European Commission Seeks Ways to Make Production, Consumption More Sustainable

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By Stephen Gardner  

BRUSSELS—The European Union needs “more ambitious and challenging policy plans” to increase resource efficiency and reduce environmental harm from products, the European Commission said in a consultation document published Jan. 11.

In particular, the production and consumption of products should be made more sustainable, existing EU law on green public procurement should be tightened up, and clearer information should be provided about the environmental footprints of products and organizations, the paper said.

Specific measures could include requiring products to conform to certain materials efficiency standards; revising EU laws on packaging and packaging waste; tightening regulations on the use of terms such as “eco,” “green,” and “natural” in product marketing; and setting quotas for retailers to ensure they hold minimum stocks of eco- or energy-labeled products, according to the paper.

Additionally, binding minimum green public procurement levels could be established, eco-labeling schemes could be expanded, EU grants could be limited to recipients that meet certain environmental standards, and more could be done to require larger companies to report on their environmental impacts, the paper said.

Proposals Later in 2012

Commission spokeswoman Monica Westeren told Bloomberg BNA that the consultation was “part of a broader process of reflection that will feed into policy initiatives” to be published by the end of the year and could contain legislative proposals.

The consultation follows up on a Roadmap to a Resource-Efficient Europe, published in September 2011, which set out in broad terms the Commission's plans to reduce the environmental footprint of the EU economy (34 INER 896, 9/28/11).

The action plan included pledges to address the environmental impact of products; to strengthen existing rules on green public procurement, or the requirement that public authorities should include environmental criteria when purchasing; and to better “benchmark the environmental performance of products, services, and companies.”

Responses to the consultation can be submitted through April 3.

For More Information

The European Commission consultation on delivering more sustainable consumption and production is available at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/sustainable.htm.