EU moves to boost eco-auditing scheme

Member states back DGXI proposal to open EMAS to all sectors, learn from ISO 14001

EU government experts have endorsed a European Commission suggestion to open the EU eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) to a broader range of industries. Meeting in Stockholm last week, officials broadly backed proposals by the Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) to increase the appeal of EMAS to European companies.

DGXI has been consulting different stakeholder groups since the summer on ideas for reforming the EMAS scheme (ENDS Daily 24 September). The Commission is due to propose a new version of the 1993 EMAS regulation on which it is based by next summer. Last week, DGXI presented national officials with its first thoughts.

One proposal is to increase the complementarity of EMAS and the international environmental management standard ISO 14001. ISO 14001 is more popular than EMAS in some EU countries, and DGXI wants to encourage ISO certified companies to obtain EMAS registration as well.

EMAS rules for designing an environmental management system could be simplified, DGXI is suggesting. The main requirements would be presented in a technical annex in the same form as in ISO 14001. Extra requirements under EMAS would be indicated separately in the body of the regulation.

At last week's meeting, most EU states backed the idea. But ENDS Daily understands that Austria and Germany were nervous about it because under EU procedural rules the Commission would have the power to revise the annex without consulting EU ministers or the European Parliament. They were similarly nervous about DGXI's suggestion to move instructions for public environmental statements to an annex.

DGXI has also proposed giving companies more flexibility in the way they publish the environmental report required under EMAS, enabling them to get more "added value" from the scheme. Instead of one report for all stakeholders, it suggests they should be able to publish several reports aimed at different audiences, drawing on a central pool of externally-validated data.

Also foreseen by DGXI is a broadening of EMAS from industrial manufacturing sites to whole organisations and a wide range of economic sectors. Last week, EU states supported the idea that registration should be opened to organisations or multi-site operational units. But some countries said that manufacturing companies should still have to register sites individually.

EMAS auditing and reporting requirements - including for continuous auditing cycles and annual environmental reports - should be tightened, DGXI is suggesting. In Stockholm, Austria called for EMAS requirements on regulatory compliance to be tightened as well. Austria also stressed that a requirement for companies to aim for environmental standards based on the "best available technology" principle should be maintained in the revised regulation.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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