Packaging giant Tetra Pak has forecast that the cost of carbon dioxide emissions will be included in food prices within a decade.
Erika Mink, Tetra Pak’s environment director for Europe, said there is growing political will in Europe, the US and even China for carbon pricing schemes “within five to ten years”.
Under such schemes, the cost of carbon emissions would ultimately be included in the price of food on supermarket shelves.
Mink was unsure what form carbon pricing would eventually take, suggesting a carbon tax be levied against foods that create high carbon emissions when they are produced, or the introduction of schemes for companies to trade in carbon emissions.
Nevertheless, Mink insisted the price of food would soon more closely reflect the cost of its production on the environment.
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“There will be a price on carbon over a product’s life cycle,” she told just-food today (23 August). “How the schemes will look is like looking through a crystal ball but the political intention is there, definitely in the EU and in the US – and even in countries like China.”
Measuring the carbon emissions of food is a live debate, particularly in the UK, where the likes of retail giant Tesco are investigating the prospect of developing a carbon label to place on the products it sells.
In theory, such a label would show the consumer how much carbon dioxide is created in the production of a certain food. However, there remains uncertainty over how carbon emissions would be measured and, further down the line, what form any product labelling would take.
There are also debates over whether carbon emissions should be measured just from food packaging or over the whole life cycle of a product. Such uncertainty has led industry watchers to believe that the introduction of carbon pricing schemes and carbon labelling would be years away.
However, Mink believed some form of carbon pricing is just a decade away as governments look to move closer towards a “low-carbon economy” by encouraging consumers to switch to foods with low carbon emissions.
She admitted that such schemes would favour Tetra Pak with carbon emissions from cartons lower than other forms of packaging. “Internalising carbon emissions into a product’s price would favour products with lower carbon footprints like cartons.”
Tetra Pak is working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its production processes and has set a target of cutting its emissions by 10% by 2010.