Fate of EU air and waste packages uncertain

17th December 2014

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  • Pollution & Waste Management


Victoria Bland

The withdrawal of the European commission's air quality and circular economy packages has drawn a mixed reaction from business and environmental groups.

EU president Jean-Claude Juncker presented the commission's new work programme to MEPs in the European parliament yesterday. It listed 23 new proposals and 80 to be withdrawn or amended.

Draft rules to improve resource efficiency in Europe, including tighter recycling targets, which were set out the previous commission's circular economy package have been withdrawn. The new commission has promised, however, to bring forward a "more ambitious" proposal in 2015.

The national emissions ceilings directive, which would have lowered the maximum emissions limit of some pollutants in member states, will be modified as part of the legislative follow-up to the 2030 energy and climate package.

Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans told the parliament that the proposal on national emission ceilings had proved controversial and there was a gap between what MEPs and the council wanted to achieve.

"We will bring forward, in the course of the ongoing negotiations, modified proposals which we hope can help bridge this gap by better reflecting synergies with the energy and climate package and by reducing administrative burden," he said.

"And I say this with stress: we are not compromising on the goals we want to attain. We are looking critically at the methods we can use to bring parties together so that we have a conclusion that actually can be implemented soon." .

The proposals received a mixed response. Manufacturing trade body EEF was pleased that the commission intended to review the circular economy package, rather than axe it.

"There is now a compelling body of evidence to suggest that the economic value of perusing a circular economy is as strong, if not stronger, than the environmental benefits that accompany it," said Susanne Baker, senior climate and energy policy advisor at EEF.

However, waste trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) said that the uncertainty caused by bringing in new proposals "not helpful". ESA's Europe policy adviser Roy Hathaway said: "The commission's previous proposals were not perfect, but the direction of travel they set was right, and would have helped encourage private sector investment in better resource management."

Green 10, a coalition of European environmental organisations, including the European Environmental Bureau, Transport and Environment, Greenpeace, Birdlife and WWF, condemned the commission's retabling of both pieces of legislation "in the strongest possible terms".

Ariel Brunner, Birdlife Europe's head of EU policy and chair of the Green 10, said: "The commission seems to be faithfully executing the 'kill list' developed by powerful industry lobby group, BusinessEurope, and then saying it will retable the air quality and waste proposals at a later stage. For a body that prides itself on delivering 'better regulation', this is spectacularly inefficient."

"These proposals offer better health, fewer sick-days, more jobs and a better environment for Europeans, along with a boost for forward-looking industries," he said.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said: "The commission has backed down from scrapping environmental proposals entirely, but we must now prevent them from being watered down."

The European parliament will vote on the commission's 2015 work plan in January.

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