Europe revives plans for energy and resource efficient products – for now

Negotiations for energy and resource efficient products including TVs and fridges will go ahead despite delays, the European Commission said this week. Consumers could soon benefit from mammoth savings, but only if EU governments will give them the green light by the end of the year.

This week the European Commission seemed ready to scrap long-planned Ecodesign and Energy Labelling requirements for several products, according to anonymous sources within the EU executive. President Juncker and Secretary General Selmayr were threatening to halt product policy development behind closed door, the sources said.

But the negotiations will go ahead following pressure from MEPs, environmental and consumer groups, as well as some progressive countries and businesses. The proposals are safe for now, and if everything goes according to plan they should be voted on by EU governments before the end of the year — though there are still uncertainties on the exact number of measures to be voted on.

What’s at stake?

The proposed requirements are part of a package of Ecodesign and Energy Labelling measures, which would oblige manufacturers to produce electrical goods that do the same job while wasting less energy. The proposals would also help reduce waste and save resources thanks to provisions to make products more easily repairable and recyclable by design.

The proposed energy efficiency requirements alone, which if approved in their entirety would cover 16 products including TVs and fridges, can save 62 million tonnes in CO2 emissions a year according to estimates by the European Commission.

The adoption of these measures is also expected to save consumers and businesses €23 billion in reduced energy bills per year starting from 2030.

On top of that, resource efficiency requirements would make it easier for consumers to have certain products repaired instead of having to buy new ones. The measures would reduce waste while unleashing the potential of job creation in the sector, campaigners said.

What’s next?

The European Commission is now expected to notify the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the proposals, which would lead to a gradual phase out of the most wasteful products from the EU’s single market including imported goods.

What comes next is widely seen as yet another threat to the proposed Ecodesign measures.

The European Commission must send their proposals to EU governments who are then expected to vote by the end of the year. While supporting energy efficiency requirements, some countries are set to oppose proposals to improve repairability and recyclability, Coolproducts campaigners revealed last month.

According to their statements during previous meetings, Germany, Italy and the UK are currently hampering the resource efficiency proposals, while France, Poland and Spain are either completely disengaged or have adopted a neutral stance. Because of the heavy weight their votes carry, the proposals are likely to be dropped from the agenda if their positions don’t change.

Both the European Parliament and the Council have already called for a timely implementation of the Ecodesign measures, which have suffered from several delays and political attacks from the Eurosceptic press.

The ball will soon be in the member states’ court if the European Commission convenes the meetings for the votes in time.