Introduced in 1993, EMAS has been widely adopted in certain European countries - notably Germany, Austria, Sweden and Denmark - but has performed far less well than the ISO 14001 environmental management standard elsewhere. The European Commission unveiled plans to update the scheme in 1998, with the aim of boosting participation and broadening access to non-industrial businesses and smaller companies (ENDS Daily 9 June 1998).
During formal legislative readings, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament diverged on several issues, with the parliament in particular pushing for tougher environmental controls while ensuring special treatment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) (ENDS Daily 6 September).
Conciliation talks eventually had to deal with 27 parliamentary amendments that had not been accepted by the Council at second reading. Twenty-two have been passed partially or in full, with MEPs winning extra guarantees of transparency, involvement of environmental groups and trades unions, and stronger requirements for EMAS-registered companies to demonstrate compliance with environmental laws.
The new regulation explicitly allows EU member states to create incentives to encourage participation in the scheme. It also calls on the European Commission to help accession countries to participate, and makes more explicit that SMEs should have the possibility of submitting validated environmental statements less frequently than once a year.
As the Council wanted, member states will be directed to consider how to "take account" of EMAS registrations in implementing and enforcing environmental laws and inform the Commission. In addition, the parliament has won a requirement for the Commission to report on this information at least every three years.
Please enter your details
Not a subscriber?
Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.