EU Parliament votes to clamp down on carbon-neutral claims backed by offsetting
Businesses wishing to label their products as 'carbon neutral' within the EU are set to face new regulatory barriers, after the European Parliament voted in favour of new anti-greenwashing rules.
The European Parliament voted late last week to support new rules to improve product durability and combat greenwashing.
The proposal for a new directive on empowering consumers for the green transition was voted in plenary by an overwhelming majority of 544 votes in favour, 18 against and 17 abstentions, opening the way for talks with EU member states to finalise the law.
Tabled in March last year, the directive aims to help consumers make environmentally friendly choices and encourage companies to offer them more durable products.
“This proposal aims to strengthen the fight against greenwashing by banning practices that mislead consumers on the actual sustainability of products,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told MEPs during the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg.
“By doing so, consumers can choose products that are generally better for the environment. This will encourage competition towards more environmentally sustainable products,” he added.
The draft directive bans the use of generic environmental claims such as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘natural’, ‘biodegradable’ or ‘eco’ if they are not supported by evidence. Other misleading practices, such as making green claims about the whole product when only one part is sustainable, will also be forbidden.
Crucially, it will only be possible to use sustainability labels based on official certification schemes recognised or established by public authorities.
Clampdown on offsetting-backed climate claims
In a bold move, lawmakers introduced a ban on environmental claims based on carbon offsetting schemes, such as ‘CO2 neutral’ or ‘carbon neutral’, which are criticised by environmental groups for misleading consumers.
Campaigners hailed the Parliament’s move, which was not included in the European Commission’s draft proposal tabled last year.
This is “a significant victory for consumers and the environment,” said the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a green organisation.
“We urge the Council and the Commission to support this ban,” added Carbon Market Watch. “If the other institutions do not shift their position during upcoming negotiations, it will undermine the EU’s ability to genuinely crackdown on this kind of greenwashing,” it said.
The EU Parliament also voted against early obsolescence by banning the introduction of design features that limit a product’s life or lead to goods malfunctioning prematurely.
Moreover, producers will not be allowed to restrict a product’s functionality when used with spare parts or accessories produced by other companies.
To encourage companies to prioritise durability, MEPs also suggested introducing a new guarantee label that indicates the mandatory guarantee lengths and any potential extensions manufacturers offer.
“Citizens need to be properly informed, and their legal rights must be protected and strengthened. We are enabling citizens to choose products that are more durable, repairable, and sustainable,” stated Socialists & Democrats MEP Biljana Borzan, the lead Parliament speaker on the proposal.
With the Parliament’s position now decided, talks to finalise the law can begin with the 27 EU member states represented in the EU Council of Ministers. The Council adopted its negotiating mandate on 3 May, and Borzan said the upcoming negotiations will be “rather short and quite constructive.”
Valentina Romano, EurActiv.com
This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner