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Speech: Remarks of First Vice-President Timmermans and Vice-President Katainen on the new approach to Ecodesign

Met dank overgenomen van F.C.G.M. (Frans) Timmermans, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 8 november 2016.

Opening Remarks of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans

I want to stress one thing from the political angle. What we decided, what the Commission President decided, was that given past experience with ecodesign, we should create more political ownership of the whole process, because sometimes at the level of Commissioners in the College in the past there was surprise at what had been decided at the level of the services and then presented to the outside world, and we want to avoid that. We want to make sure that when we come up with our plans the political ownership is in the hands of every single member of the college. So that we will not have a discussion afterwards of what we have proposed.

Secondly, what we did is we analysed very carefully which products would yield the biggest results in terms of energy saving. That was very important. As you know those products who had the biggest yield in energy savings were already on the list and are already subject to ecodesign but now we need to go into the next phase and select further products that would have a good impact in terms of energy saving.

With past regulations we have had for instance LEDs which use five times less electricity than the old inefficient ones and they last 15 years, which is an incredible achievement.

If you look at what we've done so far, the energy saved is the annual energy consumption of Italy, which is huge, thanks to ecodesign. You also see that it accounts for half of the contribution we need to meet our energy efficiency targets for 2020 and a quarter of our CO2 reductions target for 2020.

If we want to make sure we do what we need to do after the Paris agreements, we absolutely need to do ecodesign to provide for those results.

In our working plan we will focus on products with the most savings potential. We recommend six new products to be included for possible ecodesign measures, like hand dryers, lifts, electric kettle and solar panels, where evidence shows that you can get the highest yield;

And as BEUC said it's also part of our circular economy action plan, so we enlarge the scope and give more attention than in the past to wider resource efficiency aspects, not just energy and water use; We want to explore how to improve recyclability, durability, reparability of products, and there are some very exciting new initiatives I see in industry and the NGO community there.

We also took a fresh look at previous work plans and confirmed the importance of the reviews of existing ecodesign standards so that we keep up with technological progress.

This is a package and its cumulative effects will clearly be shown. We've struck a balance and now we will dedicate ourselves to explaining the big picture and the benefits of it.

Let me close with a short anecdote from one of my colleagues to illustrate how the average citizen has come to see our energy saving products. A colleague of mine just moved apartment and a few days after getting the keys he had a knock on the door from a former tenant. She wanted to collect the energy efficient and money saving lightbulbs she had bought and installed and take them with her to her new home. Now of course she didn't thank the EU for that, but what she did do implicitly is endorse the consumer benefits of our policies and the sustainability of innovative products.

This is the way forward. I have focused especially on the environmental side of things, but there is so much more to be said about this, especially the economic side of things, and I'm sure Jyrki will want to say a lot more about that.

Opening Remarks of Vice-President Jyrki Katainen

Ecodesign is part of the circular economy. Our Commission's aim is to support the circular economy rather than only focusing on the traditional linear economy. A circular economy is much more productive in creating added value which is important both for financing the welfare society and strengthening the social model within the European market economy.

So ecodesign will also help to modernise the European economy, to be more sustainable, in terms of economic gains but also in terms of environmental gains.

There are several issues to be addressed or to take into account if we want to be successful with ecodesign.

The first one of course is consumers. We need to empower consumers and that means that we have to make it possible for consumers to make conscious choices. If they want to save money, energy and nature it should be possible, and ecodesign and energy labelling are the tools for improving awareness.

Without empowered consumers we cannot achieve our energy saving targets. So energy and climate policy is not only in the hands of the Governments, it is in the hands of individuals who are every day making consuming decisions.

BEUC's study shows that savings for consumers could reach €450 per year. Our assessment is a little more positive - it could go up to nearly €500 per year per household, but we are in the same area anyway; two independent analyses have made similar conclusions.

The second issue to be taken into account is the business opportunities. The ecodesign directive helps businesses to get better returns because it is good for growing the economy in a sustainable manner. Ecodesign and energy labelling also means creating a single market in Europe by creating common standards. And the best thing here is that the same rules are applied to imported products too. So the European companies can get technological advantage if our regulation is set right. This also stabilises and clarifies the regulatory environment and improves regulatory predictability and certainty for investment. It also drives investment in new technologies promoting European solutions.

According to our studies, this ecodesign framework could add an extra €55 billion in yearly revenues for European businesses. So it's not only that companies are producing more efficient consumer products, but also other industries are using more efficient products in their processes.

So basically the ecodesign directive is about promoting the circular economy, about creating a better single market and it's about creating a market which is more durable, more profitable and more sustainable.

Sometimes the ecodesign directive has been criticised by people concentrating on small appliances like hairdryers. And we have said that we should be big on big things and small on small things. But everybody here understands that it's not about individual products. One individual dishwasher or TV set does not make a difference, but counted together billions of products in hundreds of millions of households creates a huge impact. The energy savings by 2020, thanks to ecodesign, will be equivalent to Italy's annual primary energy consumption.

Further work according to the preliminary work plan agreed by the College would bring energy consumption savings by 2030 equal to one year's primary energy consumption of Sweden. So you can add Sweden to Italy.

So if you still think ecodesign is a small thing I don't think you have understood the whole picture. This is exactly what the EU should do - create a regulatory environment which can help make a change and empower consumers.



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