Carbon labelling finds favour with Europeans

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An overwhelming majority of Europeans would like to see their purchases tagged with a label stating the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted during a product's lifetime, a new Eurobarometer survey found.

Seven out of ten citizens interviewed said a label indicating a product's carbon footprint should become mandatory in future. But only 10% identified total greenhouse gas emissions as the most important piece of product information that environment labels should display.

The survey revealed wide variations between different countries. A massive 90% of respondents in Greece and Croatia supported a mandatory EU scheme, while only around half of Czechs, Estonians and Dutch were in favour.

An EU-wide carbon footprint labelling scheme does not exist yet, but in December 2008, environment ministers requested the European Commission to investigate the possibility of introducing one. Currently, the Commission administers an ecolabel scheme, which has been rewarding environmentally friendly products with the Union's flower label since 1992.

But 61% of EU citizens interviewed said that they had never seen or heard of the label. Moreover, only a fifth acknowledged that they had bought products carrying the flower symbol.

The scheme is currently being revised to cover new products, including processed food (EurActiv 03/04/09). The Commission hopes that a single EU-wide ecolabel will reduce confusion among consumers triggered by mushrooming label schemes of recent years.

Nevertheless, Europeans take environmental concerns seriously, with eight out of ten Europeans claiming that they consider a product's impact on the environment important when deciding whether to purchase. But this does not necessarily translate into greener choices, as only a small minority considered environmental credentials to be more important than quality (7%) or price (19%).

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas pointed out that consumers play an important role in combating climate change. "By purchasing environmentally and climate-friendly products, individual customers send the right signal to producers who respond in turn by producing more eco-friendly products," he said.

The Commission seeks to boost demand for environmental products under its action plan on sustainable consumption and production, presented in July 2008. The plan includes initiatives such as the revision of the ecolabel scheme and new public procurement rules to favour the uptake of 'green' products (EurActiv 17/07/08).

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