Principles for the Accounting of Biogenic Carbon in Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) Standards

The uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere during the photosynthesis process is a unique feature of plant biomass. The transformation of biomass (and its embodied “biogenic” carbon1) into products represents in effect a removal of CO2, via its continued storage in the product over a period of time. Biobased products can thus contribute to reduce the CO2 level in the atmosphere and address global warming.

For GHG accounting purposes, biogenic carbon embodied in a product should be considered as a CO2 reduction or a “negative emission”. Therefore it is essential that biogenic carbon flows are assessed in a correct, transparent and consistent way in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and product carbon footprint (PCF) tools. The lack of adequate assessment would hinder the introduction of innovative solutions to climate change rather than support it.

A product carbon footprint is a compilation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sinks along the value chain of a product, from raw materials extraction through production, often including use and end of life. The PCF is a derivative of the more comprehensive LCA, which is described in the international standards ISO 14040/14044.

This position document focuses on the tracking of biogenic carbon in PCF and LCA methodology.