Product carbon footprint system boosted

China will speed up the creation of a system for calculating and displaying the carbon footprint of products, its top economic planner the NDRC has announced in an Opinions (yìjian, 意见) document.

The exact products to be targeted by the system, which has been in development since 2021, are not specified. But the Opinions state the focus will be on those “with urgent market demand, outstanding contributions to emission reduction, and obvious supply chain driving effects”. The scope of covered products will be steadily expanded, it adds.

The main tasks that need doing to establish the system are given as:

  1. formulate accounting rules and standards;
  2. build a database of product carbon footprints;
  3. establish a carbon footprint labelling system;
  4. increase the application of product carbon footprints;
  5. promote the international connection and mutual recognition of carbon footprints.

Regarding task 4, the Opinions state that the focus should be on “large-scale consumer goods such as electronic products, household appliances, and automobiles”. Shopping malls and e-commerce sites should be guided to display carbon footprints on products, it adds.

Xu Ming, a professor and deputy dean of the School of Environment, Tsinghua University, told that China urgently needs to build an “open and transparent life-cycle carbon footprint database,” to make international recognition easier. Otherwise, regulations in the European Union and other countries that require companies in the supply chain to provide carbon footprints, will greatly hinder Chinese exports, he said.

According to the Beijing News, China’s first national standard on quantifying product carbon footprints is about to be released. It will draw on international and EU standards on batteries and other products.

The Opinions, which were jointly published by the NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) and four other government agencies, state that about 50 carbon footprint accounting rules and standards for key products will be introduced at the central level by 2025, and 200 by 2030.

Ma Jun, director of Beijing-based thinktank the Environment and Public Affairs Centre, told National Business Daily that a carbon footprint system will be important for China realising its dual carbon goals (of peaking emissions before 2030 and bringing them down to net zero before 2060). He notes: “There are so many product categories. When formulating product carbon footprint accounting rules and standards, different product categories need to form corresponding methodologies, and this part of the workload is very heavy.”

Read China Dialogue’s analysis on the impact of EU’s carbon border tax on China’s carbon market.