Report: An EU regulatory framework for a low carbon material economy

Eunomia’s latest report recommends the replacement of the Waste Framework Directive with a Materials Framework Directive, and the establishment of EU-level powers on environmental taxation.
BIld: Free-Photos_pixabay

Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd. has published a report ‘Managing Materials for 1.5oC: An EU Regulatory Framework for a Low Carbon Material Economy’. It presents a series of recommendations designed to enable Europe to prosper whilst reducing the pressure we place on the planet from our consumption of materials.

The report was funded by a consortium comprised of Handelens Miljøfond, Minderoo Foundation, Tomra and Zero Waste Europe, all of whom have an active interest in questions relating to the way we can better manage materials to tackle environmental challenges.

While decarbonisation of energy supply is crucial in tackling the climate crisis, the public and political discourse has to date largely ignored our consumption of materials. This must change. Extraction and processing of material resources account for over 55% of greenhouse gas emissions – more than 60 per cent if land use impacts are considered.

More broadly, the extraction, manufacture, transport, use, and disposal of materials is responsible for 90% of land-based biodiversity loss and water stress. The extent and nature of our consumption of materials is at the heart of the triple planetary crisis – the crisis of climate change, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, and the crisis of pollution and waste.

The proposed regulatory framework is based on several underpinning principles, full details are contained within the report:

  1. Leveraging the power of the Single Market.
  2. Minimising administrative burden for business through harmonisation.
  3. Engaging the digital transition.
  4. Levelling the playing field.
  5. Maximising use of economic instruments.
  6. Securing popular support for the broad framework of measures.
  7. Expanding the EU’s influence on global policy for managing materials and reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The proposed regulatory framework builds on what is already in place or underway, makes connections between policy mechanisms where relevant, and presents a number of more innovative, novel approaches in various areas. A key theme is providing greater clarity and simplification for business through harmonisation across the EU, accompanied by a transfer of decision-making competences in certain areas away from individual Member States to the EU-level.

The proposed regulatory framework encompasses:

  • Decarbonising materials production
  • Product policy for a low carbon economy
  • Maintaining material value at end of life
  • Reducing overall material consumption

The most politically challenging — but arguably also the most important – of the proposed measures is the greater application of environmental taxation at the EU-level. To overcome these challenges, this significant shift will have to be undertaken creatively in ways that will need to directly benefit – and be seen to benefit – the majority of citizens. That is to say that the shift overall must have broad popular appeal.

Read the report


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