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Empowering Consumers for a Sustainable Transition: Sustainability Changes in Europe

On Tuesday, September 19th 2023, the EU Council and Parliament have made significant strides towards a greener future with the provisional agreement on the Empowering Consumers for a Green Transition Directive.

The directive aims to tackle unfair commercial practices that make it difficult for consumers to make informed choices when they try to buy more circular products and services. The unfair practices referred to are greenwashing tactics or incidents of companies making false claims about products. While this is undoubtedly a positive step forward, it is essential to examine other recent developments that have raised concerns about the commitment to sustainability in Europe.

The proposed directive introduces crucial amendments to existing regulations, including the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) and the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) and is complementary to the proposed Green Claims Directive and Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). Some of the key elements include:

Key elements of the proposal:

  1. Enhanced consumer Information: Consumers will have access to information about the durability and repairability of products, ensuring they can make sustainable choices. Misleading consumers about environmental and social impact, durability, and repairability will be prohibited.

  2. Banning unfair commercial practices: Several commercial practices, such as using deceptive sustainability labels, making false claims about product durability or repairability, and persuading premature replacements, will be banned.

  3. Transparency in Sustainability Comparisons: Services that compare the sustainability levels of different products will be required to disclose the method of comparison, the products being compared, and the suppliers involved.

  4. Improving Sustainability Labels: The credibility of sustainability labels will be enhanced by establishing clear criteria for their development.

The Empowering Consumers for a Green Transition Directive will now go to the final negotiations and writing of the text. This will be followed by a 24-month period during which member states will transpose the directive into their national laws.

Impact and Criticism in the UK

On the day following, Wednesday, September 20th, the UK Prime Minister announced plans to repress the country’s ambition on climate change. Is this good news as well? The PM seemed to think so, but the national and international outcry that his decision has provoked says the opposite.

The UK ban on new cars with combustion engines has been moved from 2030 to 2035. Similarly, the plan to phase out gas boilers by stopping all new installations by 2035 has been reined in. The target is now to reduce installations by 80%. Homeowners and landlords will also no longer be required to meet new energy efficiency targets. Furthermore, behavioral change will no longer be promoted by new policies, such as higher taxes on flights or meat. And finally, recycling reforms have also been canceled.

The Prime Minister says he is taking these measures to save UK families money while keeping the country committed to the legally binding 2050 target.

However, experts and industry alike have expressed concerns over these decisions, arguing that they may not lead to cost savings for UK citizens. Instead, they fear that these changes will lead to increased vulnerability to price hikes and prolonged reliance on imported gas. The lack of commitment and consistency from their government has also drawn criticism from industry voices, potentially hindering job creation and jeopardizing the country's ability to meet its 2050 sustainability target.

While challenges persist, Europe remains committed to sustainability. And to end on a good note, the steps that have been taken with the EU Empowering Consumers Directive are great to see. Several other pieces of EU legislative change are also expected in the not-too-distant future, such as with the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, the Green Claims Directive, the Ecodesign Regulation and under the EU Green Deal.

As Europe continues to empower consumers and promote sustainability, it is crucial to address remaining challenges and ensure consistency in environmental commitments. At QIMA, we are committed to supporting sustainability efforts and providing solutions that align with the evolving landscape. Contact us to learn more.

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