European Parliament Backs Tough Environmental Laws

STRASBOURG, France, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - Members of the European Parliament have set out a strong manifesto for the European Union's drive to develop cleaner goods and services under an integrated product policy (IPP).


European Parliament (Photo courtesy European Parliament)
Voting on a non-legislative report intended as a reply to the European Commission's IPP policy paper of a year ago, the parliament's plenary assembly Thursday toughened up a draft text forwarded from its environment committee.

The parliament backed several committee ideas, such as making the key aim of integrated product policy to "significantly reduce the total environmental burden generated by the quantity and hazard of products in circulation."

But in a reversal of its usual role in tempering the environment committee's enthusiasm, the plenary assembly went further by adopting several stronger amendments suggested by the Green/EFA political grouping.


Producers will have to take responsibility for products like this chainsaw at the end of their usefulness. (Photo courtesy
Among these were calls for individual rather than shared producer responsibility for end-of-life products, for more producer responsibility legislation to be proposed, for more public involvement in setting industry voluntary agreement targets, and for the European Commission to propose a revision of World Trade Organization rules if this is deemed necessary to pursue IPP targets.

In other green items on the parliamentary agenda, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) formally approved the text of a new law on combating ozone pollution already hammered out in conciliation talks with the 15 European Union governments.

The parliament backed an environment council decision to grant a total of €32 million over five years to support the creation of networks of non-governmental environmental organizations.

A major inter-institutional row over the EU's Sixth Environmental Action Programme (6EAP) was averted after the MEPs voted against demanding a long list of precise environmental targets and timetables to be set down from the outset.

Differences remain between the parliament and council of environment ministers, however, and conciliation negotiations are still likely to be necessary.


Member of the European Parliament from Finland Riita Myller. (Photo courtesy European Parliament)
The European parliament's plenary session was considering a second reading report from its environment committee, originally drafted by rapporteur Riita Myller. The committee had restated earlier calls for a much more prescriptive 6EAP than is wanted by the European Commission or ministers.

But opposition from the center-right EPP grouping, parliament's largest, meant several of the committee's key demands fell at the plenary session.

Calls to "eliminate" exposure to hazardous chemicals by 2020 were rejected, as were proposals to reduce waste volumes by 20 percent by 2010 and cut 20 percent of noise pollution by 2020.

"We lost clear timetables and targets," Myller told reporters. As a result there had only been a "slight improvement" to the text adopted by ministers last summer, she said.


Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström of Sweden (Photo courtesy ENB)
The vote gives the last laugh to Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström, who argued that the program should set general aspirations to be quantified in follow-up "thematic strategies" setting targets and timetables. Environment ministers and MEPs originally ripped this idea to shreds but both groups have now largely accepted it.

Despite backing away from most of the committee's ambitious plans, the parliament did request some quantitative targets. It said the EU should commit to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by one percent annually to 2020, and stabilize transport carbon dioxide emissions by 2012.

Myller said the most contentious subject will now be the parliament's call for environmental taxes to be "promoted and encouraged...preferably at [EU] level." At least two or three member states have consistently refused to contemplate harmonized taxes and would be sure to oppose the clause, she said.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}