Renewable Matter # 19 / December-January

EU Engagement, USA Disengagement

by Francesco Petrucci

During the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference (known as COP23), held in Bonn from 6 to 17 November 2017, participants continued working on “technical” aspects with the objective of fully implementing the December 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, and having to deal with the issue of USA “disengagement.” 

Whilst the 195 participants’ work led to small steps forward, a group of countries achieved an important outcome with the approval of the “Powering Past Coal,” committing countries to reach carbon neutrality before 2030 (the European countries who signed are Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). The next meeting will be held in Katowice, Poland from 3 to 14 December 2018, when hopefully Parties will manage to overcome the still existing distances and critical aspects.

In this prospective is of special importance the EU-China joint declaration on climate change signed in mid December 2017. Its signatories have confirmed their commitment in implementing the Paris agreement on climate, and their will to cooperate to enhance its implementation.

As the COP23 was taking place, the EU released its report on greenhouse gas emissions, stating that from 1990 to 2016 they have decreased by 23%, in parallel with a 53% increase of GDP.

This is good news, and so is the November agreement between the European Parliament and Council to revise the EU Emissions Trading System after 2020. This revision will contribute to achieving its objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. 

In the meantime, after COP23 the United Nations had gathered 193 countries for the 3rd session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) that took place in Nairobi from 4-6 December 2017, with the theme “Towards a pollution-free planet.” EU has invited participant countries to promote sustainable life-styles, as well as a circular economy model enhancing reduce-reuse-recycle approaches to production.

As for circular economy, the approval process for the legislative proposal on waste has finally progressed after the temporary agreement reached by the European Parliament and Council on December 18, 2017. The Circular Economy Package is likely to be definitively approved at the beginning of 2018.

The EU Commission has also approved the forms to be used in relation to the import of mercury for purposes other than disposal as waste (Decision n. 2017/2287/EU, December 8, 2017).

Of great importance for companies making use of carcinogenic and mutagenic substances is the definitive approval on December 12, 2017 of the directive updating the rules on the protection of workers against health and safety risks from exposure to these dangerous substances, that replaces directive 2004/37/EU.

On November 20, 2017, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), has published the new guidance on labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, a useful guide for chemicals distributors in the effective application of the EC Regulation 1272/2008.

Cadmium is still used on some LED because at the moment technology can’t provide an alternative solution. Directive 2017/1975/EU of November 20, 2017, establishes therefore a derogation until December 31, 2019, to the general ban of heavy metal established by directive 2011/65/EU.

As for industries producing organic chemicals, the Best Available Techniques (BAT) conclusions have been approved through the European Commission Decision 2017/2117/EU. These conclusions are to be used by factories producing chemicals to define environmental authorizations conditions and prescriptions.

The European Commission has allocated the new quotas for placing hydrofluorocarbons on the market for 2018-2020. Decision 2017/1984/EU affects the 450 European companies that have declared their hydrofluorocarbons placement on the market from January 1, 2015 onwards.

Of increasing importance for companies’ competitiveness is their commitment to environmental management systems like EMAS (the European Ecomanagement and Audit Scheme). The European Union is constantly urging companies to adopt it, and therefore the EU Commission has amended the guidelines to participate in EMAS (decision 2017/2285/EU). At the same time, in order to facilitate the implementation of EMAS it has recognised the Norwegian management system Eco-Lighthouse as “equivalent” to EMAS. Eco-Lighthouse can therefore be considered an environmental management system as complying with the corresponding requirements of EMAS (decision 6 December 2017, n. 2017/2286/EU).

As for certifications, the Ecolabel brand has a new look. With the 2017/1941/UE regulation, the European Commission has approved Ecolabel new logo. In the meantime through decision 2017/1941/EU, the existing criteria to “label” hard coverings with Ecolabel have been extended till June 30, 2021.  

 

 

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