From 11 July 2016 (we’re migrating the best of our blog from coolproducts.eu)
TTIP cast its dark shadow over EU energy policies this week. A leak of negotiating papers for the increasingly unpopular US-EU trade deal showed the EU offering to reverse its own climate policies, according to the Guardian. Where product policies are concerned, it threatens to swap hard-working and enforceable energy standards for weak voluntary ones considered a failure by all, including industry. That would be a profound backward step for consumers, the environment and even the EU’s reputation post-Brexit.
The leak, seen by Coolproducts, says “The Parties shall foster industry self-regulation of energy efficiency requirements for goods where such self-regulation is likely to deliver the policy objectives faster or in a less costly manner than mandatory requirements.”
We have tried voluntary agreements and they are not great. That’s the view of prominent manufacturers, not just us. The fact is they are not quicker, not cheaper, and they do a bad job delivering a level playing field and actual energy efficiency.
A recently revised voluntary agreement for home and office printers is blessed by the European Commission as an alternative to enforceable standards under the Ecodesign Directive. But it is plagued by vague and incoherent wording and originally permitted 30% non-compliance rate, ie one in three printers failing to make the grade would be just fine. Thankfully this was improved.
But enforcement remains a black area. The agreement sees an “independent” inspector run a small number of checks each year. The number of models and the thoroughness of the testing is unknown. Real government agency checks are not always solid, but we can at least expect a relatively unbiased investigation, and consequences for non-compliance. For voluntary agreements, non-compliance will either go into the permitted shortfall, may not be disclosed or punished at all, or most likely, will go undiscovered due to a lack of any real control.
Voluntary agreements will be put to the test for the first time under the EEPliant project, run by a coalition of member state authorities. The results of this taxpayer-funded project should be made public. We are already clear that voluntary agreements are little more than business as usual and a giant step back from extremely productive energy standards. These do take far too long to set. But much more constructive options are available, compared to TTIPs slash and burn approach. For a list of voluntary agreements and our opinion on long-delayed guidelines for these, read our position paper here.
If voluntary agreements become the norm, Europe would suffer from a flood of energy guzzling products, higher energy bills and climate trouble. There are impacts for the popularity of the European project too, following Brexit. As a coalition of leading green groups pointed out following Brexit, the big business lobby cheerleading deregulation and TTIP is toxic for voter approval. Think twice @JunckerEU @TimmermansEU @MarosSefcovic @MAC_europa
Our leaders would be better off focusing on areas where international agreement makes sense, moving towards mutual recognition of the tests behind energy standards; towards global market surveillance to help ensure energy savings are delivered; and towards resources conservation within product policies.