27th May 2019

UK to introduce carbon labels to fight climate change

Consumers in the UK will soon be able to judge the environmental impact of goods they buy, as London is taking steps to introduce carbon labels for all products sold in shops – in further proof of how climate change has moved up the political agenda in the last few months.

"This will be fundamental in our efforts to move Britain towards a low-carbon economy in the decades ahead", environment minister Ian Pearson was cited as saying by UK daily the Guardian.

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  • A new carbon label could shortly be on all products (Photo:

In the next 18 months, the country is set to develop a "carbon calculator" allowing businesses to calculate the quantity of greenhouse gases each and every product emits, while being produced, transported, consumed and even disposed.

The highly complex job will subsequently translate into a "carbon point" similar to an energy score for electrical appliances or a calorie figure for food. All marketed products – from a pack of tomatoes to a car – would be graded.

Although the scheme will be voluntary, 120 companies - including major retail chains - have signalled they will come on board, with Mr Pearson saying "we need a reliable, consistent way to measure these impacts that businesses recognise, trust and understand".

According to Euan Murray from the Carbon Trust – a UK government advisory body developing the scheme – the best way consumers currently understand about a product environmental impact is through the distance it has travelled.

However, in some cases, Mr Murray said, bringing in a product from overseas could be less harmful than producing it in the UK. For example, vegetables grown in Africa and imported by air may have a lower carbon footprint than those grown in heated greenhouses in the UK.

Meanwhile, similar moves are under way in Germany, as the country considers a colour-coding system indicating the environmental impact when it comes to cars.

Under the plan, car dealers would have to show a certificate, which would detail the vehicle's carbon dioxide emissions as well as fuel consumption relative to its class, on a scale running from red to green.


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