Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The black stuff.

Newsnight addresses CARBON LABELS

I address Newsnight:

Good report. I got some facts (50% of ‘impact’ at agricultural stage alone) and a few important questions were raised.

At the outset Mr. Mason added ‘Do ‘we’ care’? I guess that will become apparent in Mr. Lunz’s poll as mentioned at the end, though I am always dubious on what people say vs. what they think or do in such cases. You tend not to be that honest if it’s about personal efforts to ‘save the planet’, especially if you’ll look bad.

Then we got into the meat (well, one veg) of the slot. I may have missed it but if every stage was covered, it seemed to screech to a halt at disposal. The whole impact of packaging and where it goes didn’t feature*.

So immediately I felt this to be incomplete. What this country, indeed the world, needs, is a grounded set of polices that cover what we consume from when it is taken from the ground to stuck back in it (or pumped skywards). With any leftovers reused, of course (see link via my name:)

Anyway, back to what was discussed. Yes, I may look at this label and say ‘there’s too much carbon’. Actually I don’t think I would say that because I don’t know what is too much for a crisp even compared even to another crisp, much less other foodstuffs. And I doubt I’m having that internal debate as I stand there at each aisle.

There’s also mention that this is the 1st manufacturer of several to get on board with this, I note voluntary, initiative. How many are there? How is all this coordinated? In addition to the health versions that vary depending on brand and retailer, I am aware of a few others either already up or being pitched on carbon footprints and/or food miles already. I have joked, and hope it does not come to haunt me, that soon a pack of Smarties will have a CDR of all it is deemed I should know before and after purchase. And that will have a mini-DVD on it, too, to cover its disposal. I am also afraid to say that, as a middle-aged slob I for one also have no clue whether 181 kcalorie per pack is good or bad for me. They are crisps. They don’t seem like they’d be good. As to 75g of carbon, ditto. Hard to put in context. And not a factor in my purchase efforts.

I note that those who embrace this scheme have ‘2 years to get it right' or lose the rights to this label/logo. Is this the only one? Or one of several? Are they competing? Are they paid for? Who monitors the monitors? Are there any official bodies who can add to the discussion?

I thought Prof. Jackson put it all in much clearer terms. And was also refreshingly pragmatic about the issues. Dairy. Beef. Or by Air: if you care about carbon don’t buy ‘em. Going to happen? A whole new dietary regime for the human race (cue vegetarians, with reason. Of course that is just a time-buying measure as the population increases. And if we are designed as omnivores Mother Nature is playing a cruel last card in her design)? I doubt it. So we get... crisps. And even then I doubt a symbol (of how many?) will do much when the chips are down.

The boss of Walkers has done all this... and doesn’t know if it’s a lot or a little. Well, I’d really wish our government, commercial, activist and even media ‘leaders’ would try and figure such things out a bit quicker before taking all sorts of PR punts to see what sticks. And then prioritize the CO2 reduction which will make the big differences first. As reduction is off the menu, I’d suggest addressing deforestation (remember your show on that?). or, closer to home, insulation for all. But that’s just me.

What also gets me very concerned is when I hear the words ‘government’ and ‘carbon market’ coming together. Money can cure a lot, but it can also sway headings when there’s a ton to be made. So if this is just a measure to get some numbers to apply to targets... oh, boy.... my kids will need to hold their breath.

I can, sort of, accept such things are better than nothing, and possibly are a hint at welcome commitments to reduce. The mention of the pricing policy that lead to such wasteful practices being dropped to the benefit of all was salutatory. But it’s only if they are done in the right ways for the right reasons. I await the TV ads with dread.

So, despite the now inevitable flip BBC climate mea culpa on what ‘just doing your job’ consumed, the question posed at the end was well made, and taken.

I await more.


As coordination is key, I have written to DEFRA:

Thank you for this. I hope it will result in positive actions.

I often quote information from such releases, but in this case did so on the blog immediately as it was pertinent and topical to another issue, namely carbon labeling.

You may see merit in coordinating efforts at inter-departmental level to bring all these stands even more closely in sync to maximise the enviROI of the whole consumer supply chain.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Carbon labeling will probably be the next major cock-up. It's fraught with almost impossible to calculate figures and it will be waaaay too easy for manufacturers to provide duff information.

As you say, you will probably require a DVD with all the necessary information before long; not to mention a PhD in advanced mathematics in order to work out if it has been calculated correctly!