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Brussels, 16 July 2008

EU promotes sustainable products and technologies: a package of actions for sustainable consumption, production and industry

Improving the environmental performance and in particular the energy efficiency of products and stimulating their market uptake are the core objectives of a package put forward by the European Commission today. It sets out a series of voluntary and obligatory actions to support a coherent and dynamic policy in the EU and internationally, helping to define eco-friendly products, informing the consumer through improved labelling and supporting their purchase through public procurement and fiscal incentives.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: "The EU has to set an example and prove that industry is capable to contribute vigorously to fight against climate change. Taking up this challenge will create a win-win situation – more growth, more jobs, more environmental protection."

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “In terms of our impact on the planet we are living far beyond our means. Our actions as consumers and producers worldwide are major forces behind climate change and the destruction of nature. The time has come for us to change the type of products we buy and transform our methods of production. This is why the European Commission is putting forward proposals to encourage a switch to energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly products and production.”

Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, responsible for energy policies said: "The package puts forward a comprehensive set of measures which will contribute to the EU objectives on saving energy benefiting both the environment and the EU consumer.”

The action plan lists the initiatives the Commission will undertake in 3 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 – that do not consume energy during use but have an indirect impact on energy consumption – will also be covered in future. This will allow addressing products such as water-using devices and windows. For example, water-saving taps and shower heads reduce water consumption and therefore also the amount of energy used for hot water without altering the user’s perceived well-being.

Mandatory labelling

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

Incentives and public procurement

The Commission also proposes that only products attaining a certain level of energy or environmental performance – identified by one of the labelling classes – are eligible for incentives and public procurement at national and EU levels. It will be up to Member States whether and in which form to provide incentives. Today 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 (see Memo 1). In addition Member States are recommended to adopt common green procurement practices for goods and services not (yet) covered by the above plan (see Memo 2).

Voluntary eco labelling

The EU Ecolabel 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’ organisations. 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 EMAS, the EU’s voluntary eco-management and audit scheme, to increase its uptake, notably among SMEs, by making participation less costly and involving organisations outside the EU.
  • Developing an industrial policy for eco-industries by first analysing the barriers to their expansion and to their full uptake by other sectors.
  • Promoting environmental performance in small enterprises (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 practice internationally
  • Promoting international trade in environmentally friendly goods and services

Examples of gains in efficiency and cost reduction

30% of the energy used in buildings could be saved with positive economic effects in 2030. Better window insulation would contribute to reducing CO2 emissions by more than one fifth, while reducing costs to households. Significant gains are also estimated for water related devices such as baths, showers and taps.

More information

A video news release on the contents of the new package is available from:

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