Climate action needs better products

(EurActiv, 4 Nov 2019) The EU has recently paved the way for longer-lasting products. Now we must enshrine this ambition into our future European Green Deal, write Jean-Pierre Schweitzer and Melissa Zill.

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer is a policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). Melissa Zill is programme manager at ECOS. Together, the EEB and ECOS lead the Coolproducts campaign – a coalition of NGOs working to ensure better products for consumers and the planet. The campaign brings together over 200 organisations across Europe with expertise on product policy, energy efficiency and resource conservation.

A new EU law obliging manufacturers to make home appliances easier to repair has caught global attention.

As of 2021, all TVs, fridges, washing machines, dishwashers and lighting products placed on the EU market will have to meet minimum design requirements aimed at extending their lifetime. For the first time, manufacturers will have to ensure that the products can be easily disassembled, and that spare parts and repair information are made available to professional repairers from seven to ten years.

A strong push for better products

This is an obvious step forward for one of the EU’s most successful environmental policies, known as the Ecodesign Directive. Over the past two decades, eco-design has halted the production of many energy-guzzling products, including incandescent or halogen lightbulbs. It was about time it also started pulling the plug on unrepairable products.

The requirements will further help Europe towards its climate targets. The European Commission estimates that from 2020 the existing eco-design measures and energy labels will save the EU as much as the annual primary energy consumption of Italy each year. They will also help households save more than €100 billion on their energy bills and generate more than €50 billion in extra revenue for companies.

This is the kind of story everyone likes. Environmental campaigners argued that better design is necessary to reduce the environmental impact of our products and carbon emissions. Consumer groups said it can help people save money by making products last longer, while the home appliance industry recognised that manufacturers too can benefit from more circular and responsible businesses.

Although much more work is needed, Brussels is sending a strong message against a throwaway culture.

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EurActiv, 4 Nov 2019: Climate action needs better products