Commission releases new product ecodesign plans
7th November 2002
ENDS - Environment Daily
The European Commission has circulated a new draft directive proposal merging two previously separate initiatives to set ecodesign requirements and minimum energy efficiency standards for consumer appliances. The plans will be debated at a stakeholder meeting in Brussels on 18 November. Early reaction from both industry and environmentalists is mixed.
Hints that the move was on the cards emerged after a speech on product regulation last month by EU enterprise commissioner Erkki Liikanen, whose department has co-responsibility for the proposals with the energy directorate (ED 28/10/02). This followed sustained opposition from a wide section of industry, particularly on the draft ecodesign directive, known as triple-E (ED 11/04/02). The energy requirements were more recent (ED 12/08/02).
The new text combines elements of both proposals. It will cover all end-use equipment (EUE) regardless of energy source, whereas triple-E only targeted electrical equipment. More significantly, however, it is proposed as a framework directive. This means that products would not be subject to ecodesign or energy efficiency requirements until these are set out in subsequent "implementing measures". Under triple-E, the requirements would have covered all product categories from the outset.
This change appears to give enormous breathing space to industry sectors worried at the impact that triple-E initiatives might have on them. In contrast, however, the new draft explicitly suggests for the first time that the ecodesign requirements might include quantitative limits on the consumption of resources in the production and use of appliances, as well as minimum recycled material content.
A source at one producer association likely to be significantly affected by the new proposal said its reaction would depend on how the design requirements were triggered. Industry should be given the chance to develop its ideas to improve product performance before implementing measures are proposed, he said.
Meanwhile, an environmental campaigner told Environment Daily that the more concrete wording on ecodesign was a step forward from a previous emphasis on environmental management systems. But the effect of the plans would depend on how much influence industry was allowed to exert on setting the requirements, he stressed. Both sources criticised the Commission for giving them only a few days to consider the proposal before holding a stakeholder conference.