Commission Promises More Ambitious Plans To Promote Circular Economy

European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured), has confirmed that waste proposals set out by former Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik will be axed, claiming that they won’t deliver the results needed in their current form. 

The official announcement comes after the European Commission today (16 December) adopted its Work Programme for 2015 – setting out the actions the Commission intends to take over the next 12 months.

Leaked documents last week revealed the Commission’s intentions to scrap the circular economy package. (See CIWM Journal Online story).

The Commission says new, more ambitious plans to promote a circular economy will be put in place by the end of 2015.

ESA – “ESA looks forward to seeing the revised Commission proposals as soon as possible and will work with all EU institutions to ensure that they are workable and would help move European resource management in the right direction”

Former Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, put together the circular economy package, which includes higher targets for recycling packaging waste and plans to increase recycling targets to 70 percent by 2030. (See CIWM Journal Online story)

In total 80 existing proposals will be withdrawn or amended for “political or technical reasons”.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “We need to clear the decks so political efforts are focussed on the real priorities: we have looked through every pending proposal currently on the table of the EU institutions and decided whether we want to maintain, amend or withdraw them.

Taken from document containing full list of scrapped proposals
CLICK TO ENLARGE: Taken from document containing full list of scrapped proposals

“We want results on the ground, so where it is clear existing proposals will not be agreed in a way that meets our objectives, we will propose alternative approaches. This way we will make sure that our Union focuses both on what truly matters and on delivering concrete results for citizens. This time things really are different.”

The Commission’s 2015 Work Programme sets out 23 new initiatives proposed by the Juncker Commission. The Work Programme presents “focused actions where the Commission will deliver in 2015.”

Industry Reaction

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) expressed regret about the uncertainty created by the European Commission’s decision to withdraw the current Circular Economy proposals and replace them with a “more ambitious” package next year.

Commission infographic
CLICK TO ENLARGE: Commission infographic

ESA’s Europe Policy Adviser Roy Hathaway said: “While it is reassuring to hear that the Commission plans to bring back the Circular Economy proposals in a broader and more ambitious form in 2015, rather than abandon them altogether, the uncertainty around what this means is not helpful. Progress towards a more circular economy in Europe is vital for jobs and growth as well as for resource efficiency and environmental protection.”

“The Commission’s previous proposals were not perfect, but the direction of travel they set was right, and would have helped encourage private sector investment in better resource management.

“ESA looks forward to seeing the revised Commission proposals as soon as possible and will work with all EU institutions to ensure that they are workable and would help move European resource management in the right direction.”

Gareth Stace, Head of Climate and Environment Policy at EEF, the Manufacturers’ Organisation, said: “The circular economy presents an opportunity for companies to enhance their resource efficiency, shield themselves from resource risks and boost their competitiveness.

Resource Association – “I do not see why the package needed to be withdrawn completely – which it has – in order to inject more ‘ambition’. Surely this could have been done within the existing timetable, and maintained momentum?”

“It is not simply something that is driven by environmental concerns, but activity that must be seen within a broader economic context.

“We urge David Cameron to tell the Commission to signal its strong support for the package.”

Chief executive of the Resource Association, Ray Georgeson, commented: “With the Commission saying they are withdrawing the package and intending to bring it back with revisions to make it ‘more ambitious’, in our view this raises more questions than it answers.

“I do not see why the package needed to be withdrawn completely – which it has – in order to inject more ‘ambition’. Surely this could have been done within the existing timetable, and maintained momentum?”

“By deprioritising the package for this year’s programme the Commission signal they they do not see the circular economy as a priority that delivers jobs and growth in line with their stated objectives for revising their work. This underplays the significance of the potential of the circular economy, however much discussion is necessary on aspects of the detailed programme, as a generator of sustainable green jobs and growth.”

“Today this sends a mixed signal to our industry about the future of the Circular Economy package and it is not a welcome move. Therefore, an early indication is needed from the Commission to signal their timetable for review and resubmission, and the areas where they think more ‘ambition’ is needed. We stand ready with colleagues in the resources industry to contribute to this discussion and we also look forward to the early view of the European Parliament and our own Government on this decision to withdraw the legislation today.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said of the news: “The European Commission’s previous package, which has just been withdrawn, represented a heightened ambition to develop a circular economy across Europe, and we don’t want to lose momentum on this important agenda. We believe the benefits of a circular economy are many – from tackling climate change to creating jobs, growth, and a more resilient economy – and we will continue to make the case for action within Scotland and beyond.

“We look forward to seeing proposals early next year from the EC which it claims will strike an even more ambitious note, while individual member states and regions like Scotland can continue to pursue their own plans.”

CIWM Says

CIWM chief executive, Steve Lee, said: “Today’s news is unwelcome. At best, it’s an unnecessary delay and at worst leaves a sword of Damocles hanging over the future of green growth and resource efficiency and our sector’s ability to deliver it.

“The Commission does not have a good track record on ‘shelved’ initiatives and Mr Timmermann’s statement is somewhat confusing. 2015 is only two weeks away and there is no reason given for shelving the package rather than working on the version that is already on the table. To suggest that this delay will result in a more ambitious package also appears to contradict previous assertions that the proposals were undeliverable.
“We urge UK government to redouble its efforts to drive circular economy thinking and, with industry input, to influence the Commission and ensure that this initiative does not disappear.”

 

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