According to a new report by the European Association for the Coordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation (ANEC), European consumers are being flooded with confusing, misleading and corporate-friendly product information about carbon footprints.
The problem rests with the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology that the European Commission is developing to assess the environmental effects of goods, services and organisations.
“Consumer information based on a choice of LCA indicators is useless and a step in the wrong direction” says the report .
LCA methodology has unique advantages in showing a ‘big picture’ environmental performance, but it is also open to manipulation because it provides opportunities for the input of subjective data with limited and imprecise parameters, the ANEC paper argues.
Moreover, the Association rejects the British Carbon Trust’s carbon footprint labels which use a single number CO2 label, reflecting “a precision and conclusiveness which cannot be achieved using available methodologies”.
Darran Messem, the managing director of certification at the Carbon Trust, says that the organisation was disappointed with ANEC’s criticism. “Our carbon labels are flexible, providing a range of communication options with or without numbers”.
Rather than providing a clear assessment of superior environmental products, ANEC complains that indicator results – particularly where several are used – can also produce advice irrelevant to consumers, which even experts find difficult to decipher.
Currently, the European Commission is reviewing its sustainable consumption and production industrial policy to analyse means of providing consumers with better multi-criteria environmental information about products.
According to a recent EEA report, emissions of the EU-27 increased by 2.4 % (or 111 million tonnes CO2 equivalent) between 2009 and 2010.