Renewable Matter # 18 / September-October

Brussels' Battle for Efficiency

by Francesco Petrucci

This summer’s hurricanes, which battered the Caribbean and the Southern United States, once again drew media attention to climate change, the main topic of this coming autumn United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): The 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) presided over by the Government of Fiji will take place in Bonn between 6th and 17th November 2017. COP23 will resume COP21 (2015 Paris Agreement) technical implementation work according to the commitment undertaken by the parties during COP22 in Marrakesh the following year. To date, 160 of the 197 participating Countries have ratified the Paris Agreement.

The European Parliament is doing its best to have an active role during the coordination meetings. It has managed to send out an important signal inviting other members to take concrete actions against climate change. On 7th September, the Environmental Commission introduced tougher commitments on energy efficiency provided for by the proposed directive on this subject that will modify the current one (2012/27/EU); the European Commission had proposed 30% by 2030, but members of Parliament want to achieve a binding 40%.

The text will have to get to the General Assembly and most probably a new tête-à-tête with the European Council will ensue. On 26th June 2017, the European Council approved a “shy” non-binding 30%.

On 13th September, the European Parliament gave the all-clear to proposed regulations that will require Member States to compensate by 2030 CO2 emissions deriving from deforestation activities with forests’ absorption capacity. Negotiations with the European Council are now underway to reach shared wording of a law.

In the meantime, on 17th July 2017, the EU ratified the amendment of the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol on air pollutants. Tougher commitments to reduce emissions of sulphur, nitric oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) other than methane and ammonia. As from 2020, new emission limitations will be applied, set for each country and pollutant. 

The European Council (Decision (EU) 2017/1541 of 17th July 2017) also adopted the Kigali amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol that will phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful greenhouse gases used, for example, in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol sprays. Since 2014, the EU has pushed for HFCs reduction (EU 517/2014).

To this end, the Commission revised (Decision (EU) 2017/1471 of 10th August 2017) the annual greenhouse gas emission quotas for all Member States for the 2017-2020 period. This revision will affect Member States’ curbing measures and policies.

There is a new important development concerning large combustion plants exceeding 50 MW of total rated thermal input. With the Decision (EU) 2017/1442 of 31st July 2017, the European Commission adopted best available techniques (BAT) conclusions, a benchmark for prescriptions in plants’ environmental authorizations.

As from 2nd August 2017, Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/1262 allows the use of manure of any farmed animals (before only chicken manure could be used) as a fuel in combustion plants up to 50 MW. 

There is a continuous updating of the ecological criteria that businesses must observe if they want to apply for the use of the European Ecolabel. The EU Commission has updated the Ecolabel criteria for textile products (they will be in force until 2024) and has extended to 31st December 2020 existing ecological criteria for processed paper goods (envelopes, bags, stationery goods). With six different decisions, it also updated the Ecolabel criteria for cleansing agents and detergents (they will be in force until 2023).

Two novelties for businesses subscribing to the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The first is the alignment of EMAS Regulation n. 1221/2009 with the international standard ISO 14001:2015 since it still referred to the previous ISO 14001 of 2004. The implementation occurred with the Regulation (EU) 2017/1505. The second was the approval of good environmental practices to be adopted within the EMAS framework in the food and beverage sectors (Regulation (EU) 2017/1508 of 28th August 2017). Lastly, a piece of news regarding all those dealing with chemicals. The EU Commission has modified the Regulation (EC) 1907/2006 on authorization and restriction of chemicals (REACH) adopting the latest modifications of the Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of substances and mixtures which introduced new chemicals classified as carcinogenic, mutagen and reprotoxic (CMR). The modifications will come into force on 1st March 2018. 

 

 

Francesco Petrucci, in collaboration with “Rifiuti – Bollettino di informazione normativa” magazine and Osservatorio di normativa ambientale, www.reteambiente.it