First EU-wide environmental agreements ready

Industry looks forward to improved 1997 statistics under EU packaging directive

Two EU industry associations are set to sign the first EU-wide binding environmental agreements with the European Commission, ENDS Daily has learned. Under a first agreement, the energy efficiency of new washing machines is to be improved by 20% by 2000, measured from a 1994 baseline. Under a second, the same improvement is to be achieved for new televisions (TVs) and video recorders (VCRs).

Many EU policy makers have voiced doubts over the appropriateness of using environmental agreements at EU level, especially if they replace rather than complement regulations (ENDS Daily 26 May). Last year, a prospective EU agreement on refrigerator energy efficiency collapsed and was replaced by mandatory standards.

EU energy commissioner Christos Papoutsis recently defended the Commission's decision to pursue agreements on washing machines, TVs and VCRs in a parliamentary answer. Responding to a question from British socialist MEP Anita Pollack, Mr Papoutsis wrote: "These agreements will be more effective than directives for minimum efficiency standards for these appliances, given the high flexibility offered by negotiated agreements and the short time to adopt them." Other products would be considered on a case by case basis, he said.

Negotiations between the Commission and the European Association of Consumer Electronics (EACEM) for an agreement on TVs and VCRs were substantially completed before the summer, ENDS Daily understands. Outline agreement on washing machines was reached more recently with the Federation of European Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (CECED). Both now await formal approval by the full Commission.

Under the terms of the agreement on washing machines, EU manufacturers will commit to stop marketing the least energy efficient machines by the end of 1997. From 1 January 2000, only the three most energy efficient categories (A, B and C) will be marketed.

The agreement also provides for independent monitoring of how the targets are being achieved, a database measuring energy consumption year by year and industry commitments to improve the energy efficiency awareness of consumers.

Luigi Meli of CECED today welcomed the prospect of the washing machine agreement. "We always said that a voluntary agreement at the European level [would] allow us to exploit consumer awareness to the maximum, whilst avoiding the difficult and lengthy process of legislation," he told ENDS Daily.

Without waiting for formal signatures on the agreement, CECED and the Commission are already discussing an extension to ensure further energy efficiency improvements in washing machines after 2000, Mr Meli said.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: + 32 2 299 1111; CECED, tel: + 32 2 510 2311; EACEM, tel: +32 2 644 0466.

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