News from GBC Europe Regional Network

This is a summary of EU Policy Updates from the past six months, compiled by the Green Building Council Regional Network. For the full report, please visit www.worldgbc.org

Latest draft Ecodesign requirements published

The Ecodesign Directive is an umbrella directive, which provides consistent EU-wide rules for establishing environmental performance criteria for energy related products. A number of draft Ecodesign regulations have been published for new product groups under the Directive in recent months, including requirements for air-conditioning and ventilation systems, and local space heaters.

Environmental Impact Assessment Directive negotiations to begin

The Lithuanian EU Presidency has been given the mandate to enter negotiations with the European Parliament on the Commission’s proposal for a revised Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. The Commission has proposed the streamlining and strengthening of processes under the current Directive, which dictates when and how EIAs must be carried out on major projects.

Commission work programme for 2014

The European Commission published its work programme for the year ahead in late October, which places promoting growth and jobs at the centre of the agenda. Structural challenges and opportunities such as the fight against climate change, adapting to an ageing population and building a more resource efficient economy will be important themes. Key initiatives that will impact the green building sphere include the EU’s 2030 framework for climate and energy policies, a Communication on job creation in the green economy, and resource efficiency and waste legislation initiatives.

Non-EU ETS emissions limits lowered

The ‘Effort Sharing Decision’ sits alongside the EU ETS as one of the EU’s key climate policies, and regulates emissions from sectors such as the building sector that are not included under the EU ETS. On 1 November 2013, a Commission Decision lowering emissions limits under the Effort Sharing Decision for the period 2013-2020 was published in the Official Journal. This contains the new emissions limits for each country.

REACH and CLP news

The European Chemicals Agency has published a draft update of the ‘Community rolling action plan’ for 2014-2016, which contains substances for which there are grounds for belief that their use could pose risks to human health or the environment. The draft update contains 125 substances that are proposed for review by 22 member states under the substance evaluation process of REACH. It contains 56 newly selected substances and 69 substances that come from the update published on 20 March 2013. ECHA has also recently updated its guidance on the application of the Classification, Labelling and Packaging criteria on its website.

2030 climate and energy targets debate continues

In late October a group of thirteen EU environment ministers called for the EU to adopt an ambitious package of climate and energy targets for 2030, to replace the ’20-20-20’ targets currently in place for 2020. The calls were outlined in a document circulated at a Brussels conference entitled ‘Going Green for Growth: The case for ambitious and immediate EU low carbon action’, which notes that the EU should be in a position to attend a climate summit in autumn 2014 accompanied by an ambitious EU emissions reduction target.

A recent leaked report outlines a number of potential target packages being considered for 2030, which propose a range of 35-45% greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets against 1990 levels, with the 50% reduction some have called for being ruled out. Targets for the share of EU energy to come from renewable are placed on a scale of 25-35% by 2030, though at this stage none of the scenarios envisage a binding energy efficiency target. The Europe Regional Network’s response to the EU’s consultation on a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies called for three legally binding targets, on greenhouse gas emissions, renewables and energy efficiency.

Report on Paints Directive implementation published

The Paints Directive aims to prevent or reduce air pollution resulting from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to the use of organic solvents in paint products, and on 16 October 2013 the Commission adopted its second report on implementation of the Directive. The report found that most governments are monitoring compliance with VOC content limits and labelling requirements, though a few have insufficient monitoring in place.

In general, the compliance rate with the Directive’s requirements was found to be relative high. Most non-compliance with both the VOC content limits and, at the same time the Directive’s labelling requirements, related to category 1.1d products ('Interior/exterior trim and cladding paints for wood, metal or plastic'). Three more categories of products were reported as non-compliant with both the requirements of VOC content limits and labelling namely categories 1.1a 'matt coatings for interior walls and ceilings', 1.1e 'interior/exterior trim varnishes and woodstains' and 1.1i. 'one-pack performance coatings'.