Daniela Goffredo

Ecodesign’s climate powers trapped by European Commission delays

The European Commission is behind schedule in the development and implementation of ecodesign and energy labelling policies. A new analysis shows that such delays are estimated to cause 10 million tonnes (CO2eq) of additional emissions every year and cost citizens 40 billion on their energy bills by 2030, Alberto Vela reports.

In its race against the clock towards climate neutrality, the EU counts on a powerful ally: ecodesign.

The mission of this policy superhero is to get products to do the same job but using less energy and wasting fewer resources, a superpower that helps the EU save the equivalent of Italy’s annual energy consumption every year.

The Ecodesign Directive and the Energy Labelling Regulation alone are expected to deliver about one-third of the savings needed to achieve the EU’s 2030 55% emission reduction targets. A feat of heroic proportions for two smart policies that don’t always get the attention they deserve.

Despite knowing their unrivalled power to push the EU towards its climate goals, the European Commission is dragging its feet in the development of ecodesign and energy labelling rules for products. This is mainly due to a lack of resources, as these policies are not given the prominence, resources and dedicated staff they require to unlock their full potential.

A new report of Coolproducts commissioned by the EEB and ECOS shows that such delays are threatening the 55% emission reduction targets and costing citizens 40 billion euros.

Bigger emissions, higher bill

In total, only 25% of the ecodesign and energy labelling work planned for the 2016-2019 period has been completed. Moreover, the working plan for  2020-2024 is still under development and is expected to be adopted with a 2-year delay at least.

These delays have a tangible impact on the environment and consumers: by 2030, delays to the work plan will result in almost 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions annually, as much as 5 million cars, roughly the number registered in Belgium.

Without delays, consumers could save a total of 40 billion euros on their energy bills between 2020 and 2030. As it is, however, an average European household will now spend an extra 110€ on energy by 2030 as a direct result of poor policymaking.

Yet, no new implementing measure planned under the existing Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Working Plan has been adopted by the von der Leyen Commission.

Among the delayed products waiting under the Commission’s work plan, the ones with the highest potential to save CO2 emissions and energy bills are water pumps and space and water heaters. Other domestic products like computers or vacuum cleaners, whose production weighs very heavily on both climate and consumers, accumulate delays of more than two years.

For every additional year of delays, around 3 million tonnes of CO2 will be released by 2030, making it even more costly or unlikely to meet EU’s climate goals.

Time to react

The current situation raises concerns over the Commission’s allocation of resources to essential climate and product policies.

Resource shortages clash with the high relevance that ecodesign and energy labelling policies are set to represent in the much-anticipated Sustainable Products Initiative, a flagship file currently under development by the Commission. 

These delays linked to inefficient decision-making and lack of resources within the European Commission services are unacceptable. As the climate emergency becomes ever more pressing, we must do all we can to unlock the energy and resource savings that are already within our reach.

According to our calculations, the EU could go even further with swifter and more ambitious new regulations for the newly added product groups in the Working Plan 2020-2024, together with bolder and timely revisions of the existing product regulations.

An extra 58 million tonnes of yearly CO2 savings could become a reality if the EU strengthened its Ecodesign and Energy Labelling policies. This is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of Hungary, and almost 4% of the efforts needed to achieve the 55% reduction goal. 

To make up for the time already lost and harvest the potential additional savings, environmental organisations call on the Commission to allocate adequate staff numbers and political urgency to crucial ecodesign and energy labelling policies, switching towards a much more ambitious implementation of the existing regulations.

Read the full Coolproducts report.