Industry calls for incentives to take on EMAS

"Regulatory benefits" should be promoted in revised EMAS regulation, say companies

European industry associations yesterday called on the European Commission to provide stronger incentives for companies to participate in the EU's voluntary eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) as it prepares to revise the regulation underpinning the scheme.

Industry representatives suggested that the revised regulation should encourage member states to offer "regulatory benefits" to EMAS-registered companies. Specific ideas put forward included reduced permitting and environmental reporting requirements for registered firms.

Participants also felt that the European Commission could do more to encourage EMAS uptake by building concessions to registered companies into new EU environmental legislation.

They described some parts of the current regulation as confusing - for instance, its requirement that companies should strive to achieve technological standards equivalent to the "economically viable application of best available technology" or EVABAT. ENDS Daily understands that some suggested deleting the term.

Businesses also want clarification of the roles of EMAS competent bodies and verifiers. In most EU countries, competent bodies are content to accept verifiers' assurance of compliance with the regulation. But in some, competent bodies have apparently been carrying out their own site visits, considerably lengthening the registration process.

Participants supported proposals from an earlier consultation meeting held by the Commission for EMAS to be extended to products and service sectors (ENDS Daily 12 September).

EMAS verifiers presented their views on the scheme at a meeting last week. ENDS Daily understands that they too welcomed an extension of the scheme. But they argued that this should not be based on a judgement of those sectors with significant environmental aspects as this would lead to differences of interpretation.

They also pointed out that if the scheme is extended to cover sectors such as services, then the present system of verification on a site-by-site basis would be difficult to apply. But it would be important to maintain some check on each company site to avoid companies using their best performing sites to obtain EMAS registration for the whole company.

Industry representatives and verifiers shared a feeling that EMAS could "learn" from the international environmental management standard ISO 14001. They proposed that the standard's specifications for environmental management systems should be transposed into EMAS.

Both groups also felt there was a need to clarify how far a company should have gone in implementing EMAS before it could be registered for the first time. Verifiers agreed on criteria at last week's meeting, which the Commission will put to member states' experts next month.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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