Sustainable Development Regional Forum.

After five TLJs and the identification of already over 47 Good Practices, partners had no doubt that LCA tools are well spread. Furthermore, an overview conducted  ahead of the TLJ  showed  that  there  are  excellent  local  cases  of  applying  LCA  tools  to specific  segment  of  local  policies,  mainly  in  green  public  procurement  and  waste  management plans. One of the questions left unanswered was how to give a broader scope to life cycle thinking and life cycle analysis in the context of circular economy and sustainable development and how to integrate  it  to  all  the  stages  of  policymaking,  in  particular  monitoring  and  evaluation.  Thus,  the different  presentations and discussions of this TLJ helped understanding if the integration of LCA in monitoring frameworks could facilitate and increase the efficiency of the whole process.

The answer is positive, the integration of LCA wider methodologies to monitor local circular economy and sustainable development strategies is a promising path. This is why, they recommend exploring further the benefits of using LCA to support the development of a  system  of  indicators  not  only  based  on  materials  and  waste  production  but  also  taking  into consideration  the  multi-dimensional  aspect  of  circular  economy  and  able  to  detect  crosscutting effect  of  policies  and  activities.  Examples  presented  during  the  TLJ  illustrated  that  potential applications  vary  from  improving  sustainable  consumption  to  the  promotion  of  an  increased integration of different local policies (environmental, innovation strategies, circular economy,...).

To get to the above conclusion, the LCA4regions partners explored on the first day the link between LCA and LC thinking approaches and monitoring frameworks under different perspectives. Serenella Sala, representing the European Commission, provided an update on pilot initiatives at EU level, also focusing on product categories for which LCA framework are set at EU level. These tools are an effective support for local authorities to refer for design local policies. After the presentation by Rina of a study on life-cycle performance of geothermal power plants, the Italian Network for Life cycle assessment introduced its own activities and structure to show how network of experts can support the integration of LCA methods in policy monitoring. An exemplary story was brought by Sant’Anna University with “Made Green in Italy”.  Product environmental footprints of different products, in the case presented agri-food products, have been  calculated  and  used  by  Italian  authorities  as  a  scheme  to  promote  a  labeling  system awarding  green  products  made  in  Italy.  It  helps  build  mutual  trust  between  consumers  and producers and promote sustainable consumption. Lombardy Region is currently assessing how to  integrate  this  initiative  in  its  regional  policies. The  TLJ  also  included  a  panel  discussion  to compare  actions  design,  enact  and  communicate  monitoring  frameworks  to  enhance  the environmental and social impacts of the circular economy.

The last two days of the event were more dedicated to activities linked to the LCA4Regions project.
First, partners presented Good Practices from their territories of integrating LCA in the evaluation
of public policies. These will soon be available on the LCA4Regions website. Before setting for a visit
of the Milano Food Hub, one recognized solution to prevent food waste in Milan, the LCA4regions
partners  discussed  the  preparation  of  their  Action  Plans.  These  Action  Plans  aim  to  improve
selected policy instruments on partners’ territories and will be implemented during the second
phase of the project. The last part of the meeting consisted in a peer review of the local policy using
a  document  prepared  by  the  Lombardy  Region  as  a  reference.  Partners  and  stakeholders  then shared a sustainable dinner at the Refettorio Ambrosiano, supporting an initiative where people in need can find free meals every day, prepared with unsold food collected from large-scale retailers. 

As  the  project  is  approaching  to  the  conclusion  of  its  first  phase,   a final TLJ on the Action Plans will be hosted by CIMBAL, the Baixo Alentejo Intermunicipal Community (PT), in February 2022.