Agreement on eco-design directive
Claire Monkhouse from the IEEP looks at the latest developments at the European Commission
On 1 August the Commission surprised stakeholders by adopting a proposal for a framework directive on
Eco-Design for Energy-Using Products (EUP).
There are no details yet as to which products are included in this definition, but the proposal indicates that companies which sell large volumes of goods with high environmental impacts or potential for improvement will be targeted first.
The directive, put forward by DG Enterprise, aims to ensure the free movement of energy-using products within the EU, while improving their overall environmental performance.
Once in place, it should contribute to sustainable development and help reduce greenhouse gases, although its scope is much broader than just climate change.
As with several recent EU initiatives, the proposal is focused on the product design stage. Approximately 80% of all product-related environmental impacts are thought to be determined during this phase.
The EUP proposal paves the way for general and specific design requirements for different product sectors.
In theory, it covers all energy sources, although in practice only those using electricity, solid, liquid and gaseous fuels will be affected.
The proposal advocates alternatives to command and control measures, with self-regulation and voluntary agreements highlighted as a priority. It is felt that these sorts of measures allow rapid, cost-effective implementation and respond to industry criticism that previous proposals have been too prescriptive, hinder flexibility and innovation, and are tough to implement.
This is in line with the recent Commission working document on integrating environmental aspects into standardisation, and demonstrates the Commission’s desire to adopt softer approaches to environmental policy, as opposed to strict legislative measures.
However, the proposal does note that if the Commission feels implementation is not being effectively achieved through flexible mechanisms, measures based on generic environmental requirements or specific quantified limits will be set.
Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Establishing a Framework for the Setting of Eco-Design Requirements for Energy Using Products and Amending Council Directive 92/42/EEC, COM(2003)453, 1.8.2003. http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/pdf/2003/
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