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Libération.fr – On the tracks of the carbon footprint

Companies are by far the biggest carbon consumers. At the consumer level, it is travel and heating that are the most greedy carbon dioxide. But each of our purchases comes to weigh down the note. As shown by Ademe's study, which we used to build the comparator below, consumer and equipment products account for a high share of CO2 the French.

To find out how much our carbon goods cost, scientists model so-called "representative" equipment. "We use a model, like medium jeans, that does not really exist. It's not about the jeans you wear, the brand, the size. It must be remembered that the carbon equivalent is an order of magnitude. In fact, there is a disparity between two articles of the same category of products ", sums up Romain Poivet.

In principle, this universally recognized order of magnitude is not applicable to each particular case. Especially since, according to the countries or companies that carry out the studies, the perimeters of calculation are variable. For example, you can count the carbon equivalent of a product from manufacture to recycling or stop the calculation at the time of purchase. Moreover, data collection, most often carried out by private organizations, are not all equally reliable. Finally, the measurement of the CO equivalent2 does not take into account all the "negative externalities" of production, for example the extraction of rare material.

The carbon tax

Today, the carbon tonne is worth about $ 14. To reach sobriety, one would have to reach several thousand dollars per ton. The objective planned during the mandate of François Hollande, and retained by the candidate Macron, was to reach a carbon price of 100 euros per ton by 2030.

There are several ways to price carbon, recalls 2A report published in 2017 under the leadership of Joseph Stigliz and Nicholas Stern: an explicit price via a carbon tax or a quota market (that is to say CO2that businesses can buy or sell); notional prices embedded in financing tools; incentives for investment and low-carbon behavior.

The Ademe publishes this Wednesday, September 26th an inventory of domestic equipment, from "average" goods, virtual standards determined from market research, for example: a dishwasher of 12 seats. This work puts into perspective the carbon consumption upstream of the purchase, for the manufacture of the products, and the consumption necessary throughout the life cycle of the objects. The carbon weight of each object has been set according to European studies that decipher the life cycle of products.

As explained by Pierre Galio, head of the Consumption and Prevention Department of Ademe "In most cases it is the manufacturing phase that is the most important: for a Norman cabinet, there is no energy consumption once it is manufactured, the impact CO2 do not move after the purchase. On the other hand for a refrigerator, which works continuously after the purchase, the phase of use will be very important[382kgCOequivalent[382kgéquivalentCO2 against 196 kg before the phase of use, note]".

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Home appliance

With our random carbon impact comparator, evaluate the footprint on global warming of everyday objects in kg CO2 equivalent.

For goods with high or low electronic components, the annual calculation of the usage impact is obtained by dividing the total by the estimated lifetime of the product (for example 2 years for a smartphone, 11 years for a refrigerator, etc. .). It's the same for furniture whose life is estimated between 10 and 15 years.

For textile products, the service life is not expressed in years but in number of washes. So it does not have an annual impact, but an impact for a number of maintenance cycles (50 cycles for t-shirt or shirt, 30 cycles for trousers or 2 cycles for jacket, hat, etc.).

"The CO equivalent2 is only one criterion: this only reflects the impact on climate change ", stresses Romain Poivet. Waste production, water and soil pollution, depletion of natural resources are not measured by this indicator which remains the one we know best, and the most reliable. But there are other units of measure of environmental impact. They make it possible to measure resource depletion, ecotoxicology or eutrophication of water (an imbalance linked to nitrogen concentration).

There is the environmental footprint (Product Environmental Footprint), a multi-criteria measure under development by the European Commission. This PEF, which takes into account more than a dozen indicators in addition to carbon, was created after the so-called "Grenelle II" French law, in which the need for more concrete measures to solve environmental problems is mentioned. Ultimately, the goal is to put in place certifications to better inform the consumer.

Whether to reduce our carbon footprint or other environmental impacts, and pending stricter regulations, the formula remains more or less the same: avoid over-equipment, over-sizing, and the frequent renewal of purchased products.

Pierre Galio is Head of Consumer Affairs and Prevention at Ademe. He led the study on the carbon impact of capital goods.

Why did you do this study on the carbon weight of objects?

There were already carbon footprints on transport and housing, as well as work on food and especially livestock. But very few figures were available on the objects of our daily life. But when we are not aware of energy expenditure, we do not act. We wanted to shed light on what is called the "equipment" item: electronics, furniture and clothing. This is the first study that analyzes the carbon weight of all equipment in the same way, in order to have an overview.

The goal is to provide information and better understand the impact of our everyday actions. It should be noted that, if any source of CO2 is taken into account in this study, this is not the case for all impacts (eutrophication of water, acidification of air, etc.).

How did you work?

The first observation is that the notion of "equipment" is not always well defined. Also, depending on the methods, it is estimated that this item is equivalent to 7% of our emissions … or 25%.

For our part, we decided to look at the equipment of everyday life one by one. For electronics, we have existing studies, it's quite easy, however for the textile, it's much more complicated we have probably underestimated the clothing in this study. Then, average equipment was modeled.

What are the main lessons of your study?

The main conclusion is that we are surrounded, in our home and in our purchasing actions, with hidden carbon. The second lesson is that the impact of the manufacturing phase is, in general, very much higher than the others (delivery, use, etc.). Even for energy-consuming products, since France uses of nuclear electricity, if only their carbon weight is taken into account, the phase of use of these products remains low.

So the more equipment you change, the more carbon you emit. As the phase of extraction and manufacturing weighs more heavily, it would be a mistake to change the device too quickly by thinking that it is good to invest in a less consumer product. Moreover, it is also true if we look through the prism of resource extraction: not only does extraction and recycling emit carbon, but in addition some rare materials, such as cobalt or lithium, are depleted .


texts Aurélie Delmas

Production Clara Dealberto, Maxime Fabas, Guillot Julien, Savinien de Rivet

Published on September 26, 2018

Pictograms thenounproject.com (Abeldb, Adrien Coquet, Andrejs Kirma, Atif Arshad, Bakunetsu Studio, Ben Davis, Creative Stall, David, David Carrero, Delwar Hossain, FELIX FX, Jake Dunham, Ian Porrat, Joby P Varghese, Mister Pixel, miza, ProSymbols, Sarah, Sasha Romanov, Vectors Market, www.yugudesign.com, Xinh Studio.)



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