Industry calls for "red tape" relief via EMAS

Revision of eco-audit should include more incentives for firms, says German industry chief

The head of Germany's industry federation, BDI, has warned that the EU eco-management and audit system (EMAS) could go "down the drain" unless it can offer greater benefits to companies.

Speaking in Brussels today, Hans Henkel, president of the BDI, said the international environmental management standard ISO 14001 would eclipse EMAS unless companies registered under the European scheme were rewarded by simpler regulatory procedures than non-EMAS ones.

His remarks were made at a conference organised by the German presidency of the EU to raise awareness of the revision of the 5-year old EMAS regulation, which is about to be debated by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. Also present were EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, whose department drew up the proposed revision, and German environment minister Jürgen Trittin, who wants to steer EU ministers to an agreement on the issue before the end of the German presidency in June.

Mr Henkel said Germany and Austria were leading the way in getting companies to sign up to the voluntary EMAS scheme since it began in 1995. Germany has 1,700 registered sites, more than any other EU country, but Mr Henkel said that this would decline unless the regulation's revision included more incentives for industry.

EMAS, he said, should be a way to reduce the "red tape" that environmental regulations cause for industry, and should be the start of a "de-bureaucratisation" of environment policy. Environment management systems offered a new, "consensual" way to ensure environmental standards were met, he claimed. "Environmental policy can no longer be carried out with the old instruments. Classic legal instruments are exhausted," he told a press conference.

Mr Trittin did not commit himself on whether he would support this kind of role for EMAS. He said there were two key ways to make the system more attractive to companies: a higher degree of public recognition for EMAS along with an understanding that it goes further than ISO 14001, and proper controls to ensure the system's credibility.

Speaking for NGO coalition the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Helmut Röscheisen hit back at the industry view, saying that EMAS verifiers could not replace the role of environmental inspectors. However, he said that some potential future EU laws, for example on environmental liability or energy taxation, might be used to replace some existing "command and control" regulations.

Ms Bjerregaard also made it clear that EMAS was never designed to replace existing legislation. She said: "EMAS is intended to be a market based instrument, which relies on peer pressure and supply chain pressure. It is not a replacement for command and control legislation."

Follow Up:
BDI, tel: +49 2221 3708 565. German presidency of the EU, tel: +49 228 3050.

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