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Life Cycle Climate Performance (LCCP) is a widely accepted metric to evaluate the carbon footprint of air conditioning (AC) systems “from cradle to grave.” This paper: (1) reviews the invention and evolution of LCCP, including a comprehensive timeline and bibliography; (2) documents the successful application of LCCP in the replacement of HFC-410A with HFC-32 in room air conditioners; (3) compares the conceptual frameworks and the operational approaches; and 4) reflects on the drawbacks of current LCCP research and points out possible future work.

The major policy-relevant findings are: 1. The indirect emissions caused by energy consumption is 70 to 80 percent of the LCCP of AC systems in most countries but will decline in importance as electric power supply shifts rapidly from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources, which have near-zero carbon intensity; 2. The embodied greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in refrigerant manufacture are, in most cases, negligible but the physical and chemical properties are crucial for system optimization for low carbon footprint; 3. The LCCP metric can be used for multiple purposes such as refrigerant selection and AC system architecture optimization; and 4. Data limitations in material manufacturing and the carbon intensity of electric power are the most significant challenges. Finally, this paper describes a variety of methods to fill in data gaps, including the correction factor method, the data-driven method, and the database searching method. The next-generation LCCP will be an enhanced evaluation process considering local climate, heat islands, and local power supply characteristics.