Lifecycle emissions: New report argues product standards could turbocharge decarbonisation efforts
Major study from Aldersgate Group and Frontier Economies details how more demanding mandatory product standards could deliver huge climate and economic benefits
The Aldersgate Group of businesses has today published a major new report detailing how the introduction of mandatory standards addressing the lifecycle emissions of products could strengthen the UK’s industrial sectors and accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the economy.
Carried out in conjunction with consultancy Frontier Economics and based on extensive engagement with over 20 major businesses from across the economy, the report calls on the government to implement mandatory product standards that place a limit on the lifecycle emissions of products sold in the UK market.
Some industries have traditionally lobbied against more demanding green standards for products, arguing they lead to higher costs and can undermine international competitiveness. But the report argues that the opposite is true, as higher standards would help support the competitiveness of UK industry, by preventing cheap, high carbon imports from undermining goods produced in the UK.
“By requiring both intermediate industrial products, such as steel and glass, and end-consumer goods, like cars and buildings, sold on the UK market to meet a minimum standard on lifecycle emissions, durability, and recycled content, the government can ensure that industry is competing on a level playing field,” the report states. “This will also mean that companies pushing further on reducing emissions are not put at a competitive disadvantage.”
“Product standards can help to support an efficient low carbon transition,” added Matthew Bell, director at Frontier Economics. “Our work with leading companies across the UK suggests broad support for properly implemented mandatory standards to ensure a level playing field and clear signal about the pace and destination for their products. They would help to plan new investment and inform consumers.”
The report provides the government with six recommendations for how to deliver mandatory product standards covering lifecycle emissions, including establishing clear timelines for their introduction, developing standards that apply throughout supply chains, and assigning an existing or new institution to oversee the development of new standards.
It also calls for standards to be strengthened over time so as to drive continued innovation and decarbonisation, for companies to be required to report on the lifecycle emissions of products so that data can be shared, and for the government to work with policymakers internationally to ensure its new standards are interoperable with those adopted overseas.
The report comes just days after the EU reportedly reached agreement on sweeping reforms to its EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that should drive up the cost of carbon across the bloc and is set to be accompanied by the introduction of carbon border tariffs to protect EU firms from unfair overseas competition.
“The transition to net zero emissions provides the UK with a genuine opportunity to offset the decline in industrial activity in recent decades and develop new UK-based supply chains in areas such as low carbon steel, cement, glass and chemicals manufacturing,” said Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group. “Product standards have a vital role to play in providing manufacturers with a reliable signal that there will be a growing market for these products, which in turn will help unlock the private sector investment needed in low carbon industry. This must be one of the key policy areas that the government should work on as part of its overall framework for decarbonising heavy industry.”
The report comes just days after think tank Onward published a separate study that warned the UK risked missing out on a green factory boom across the country’s former industrial heartlands unless urgent action is taken to attract investment in the green industrial and manufacturing facilities that are set to drive the net zero transition globally.
“The green industrial revolution is a big risk for UK factories that make cars and steel, and for workers in the UK’s oil and gas industry,” said report co-author Ed Birkett. “The government must work night and day to secure the green factories of the future, or there’s a risk that we’ll lose industrial jobs forever. We need to make the UK an attractive place to invest in green factories. This means cheaper energy, lower business rates, cash incentives, a carbon border tax to stop offshoring, and more.”
Source BusinessGreenDecember 20, 2022