We welcome the eco label concept – and the research behind it from Oxford University – that shows the estimated composition and environmental impact of 57,000 foods and drinks in supermarkets in the UK and Ireland.
Now we need the same for manufactured products. Dr Mike Clark, who led the research at Oxford University, called the tool "a significant step towards providing information that could enable informed decision-making".
Surely, we need equivalent information for other products we consume, not just food and drink?
The energy efficiency rating on white goods, for example, is widely understood and accepted, and has played an important part in driving up product efficiency and reducing waste.
We urgently need this same approach for all manufactured goods relating to their environmental production impact.
This is especially true in the new energy market where we have a golden opportunity to ensure it is developed with accurate information and respect for environmental impact. This will ensure the relative lifetime carbon impacts of various technologies can be effectively compared: ‘cleantech’ and traditional.
A perfect illustration of this is in the battery market. We know that battery energy storage will revolutionise the way we can use renewable energy and have a massive impact on reducing carbon emissions. Just as electric vehicles will massively reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. But battery manufacture currently has an unavoidable environmental impact.
It is therefore vital that we use every battery for as long as possible and maximise the use of the embedded resources. At present there is no recognition or reward for material reuse or intelligent, empathetic environmental product development.
Connected Energy makes battery energy storage systems from second life vehicle batteries. We can give a battery, no longer suitable for powering an electric vehicle, at least another seven years of life.
But it takes sophisticated engineering and ingenuity to work with second life batteries, which have varied characteristics. Currently, second life batteries need to compete on a like for like basis with new lithium-ion batteries and there is no recognition of the environmental benefit. Work undertaken by Lancaster University has identified a 450tonne CO2e benefit over new lithium-ion systems per MWh installed.
Dare I mention tax? Surely this, like the landfill tax should be the end goal, because it is the lever with the most power to change behaviour.