Ministers for environment, not for industry, should be in the driving seat for new ecodesign regulation, warn environmental NGOs

In a letter sent today, ECOS, EEB and Zero Waste Europe urge the Council of the European Union to appoint the Environment Council as the minister configuration leading on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR).

The Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), and Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) urge the Council of the European Union to appoint the Environment Council as the responsible formation in charge of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR).

NGOs worry that the Competitiveness Council, composed of EU national ministers for industrial policies, is about to take the lead on the file during the negotiations. Environmentalists fear that, if ministers responsible for the internal market and industry are tasked with setting the ambition at the Council of the EU, the primary environmental goal of the regulation will not be properly prioritised.

NGOs have expressed their concerns in a letter sent today to the respective Secretaries General of the Competitiveness and Environment configurations of the Council of the EU, European Commission executive vice president Frans Timmermans, and commissioners Virginijus Sinkevičius (environment) and Thierry Breton (industry). [1]

The European Commission published its ESPR proposal on 30 March. [2] Now it is time for the Council of the EU and European Parliament to adopt their respective positions, which will be the base for inter-institutional negotiations on a final text.

While the Council is looking to the ministers for industry to lead the efforts, the European Parliament has appointed its Environment Committee to lead on the file on the hemicycle’s side, with socialist MEP Simona Bonafé as lead rapporteur, Politico reports. The different perspectives taken by these two formations in these two institutions to tackle the proposal might lead to misalignment and further delays, NGOs warn.

NGOs ask the institutions to follow a similar approach as the one taken in the case of the Batteries Regulation, currently in inter-institutional trialogues. [3] For that file, institutions agreed that the Environment Council should lead on the discussions. The Batteries Regulation is considered as the blueprint for the ESPR.

The ESPR will be a cornerstone piece of legislation for more environmentally sustainable and circular products. It aims to build sustainability into products throughout their entire lifecycle, starting from the design phase – when 80% of environmental impacts are determined.

Ioana Popescu, Senior Programme Manager, ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards:

‘Today, products are designed following a linear ‘take-make-use-dispose’ pattern. Ecodesign is a core piece of the puzzle to reverse this trend, since 80% of product environmental impacts are determined at design stage. If the EU is serious about making sustainable products the norm, we need environmental leaders in the driving seat’.

Stéphane Arditi, Director of Policy Integration and Circular Economy, EEB:

‘The primary goal of Ecodesign policy is to make products more circular and save resources, and it should be up to our Environment Ministers to ensure this happens’.

Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director, Zero Waste Europe:

‘The ESPR is supposed to unlock the potential of circular business models by making sustainable products the norm. If the ambition of the regulation is watered down from the start, circular and zero waste business models don’t stand a chance in the face of linear business as usual’.

Notes to editors: 

[1]  NGO letter: Environment Council needs to lead on Ecodesign for Sustainable
Product Regulation
[2] European Commission – Green Deal: New proposals to make sustainable products the norm and boost Europe’s resource independence –
[3] Joint NGO press release: Decisive negotiations on batteries kick off tomorrow in Brussels – Environmental NGOs demand clear commitments to responsible sourcing, design, reuse and recycling