The Environmental Landscape in EU: Top Policy Announcements In The Quarter
By Leonardo Sforza, Managing Director, Brussels, MSLGROUP EMEA
Over the past three months, we have seen several policy announcements on the environment in Europe which have had a visible impact on our clients. Here we bring you an overview of the regulatory news and updates such as the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive, the new regulation on biocidal (harmful to living beings) products, the partnership with China on climate change and shale gas fracking (hydraulic fracturing, or drilling).
As we glance back at the key statements and regulations discussed in the quarter, we hope you glean insights into the sector and prepare for upcoming regulations.
If you’d like to consult us on how these policies impact you, we are happy to connect and share our insights.
The quarter began with a new directive being issued on disposing of waste electronics and more measures to improve the legislation when it comes to green issues.
WEEE Directive: The directive requires Member States to recycle at least 45% of the electronic equipment (EE) placed on their national markets four years after the directive’s implementation, and 65% after seven years.
Specific rules apply to photovoltaic residue and other more highly sensitive material. The directive also establishes producers’ responsibility. Retail stores 400 sqm and over will be requested to collect smaller EE at no cost for end-users. Member States were given 18 months to transpose and implement the provisions into their own national laws.
We also received an update that the preliminary Commission’s plan for the next EU environmental policy programme, due to cover the period 2013-2010, was reviewed favourably by the respondents to the open consultation launched earlier in the year.
The 7th action plan: It covers measures to improve the implementation of existing legislation, to ensure a better integration of “green” issues into the EU’s broader policy framework, and to address unsustainable consumption and outstanding chemical issues such as nanoparticles.
Some U.K. business groups suggested that the Commission should avoid additional legislation where possible. Additional legislation was however received very positively when addressing environmental issues like adaptation to climate change, marine pollution and soil degradation. The respondents also welcomed market mechanisms. The formal Commission’s proposal is expected to be presented next autumn.
However, actions to address noise and indoor air quality and major accidents received a slightly less warm-hearted welcome among the respondents. A consultation was launched by the EU commission to review the effectiveness of the 2002 Environmental Noise Directive (END).
Environmental noise Directive and EU Noise Policy under review: The consultation was open until 25 September to gather views and additional information on the effectiveness, strength and weaknesses of EU environmental noise legislation, in particular concerning END relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise, including proposals on EU level limits and noise labels for houses and vehicles.
Biocidal Products Regulation, LIFE+ Programme, Regulation on smaller combustion plants
New regulation on biocidal products comes into force: The Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR), which was adopted in the spring entered into force on July 17th, 2012.
The stated aim of the BPR is to simplify and harmonise the procedures for authorisation and at the same time ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment. The regulatory requirements it imposes on industry will apply from September 1st, 2013. As under the Biocidal Products Directive, only biocidal products with approved active substances may be authorised to be placed on the market. However, the BPR features some changes, notably Union Authorisation, which will allow companies to obtain authorisations for their biocidal products that are applicable across the whole EU.
The regulation covered not only biocides but also goods, such as furniture, and materials, such as food packaging, treated with biocidal products. The new provisions will also reduce animal testing by making data sharing compulsory and encouraging a more flexible and integrated approach to testing. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will be responsible for coordinating the approval processes for substances and the authorisation of products at EU level. A new Biocidal Products Committee, consisting of representatives from each of the EU member states will give its opinion on biocidal products, supported by technical and scientific support from ECHA.
Access to the European Union’s environment fund: The Commission’s 2012 call for proposals for the LIFE+ Programme – the European Union’s environment fund – was thrown open. LIFE+ is the European financial instrument for the environment and has a total budget of €2.143 billion for the period 2007-2013.
Last year, the Commission received 1,078 applications from the 27 EU Member States and it announced that €268.4 million from the LIFE+ programme will contribute to fund 202 new environment projects, such as nature conservation, environmental policy, climate change and information and communication on environmental issues.
Regulation of combustion plants: The European Commission also considered several measures to regulate air emissions from smaller combustion plants of less than 50 megawatts that are currently not included in the 2010 Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).
It looked at 3 main policy options:
- To set minimum emission limit values (ELVs) based on the most stringent national limits applied by member states.
- To extend existing IED ELVs for larger plants to cover those below 50MW.
- The third option, called ‘light IED’, would involve setting ELVs for air pollutants without requiring a full pollution permit for different types of environmental impacts such as air and water pollution.
Such rules already apply to small solvent plants under the IED.
An EU consultancy study recently published by the commission’s environment department found that, for all three main options, the benefits of controlling air emissions from small combustion plants would outweigh compliance and administrative costs. The ‘light IED’ option would be less burdensome than the two other main options, according to the study. The commission’s work is still under development and further analysis will be conducted on economic and social impacts.
China for Climate Change, Shale Gas Fracking
China and EU join forces to tackle climate change: On 20 September, the EU and China signed a financing agreement promoting the environment, transition towards a low-carbon economy and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in China. The EU will help China in meeting its environmental, energy- and carbon-intensity targets and in the long run, contribute towards achieving a global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU support will result – through pilot projects – in providing technical assistance, training and fostering exchanges of experience, best practice and know-how in areas like the low
Also in September, we saw the environment and energy committees call for caution on shale gas fracking.
Shale Gas Fracking: The environment committee said Member States should be cautious while waiting for the analysis which will determine if the European regulation is adequate and called for respect of the ‘polluter pays’ principle in order to minimise risk.
The same call for caution was issued by the energy committee of the European Parliament. The MEPs stressed that each country in the EU has the right to decide to exploit shale gas or not, but that Member States should have robust rules on activities linked to shale gas activities, especially fracking.
Both resolutions still need backing from the Parliament´s plenary end of October and would not result in binding legislation if passed.
The European Commission has already concluded that European rules adequately cover the licences, the early exploration and the production of shale gas, but that a thorough analysis of the regulation on unconventional fossil fuels is necessary. It would be made known until 2013 whether EU legislation on activities related to shale gas will be necessary.
Leonardo has 25 years of Brussels-based experience in addressing European Union policy issues and corporate strategies. Until March 2012 Leonardo was the Head of Research and EU Affairs at Aon Hewitt were he has been advising global multinationals and the European Commission on financial service institutions, human capital and governance. Before that Leonardo worked for several departments of the European Commission where he led numerous initiatives supporting job creation and business competitiveness in the service industry.