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Trade and climate change

  • In response to consumer concerns about climate change, retailers and governments are developing carbon labels that convey information on the carbon footprint of products. Over a third of a typical developed country household’s carbon footprint is due to food consumption. The level of carbon “embodied” in food is under scrutiny from environmentalists, farm groups, consumers and retailers. In response, carbon labelling is emerging as an important market differentiation tool for retailers, with exporters of agricultural products increasingly being asked to measure and take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains.

    Measuring a product’s carbon footprint (PCF) can create potential new market opportunities but is also a costly and technically challenging exercise. It requires collection of data on greenhouse gas emissions from many processes in the supply chain, ranging from clearing land, ploughing fields, applying agrochemicals, harvest, storage, transport, through to packaging, transport and consumption.

    Lack of information about carbon standards is a key constraint for SME exporters and TSIs on meeting new buyer requirements on carbon. There is a high demand for basic information on why buyers are making these requirements, the type of information needed and the ways to comply. Public agencies also require this information both to disseminate to exporters but also to frame policies that can support sectors in meeting these standards. Information is further needed to feed into the design of national climate change mitigation, adaptation policies and overall environmental industry strategies.

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    ITC works with SMEs and TSIs in overcoming these obstacles and improving access to international markets. The objective of ITC's programme on carbon is to assist SMEs and TSIs in developing countries to understand new requirements on carbon product standards and to work with them to mitigate carbon emissions in line with market requirements.

    This is achieved through two modes of support:

    • Capacity building for companies and trade support institutions on meeting market requirements, and
    • Publishing market studies and guides on climate change issues relevant to trade.

    All ITC publications on trade and climate change issues can be accessed here.


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