Carbon labels to arrive in China


The UK's Carbon Trust has inked an alliance with the China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation (CECIC) that will see the two organisations begin on work on introducing carbon footprint labels to products manufactured in China.

The announcement - which comes on the same day as Defra released a new report showing that carbon emissions associated with imports to the UK have soared over the past decade - underlines the growing pressure on firms to address not just their own carbon emissions, but also those of their supply chain partners.

The Carbon Trust said that it would initially work with CECIC to measure the embedded carbon footprint of ten Chinese-manufactured products using the PAS 2050 standard, which is being developed in the UK in conjunction with firms such as Tesco and Boots and is designed to assess the full lifecycle emissions of individual products.

The project - which will be accompanied by a second feasibility study into how the Carbon Trust can promote UK clean tech firms within China - is expected to act a forerunner for a full-blown joint venture committed to establishing a carbon labelling scheme across China.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband welcomed the partnership, claiming that the co-operation should help lower the cost of green products and services. "The core carbon challenge is to bring down the costs of low carbon goods and technologies, as compared to the high carbon alternatives" - he said. "By working together on common standards and technology development, the UK and China have the opportunity to drive down the costs of low carbon goods and technologies - making it easier for global firms and consumers to make climate-friendly choices."

Meanwhile, Defra has released new research highlighting the extent to which global supply chains and the emergence of developing economies as major manufacturing hubs, have contributed to rising carbon emissions.

The report, which was undertaken by Stockholm Environment Institute and the University of Sydney, assessed the emissions arising from CO2 emissions created by goods and services imported into the UK. It found that, while emissions from within the UK fell by around five per cent between 1992 and 2004, taking imports, exports and international transport into account revealed that overall CO2 emissions associated with UK consumption of goods and services, rose 18 per cent over the same period - an increase of nearly 115 mtCO2.

The report concluded that the rising emissions were the result of an increase in the proportion of goods and services that are imported and a shift in the manufacturing industry from the UK to countries where processes tend to be more carbon intensive.

UK Environment secretary Hilary Benn said that the research underlined the extent to which climate change could only be tackled if businesses and governments address the carbon emissions that arise from global supply chains. "Under international climate change agreements, we only have direct influence over our domestic emissions and they are - and will remain - the basis for these commitments" - he said.

"But as we accelerate the move to a low carbon economy, we must help business and individuals to understand and reduce the environmental impacts of the products and services they produce, sell or consume - wherever in the world they are made."

He added that cutting levels of imports would prove damaging to developing economies and, as such, UK firms and businesses needed to work to "reduce the impact of supply chains across the world, not just in the UK".