Brussels, 9 September 2003
Commission promotes environmentally-friendly design of energy-consuming products
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive on the eco-design of energy-consuming products, such as electrical and electronic devices or heating equipment. Eco-design aims to improve the environmental performance of products throughout their life-cycle by systematic integration of environmental aspects in product design. Coherent EU-wide rules for eco-design will ensure that disparities among national regulations do not become obstacles to intra-EU trade. The proposal does not introduce directly binding requirements for specific products, but does define conditions and criteria for setting requirements regarding environmentally relevant product characteristics (such as energy consumption) and allows them to be improved quickly and efficiently. Products that fulfil the requirements will benefit both businesses and consumers, by facilitating free movement of goods across the EU and by enhancing product quality and environmental protection. The proposal constitutes a breakthrough in EU product policy and introduces many innovative elements together with concrete application of the principles of the “better regulation” package.
Commission Vice-President Loyola de Palacio, responsible for Energy and Transport, said that “the Directive will deliver long-lasting and increasing energy savings beneficial to consumers that will also contribute to a reinforced security of energy supply for the Community”.
Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen added: “This Directive will offer a framework in order to ensure that energy-using products perform better when it comes to environmental impact, without detriment to their functionality or free movement in the EU market. It is a major contribution to sustainable development. I am confident that stakeholders will co-operate constructively with the Commission and will take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new framework”.
By encouraging manufacturers to design products with the environmental impacts in mind throughout their entire life cycle, the Commission is implementing an integrated product policy and accelerating the move towards improving the environmental performance of energy-consuming products.
After adoption of the Directive by the Council and the European Parliament, the Commission, assisted by a Committee, will be able to take measures on specific products and environmental aspects (such as energy consumption, waste generation, water consumption, extension of lifetime) after impact assessment and broad consultation of interested parties.
There will not be obligations for all energy-using products, but only for those meeting criteria such as environmental impact and the volume of trade in the internal market and clear potential for improvement, for example where market forces fail to make progress in the absence of a legal requirement.
What is Eco-design?
The environmental impacts of energy-using products take various forms, such as energy consumption and related contribution to climate change, consumption of materials and natural resources, waste generation and release of hazardous substances.
Eco-design, which means the integration of environmental considerations at the design phase, is arguably the best way to improve the environmental performance of products.
The creation of a coherent framework for environmental product policy will avoid the adoption of unco-ordinated measures that could lead to an overall negative result; for example eliminating a toxic substance from a product, such as mercury from lamps, might lead to increased energy consumption, which on balance would have a negative impact on the environment.
A Community framework will also ensure that no divergent national or regional measures are taken that could hinder the free movement of products and reduce the competitiveness of businesses.
Businesses and consumers will benefit greatly not only from better products and an improved environment, but also economically, because of a more rational use of resources. Easier access to an enlarged EU single market will help enhance competitiveness in the global market place, where environmental concerns are becoming increasingly important. The environment will also gain from this Commission initiative, which tackles all environmental considerations holistically.
The proposal is a concrete example of the application of the principles of Integrated Product Policy and it shows the determination of the Commission to integrate environmental aspects in enterprise policies. Its structure (clear framework given by Council and Parliament, technical measures adopted by the Commission) and scope (environmental aspects of products with a view to safeguarding the internal market) present many new elements. Mechanisms for rapid, efficient and participatory decision-making are proposed, which at the same time leave sufficient room for innovation and initiative to product manufacturers. Widespread application of environmentally-friendly processes and products is among the goals of both the 6th Community Environment Action Programme and of the Commission Communication on Industrial Policy in an Enlarged Europe. The introduction of Eco-design measures that include requirements for improved energy efficiency of products is also an important and long-lasting contribution to securing energy supply and achieving sustainable development.
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