EU executive to tackle eco impact of consumerism

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will launch a raft of proposals on Wednesday to curb the environmental impact of consumerism in the 27-nation EU by supporting eco-friendly products and technology.

Flags are reflected in a window at the European Council building, a day before European Union heads of state summit, in Brussels, June 18, 2008. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The plan comes as the European Union moves to cut energy consumption amid soaring fuel and power prices and as part of its ambitious mid-term goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by one fifth by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

“This will mainly be targeted at products that use a lot of energy, such as computers, televisions, water heaters and industrial fans,” a source at the Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said on Monday.

Faced with oil at record highs, and with years of investment needed to reach renewable energy goals, the European Union’s main near-term response is to cut energy consumption.

French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, whose country is EU president, said last week at a meeting of energy ministers in Paris that the bloc had reached a turning point with energy efficiency becoming the “keystone” in EU energy strategy.

The Commission’s “action plan on sustainable industrial policy and on sustainable consumption and production” is part of that push.

“There will be proposals on green public procurement, as well as widening the scope of the existing directive on eco-design to help improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and the scope of rules on eco-labeling will be widened,” the Commission source said.

Various policies in Europe already promote eco-friendly design, but these are limited to devices that use energy such as dishwashers and air-conditioning units, and do not yet fully cover such things as windows and home insulation.

Many EU local authorities already take account of energy consumption when placing bulk orders for products such as vehicles and office computers, but new common standards are seen as vital to cutting the bloc’s energy consumption.

Eco-labeling schemes, which help consumers choose the most efficient products, will be extended to cover goods beyond the existing narrow range, which is mainly focused on electrical appliances.