10 September 1998 12:18 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--Environmental groups in the European Union (EU) are opposing moves by the European Commission to water down key policies affecting environmental management procedures and practices in industry, CNI learned Thursday.
The European Environment Bureau (EEB) - a coalition of 129 groups in 26 countries - says the Commission's plans to revise the EU's voluntary eco-management and audit scheme (Emas) "might create opportunities to undermine the effectiveness of environmental legislation".
European industry has been pressing the Commission to make Emas - which risks being marginalised by the global environmental management standard ISO 14001 - more attractive by "rewarding" participating companies with less regulatory control. The Commission has accepted this in principle.
Christian Hey, the EEB’s policy director, writing in the Bureau’s current newsletter, also accepts there should be a "regulatory dividend" - less inspections for example - for companies taking part in Emas. However, he adds: "This is only acceptable after a case by case examination of the equivalence of their voluntary activities with legal requirements. It would be better to link EMAS to environmental liability and green public procurement policies".
Hey says that while Emas should remain a voluntary instrument, the EEB supports "a demanding system focusing on ‘ecological star performance’. Minimum thresholds, like ensuring for legal compliance and applying best available technologies are necessary. Furthermore, improvement of environmental performance should be related to the quantified targets of national and European environmental policy plans. Environmental statements should evolve towards a voluntary pollution emissions register."
The EEB, says Hey, wants Emas extended to products - specifically to environmental product development management, for example, the integration of environmental considerations into product design. "The revision of Emas should not become a tool for the dilution of environmental policy. It should be an opportunity for greening the private sector."
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