Next Wednesday the Labour Party will bring forward it’s National Standards Authority of Ireland (Carbon Footprint Labelling) Bill 2021 to Second Stage debate in the Dáil.
It was initially introduced by Labour TD for Dublin Fingal, Duncan Smith, in late March and although at the time the Party considered making the aims of the Bill part of the governments Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021, Labour ultimately decided to keep it as a stand-alone piece of legislation.
For Deputy Smith, the aim of the Bill is to target ‘big corporates’ who engage in so-called ‘greenwashing.’
This is usually understood as the misrepresentation of a company’s climate credentials in order to cynically create the appearance of concern for the environment.
Companies who have already introduced labelling systems showing the quantity of greenhouse gas emitted in the process of manufacturing and shipping parts to consumers, are not going far enough according to Deputy Smith.
What is needed, say Labour, is to remove the ability of these corporates to “self-regulate” the kind of information they choose to make available on their products carbon labelling.
So, instead of just placing information on the amount of emissions related to manufacturing and shipping on products, this Bill would also require them to display, “a fuller carbon inventory” that would attempt to “itemise all greenhouse gas emissions released for the product’s life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials through to its manufacture, distribution, use and eventual disposal.”
This we are told will make it easier for consumers to make “more sustainable choice.”
But just quite how this can happen remains a mystery.
For even as he was introducing the Bill, Duncan Smith explicitly accepted that there are no commonly used or accepted standards on how to calculate or communicate to people a product’s carbon footprint.
Despite this glaring lack of a suitable methodology however, the Labour Party Bill aims to have Leo Varadkar, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, confer upon the National Standards Authority of Ireland the hugely onerous task of not only promoting the use of ‘carbon labelling’ but also of verifying the accuracy of every bit of information about the “carbon footprint of all commodities, process and practices” as they pertain to all products and goods sold within the state.
Leaving aside the almost incalculable amount of work this would create for the NSAI; the entire proposal raises massive concerns around just how on earth small Irish companies are meant to survive yet another regulatory imposition of this kind.
Before they can get their product on to Tesco’s shelves, will they have to engage in time-consuming and not to mention expensive research submissions to the NSAI that fully itemises the list of all the greenhouse gas emissions released for their product’s life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials through to its manufacture, distribution, use and eventual disposal?
Because if Duncan Smith and the Labour Party are saying that it will be the role of the National Standards Authority to ‘verify’ such information, then the plain implication is that it will fall to the business owner to collate the information in the first instance.
The Labour Party say that essentially, with this Bill, “it wants to make it easier for people to take small steps to help reduce their impact on the environment and to incorporate carbon labelling into their regular shopping habits.”
But just quite how creating yet another climate related expense for small and medium size businesses (who will inevitably have to pass the cost on to the ordinary Irish consumer) helps people is beyond me.
If there is an exemption in the Bill for small or micro businesses, then I have not seen it.
This Bill has all the signs of being nothing more than pseudo ‘anti-corporate’ nonsense from a party desperate to try and restore its ‘socialist’ credentials.
For that reason, it ought to come with its own health warning and be opposed.