Bill seeks to make products show their carbon footprint on labels

climate
Bill Seeks To Make Products Show Their Carbon Footprint On Labels Bill Seeks To Make Products Show Their Carbon Footprint On Labels
Consumers will be able to clearly see the environmental cost of how a product was made if a new Bill is passed. Photo: Getty Images
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Kenneth Fox

Consumers will be able to clearly see the environmental cost of how a product was made if a new Bill is passed.

A Labour TD has brought forward a Private Members Bill to introduce carbon footprint labelling. Duncan Smith, TD for Dublin Fingal, said it comes down to companies and businesses being transparent more about their carbon footprint.

"I suppose it just occurred to me that I don't really know the carbon footprint of the tea or milk I buy," he said.

He feels there is a huge discrepancy between what companies put out there in terms of being carbon-neutral and what the reality is.

"A lot of these big corporations have a very slick marketing campaign to say they are 100 per cent carbon free or 100 per cent natural. Beyond that there is nothing to actually say what that means in reality."

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The National Standards Authority of Ireland (Carbon Footprint Labelling) Bill 2021 as it is known, is currently making its way through the Dáil and is on the second stage where the general principles of the Bill are being discussed.

It broadly calls for the National Standards Authority of Ireland to come up with a system to promote the use of standard specifications and labels to give information about the carbon footprint of commodities, processes and practices.

The EU Commission is currently working on a similar labelling process, but it is still in the works.

Positive benefits

When addressed in the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Smith said the Government were largely in favour of the bill, but they said they would need a year to wait for the Commission, as well as look into issues that may arise.

Duncan Smith, TD for Dublin Fingal, said it comes down to companies and businesses being transparent more about their carbon footprint. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

While some rural TDs were against it, Mr Smith thinks it could have positive benefits for Irish companies.

"If you have a choice between meat produced in Ireland and meat produced in Brazil, the carbon footprint would be considerably lower for the Irish meat because of the reduced transport costs," he said.

If businesses have to be compliant with these new standards, it would make it clear what they are actually doing to reduced their impact on the environment.

"For example, Dublin Airport is labelled as Europe's first carbon-neutral airport. I asked them at the Transport Committee a few weeks ago what that actually means. They said well it's not the planes that are carbon-neutral but the building itself." he said.

In recent years we have seen similar labelling on food products about what thy are made of,  but just because something has a clear label, it does not mean people fully understand it.

The Labour TD said: "Education is going to have a big role to play here, whether it's in schools and colleges or self-teaching. In the next eight years or so we are all going to know a lot more about what our carbon footprint entails.

"Ultimately it is something that people are going to have get used to, and it won't be something that they will get overnight."

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