The European Commission has recently published (on 17 March 2021) a consultation on its sustainable products initiative ("SPI"). The SPI is one of a number of initiatives designed to help the EU reach the Green Deal objectives (find further information on the Green Deal in our earlier TS Briefing Note) of lower resource consumption and reduced environmental impact, and responds directly to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. Feedback on the SPI closes on 9 June 2021.
The SPI proposes to revise the Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products Directive 2009 ("Ecodesign Directive"), adding legislative measures to increase the sustainability of products placed on the EU market. By expanding the scope of the Ecodesign Directive beyond energy-related products (and also including services where appropriate) the SPI is designed encourage production of products that are more durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and energy efficient - to the benefit of consumers, the environment and the climate. This initiative comprises just one part of a larger legislative puzzle being pieced together by the EU in a push towards its carbon and emissions targets.
A number of additional measures are also proposed under the SPI including (among others) the establishment of :
- overarching product sustainability principles;
- EU rules to require provision of repair and spare parts;
- Setting mandatory sustainability labelling and/ or introduction of digital product passports; and
- Setting mandatory minimum sustainability requirements on public procurement of products.
The Ecodesign Directive was implemented by the UK in 2010 via the Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products Regulations 2010/2617 ("UK Ecodesign Regulation"). In Winter 2018/19, the UK Government voted in favour of new requirements for certain energy-related products. Some of these requirements took effect before the end of the Transition Period and were enshrined in UK law from 1 January 2021, with those due to come into force in 2021 requiring the introduction of specific legislation to ensure that Great Britain (rather than Northern Ireland for whom the EU ecodesign and energy labelling regulations will continue to apply under the Northern Ireland Protocol) realises the associated benefits.
The UK Government published its own consultation in September 2020 proposing draft Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations 2021 to explore the possibility of raising ecodesign requirements and considering new product categories. At this stage the UK government is therefore not proposing to go beyond the requirements that the UK agreed at EU level. The response to the consultation showed strong support for the proposals and the government has since committed to implementing regulations in the summer of 2021 to:
- Update ecodesign requirements for electric motors, household washing machines/ washer-dryers, dishwashers, refrigeration units and electronic displays;
- Introduce ecodesign requirements for welding equipment and commercial refrigeration;
- Introduce new energy labelling requirements for commercial refrigeration; and
- Introduce "right to repair" requirements in respect of availability of and access to spare parts as well as maintenance and repair information.
Like the EU, these developments are part of the UK's "Ten Point Environmental Plan: A Green Industrial Revolution", constituting the UK's efforts to meet its own net-zero goals. (See our Briefing Note on the Ten Point Plan for further details.) With more and more consumers actively seeking environmentally friendly choices when selecting goods or services (see our related Briefing Note) eco-labelling and "greenwashing" concerns are likely to continue to drive legislative developments in both UK and EU markets.
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