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Carbon Labelling and Low Income Country Exports: An Issues Paper

Brenton, Paul and Edwards-Jones, Gareth and Jensen, Michael (2008): Carbon Labelling and Low Income Country Exports: An Issues Paper.

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Abstract

In response to growing concerns over climate change, consumers and firms in developed countries are considering their carbon footprint. Carbon labelling is being explored as a mechanism for greenhouse gas emission reduction primarily by private actors. This paper discusses the carbon accounting activities and carbon labelling schemes that are being developed to address these concerns with a view to their impact on small stakeholders, especially low income countries. This discussion centres on transportation, and the common presumption that products produced locally in the country of consumption will have an advantage in terms of carbon emissions, and on size. Exports from low income countries typically depend on long distance transportation and are produced by relatively small firms and tiny farms who will find it difficult to participate in complex carbon labelling schemes. However, the popular belief that trade by definition is problematic since it necessitates transportation, which is a major source of emissions, is generally not true. The scientific evidence shows that carbon efficiencies elsewhere in the supply chain may more than offset the emissions associated with transportation. Indeed, the effective inclusion of low income countries in labelling schemes may offer important opportunities for carbon emission reductions due to their favourable climactic conditions and their current use of low energy intensive production techniques. The disadvantages of small size can be reduced by carbon labelling schemes that use innovative solutions to low cost data collection and certification.

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