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Categories

The European Commission Proposes Legislation Promoting Sustainable Products, Technologies

July 20, 2008

The European Commission Proposes Legislation Promoting Sustainable Products, Technologies

The European Commission (EC) has proposed a legislative package aimed at improving the environmental performance and energy efficiency of products in the European Union (EU) and stimulating their market uptake.

The package sets out a series of voluntary and obligatory actions to help define eco-friendly products, inform consumers through improved labeling and support the purchase of green products through fiscal incentives.

The associated action plan lists the initiatives the EC will undertake in three key areas:


1. A new product policy

Energy and resource-efficient consumer products
In the absence of voluntary action, the Ecodesign Directive presently provides a framework for setting compulsory minimum requirements and voluntary benchmarks for energy-using products.

All energy-related products - those that do not consume energy during use but have an indirect impact on energy consumption - will also be covered in the future.

This will allow the EC to address products such as water-using devices and windows. For example, water-saving taps and showerheads reduce water consumption and therefore also the amount of energy used for hot water, all without altering the user's perceived well-being.

Mandatory labeling
Mandatory labeling will indicate relevant environmental parameters for a wider range of products, including energy-using and energy-related products.

Incentives and public procurement
The EC proposed that only products attaining a certain level of energy or environmental performance - identified by one of the labeling classes - are eligible for incentives and public procurement at national and EU levels. It will be up to EU member states whether and in what form to provide incentives.

Currently incentives are granted for very different levels of environmental performance across the EU, sometimes in regions very near to each other, thus limiting economies of scale for better performing products.

In addition, it is recommended that member states adopt common green procurement practices for goods and services not covered by the plan.

Voluntary eco-labeling
The EU's Eco-label scheme, which indicates the most environmentally friendly products on the EU market, will be extended to cover a wider range of products and services, such as food and drink products, and made less costly and bureaucratic.

These changes will make the scheme more attractive to manufacturers and encourage them to innovate and offer more such products.

Retailers' responsibility
A retail forum will be created, which will also include other stakeholders, such as producers and consumers' organizations.

This forum will prepare actions to improve large retailers' environmental performance, promote the purchase of greener products and better inform consumers.


2. Promoting leaner production
With a view to promoting leaner production, the proposals foresee:

・Developing targets and tools to monitor, benchmark and promote resource efficiency and eco-innovation. An environmental technology verification scheme will be established to support eco-innovation through increased confidence in new technologies.
・Revising EU's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) to increase its uptake, notably among small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), by making participation less costly and involving organizations outside the EU.
・Developing an industrial policy for eco-industries by first analyzing the barriers to their expansion and to their full uptake by other sectors.
・Promoting environmental performance in SMEs through customized advice.


3. Sustainable consumption and production internationally
In order to promote sustainable products worldwide, the proposals envisage:

・Supporting agreements of industry sectors as part of international climate negotiations.
・Promoting and sharing good practices internationally.
・Promoting international trade in environmentally friendly goods and services.


More information

Action Plan for sustainable consumption, production and industry
EC web page on Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Competitiveness
EC web page on Sustainable Development
EC web site on EMAS

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