Carbon labeling

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, July 2, 2009 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

AB 19 (Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City) would require the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to create a voluntary carbon labeling program for California.  

While we appreciate the fact that compliance with this program is voluntary, we are concerned that a state specific label would create even more confusion for the consumer and additional burdens for the manufacturer.  If other states adopt different criteria for carbon labeling, it could create a nightmare for manufacturers to label properly, particularly if they are selling into multiple markets or through distributors.  National and international efforts are currently underway to establish a universal carbon labeling standard.  

Determining an accurate carbon footprint is extremely problematic.  Many consumer products are made up of multiple components or raw materials that are produced in a plethora of states and nations and then transported to a facility where the manufacturing takes place.  In addition, most manufacturers utilize more than one supplier for each component.  The carbon footprint on each component and the overall product could vary significantly as components are substituted.

Under AB 19, companies would be required to not only assess the footprint associated with manufacturing, but also with respect to transport, distribution, storage, consumer use and disposal.  Calculating the carbon impact for each of these activities would require numerous assumptions and averages making the final outcome highly inaccurate.  For example, the carbon impact due to transportation of producing a product and shipping it to California from China or New York is significantly greater than producing it in California.  Does the company making the product in New York even know where it is going to be eventually sold so that it can label it correctly?  In some instance, carbon impact of transportation may be greater than the manufacturing impact.

Because of the complexity associated with such calculations, it is very difficult to create methodologies for the variety of consumer products in the marketplace and give consumers a true picture of the carbon footprint of a product’s full life-cycle.

CARB is studying the possibility of implementing such a system.  
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