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European Union Curbs Eco-Impact of Consumerism

July 14, 2008

Several proposals to curb the environmental impact of consumerism in the 27-nation EU were launched on Wednesday by the European Commission.  The plans will support eco-friendly products and technology.

The European Union hopes to cut energy consumption amid soaring fuel and power prices.

Part of the plan consists of an ambitious mid-term goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by one fifth by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

“This will mainly be targeted at products that use a lot of energy, such as computers, televisions, water heaters and industrial fans,” said a source at the Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.

The European Union’s main near-term response is to cut energy consumption despite being faced with oil at record highs, and with years of investment needed to reach renewable energy goals.

“The bloc has reached a turning point with energy efficiency becoming the keystone in EU energy strategy,” said French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, whose country is EU president.

The Commission’s “action plan on sustainable industrial policy and on sustainable consumption and production” is part of that push.

The Commission source said, “There will be proposals on green public procurement, as well as widening the scope of the existing directive on eco-design to help improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and the scope of rules on eco-labeling will be widened.”

Various policies in Europe already promote eco-friendly design, but these are limited to devices that use energy such as dishwashers and air-conditioning units, and do not yet fully cover such things as windows and home insulation.

New common standards are seen as vital to cutting the bloc’s energy consumption even though many EU local authorities already take account of energy consumption when placing bulk orders for products such as vehicles and office computers.

Warnings that help consumers choose the most efficient products, known as Eco-labeling schemes, will be extended to cover goods beyond the existing narrow range, which is mainly focused on electrical appliances.

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