Purpose: Weighting is one of the steps involved in LCIA. This enables us to integrate various environmental impacts and facilitates the interpretation of environmental information. Many different weighting methodologies have already been proposed, and the results of many case studies with a single index have been published. LIME2 (Itsubo et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17(4):488-498, 2012) developed weighting factors for four different areas of protection that reflect environmental awareness among the Japanese public. This method has already been widely used in Japan, but difficulties exist universally using the Japanese weighting factors around the world. It is presumed that the weighting varies depending on economic, cultural, and social conditions, and there are still few cases in which weighting factors have been specifically invented or studied in consideration of variance in these elements. This study attempted to develop weighting factors applicable to the Group of Twenty (G20) countries with a view toward developing those that could be used in different countries. In the study, a survey was conducted with a uniform questionnaire in G20 countries to compare the weighting factors calculated for different countries, along with an investigation on development and utilization of global weighting factors.
Methods: A conjoint analysis was conducted to give a weighting between the four areas of protection defined by LIME: human health, social assets, biodiversity, and primary production. The analysis is suitable for measuring the value of each of the multiple attributes of the environment. This study conducted a questionnaire in all the G20 member states. The survey puts priority on making the questions understood by the respondents and minimizing bias, adopting interviews, visiting surveys, and surveys in venues in the 11 emerging countries. In the developed countries, Internet surveys were conducted after confirming that their results are statistically significant from the pretest results in these states. In both surveys, random sampling was performed to take 200–250 samples (households) in each of the emerging countries and 500–600 samples in each of the developed countries. The surveys collected a total of 6400 responses. Statistical values based on this model can be considered to reflect the variability between each individual’s environmental thoughts. The calculated results can then be used to compare the variety of environmental thoughts in developed and emerging countries.
Results and discussion: The study was able to obtain two different kinds of results: dimensionless weighting factors and economic indicators using the amount of willingness to pay. This paper solely presents the former. The weighting factors in the entire G20 community, in the group of developed countries (G8) and in the group of emerging countries (G20 states excluding the G8) and those in the individual G20 countries, were estimated. The calculated values were significant statistically at the 1 % level (all p values for the safeguard subject coefficients were less than 0.0001), with the exception of monetary attributes for several emerging countries. Converted into dimensionless values, so that the total sum for the four subjects equals 1, the weighting factor was the highest for human health in the entire G20 circles, at 0.34, followed by biodiversity at 0.29, and primary production at 0.23. The weighting for social assets was relatively poor, at 0.13. In the G8 developed states, the figures of biodiversity and primary production were relatively higher than those of the same two subjects in the full G20. Biodiversity had the highest value, at 0.34, and was followed by human health at 0.30. On the other hand, in emerging countries, the weighting of health impacts was particularly significant, at 0.44, whereas the three other subjects had almost equivalent weightings—biodiversity at 0.19, social assets at 0.18, and primary product at 0.18. The weighting factors by country and the variance of preference intensities by country showed minor differences among developed countries while they reflected considerable differences among emerging countries.
Conclusions: Accurate weighting factors representing the environmental attitudes of the world and national public are needed in order to conduct general purpose LCA. This study is the world’s first to conduct surveys with the use of the same questionnaire not only in developed countries but also in emerging countries, and to compare the findings. A total of 6400 responses were obtained via interviews and Internet surveys. The survey thus gained a statistically significant result on all the environmental attributes including the weighting factors for the G20 circles, G8 states, emerging countries exclusive of the G8 states, and individual countries in which surveys took place. The results have revealed a relatively minor difference in weighting factors and variation coefficients between the areas of protection in the developed countries whereas a considerable difference was observed between those subjects in emerging countries.
Keywords: Area of protectionConjoint analysisGlobal scaleLIME (lifecycle impact assessment method based on endpoint modeling)NormalizationRandom parameter logit modelWeighting
DALY Disability adjusted life year
EINES Expected increase in number of extinct species
LCIA Life cycle impact assessment
LIME Lifecycle impact assessment method based on endpoint modeling
NPP Net primary production
Responsible editor: Stig Irving Olsen.