Green product proposals fall short of potential

17 July 2008

MEPs and governments called on to strengthen sustainability measures

Brussels, 17 July 2008 - New laws proposed by the European Commission to create greener products need serious strengthening if they are to help tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, says Friends of the Earth Europe. The environmental organisation today welcomed the belated publication of the Sustainable Consumption and Production action plan [1], but is calling on the European Parliament and national governments to improve the plans which are extremely weak, having been watered down by in-fighting within the Commission.

Dr Michael Warhurst, of Friends of the Earth Europe's resources and waste campaign, said today: "Everyone now realises that we are consuming the Earth's resources unsustainably, with devastating impacts on our climate and on biodiversity. We are happy that the Commission has finally published these proposals, but it is essential that they be widened to properly address the environmental impacts of all products, not just focus on energy-related products."

An important part of the package is a revision of the current law regulating 'energy-using' products (e.g. the recent proposal to restrict energy consumption of products on stand-by) to widen the types of products that can be regulated. Early texts proposed to address all products, but EU energy and industry commissioners Andris Piebalgs and Günter Verheugen have succeeded in narrowing the scope of the proposal [2] to only 'energy related' products. This means, for example, that products with major environmental impacts such as paper, packaging or furniture are not included.

Dr Warhurst added: "We have to start addressing the damage our consumption is doing to the biodiversity of our planet - ecodesign rules covering all products could be a key tool in this work. MEPs, governments and everyone who is concerned about the global environment must now work together to strengthen these proposals."

Friends of the Earth Europe is also concerned about a number of other aspects of the package, in particular its focus on voluntary measures.

"EU governments have spent decades negotiating voluntary agreements with industry on the environmental performance of products, with few concrete results. Regulatory and fiscal measures create a level playing field and are a proven method of making products greener - they should be the focus of the EU's sustainable consumption and production policy," said Dr Warhurst.

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Notes for editors

Friends of the Earth Europe's response to the Commission's consultation in 2007 on its sustainable consumption and production action plan is available here.

[1] "EU promotes sustainable products and technologies: a package of actions for sustainable consumption, production and industry", European Commission, July 16th 2008
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/1154

[2] "EU delays major sustainable products package", ENDS Europe Daily, 16th May 2008