The Commission is currently drawing up action plans on sustainable consumption and production. Details of the plans remain unclear, but the food and drink industry is urging the EU executive not to propose 'misleading' labels, such as those which focus only on the CO2 'impact' of products.
In its background paper on SCP and SIP, the Commission emphasises the growing focus on natural resources and argues that "the EU can foster its contribution to tackle these issues through an ambitious industrial and sustainable consumption and production policy".
The paper goes on to outline several policy options available to the EU, including better focus and coordination of existing policy mechanisms such as the IPP and the "Eco-design for energy-using products" (EuP) Directive.
More investment in research and the creation of 'lead markets' to stimulate growth in certain sectors deemed highly sustainable are also cited in the paper. The Commission is expected to publish a communication on lead market initiatives in December 2007.
Apart from market support measures, the Commission may attempt to get tough on producers. "Product policy could be better used as a competitiveness and sustainability tool. Products entering the internal market could be subject to demanding but realistic requirements", the background paper says. "Best-performing products" should also be used as benchmarks, it adds.
In this context, new labelling schemes to either replace or improve upon existing schemes, such as the Eco-label or the Energy-star label, are seen by the Commission as a means "to shift demand towards the most sustainable products".
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, whose directorate is in charge of the SCP dossier, commented in his blog on 15 October that a new carbon label might be one option to consider. "If there is a big demand for carbon labelling then it will be one of the issues that I will be looking to follow up on", he said. But Dimas added that "there is also the question of making sure that consumers can trust that labels are telling the whole truth and are not just being used to 'greenwash' products".
Consultations for the SCP and SIP closed on 23 September, and the Commission's action plans are scheduled to appear before the end of 2007, but may be delayed until early 2008. The Commission will consider reactions to its action plan before drawing up specific legislation on SCP and SIP before the end of 2008.