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Commission launches Green Consumption Pledge, first companies commit to concrete actions towards greater sustainability

EU Reporter Correspondent

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On 25 January, the European Commission launched its new Green Consumption Pledge, the first initiative delivered under the New Consumer Agenda. The Green Consumption Pledge is part of the European Climate Pact which is an EU-wide initiative inviting people, communities and organisations to participate in climate action and build a greener Europe.  With their signatures, companies promise to accelerate their contribution to a green transition. The pledges have been developed in a joint effort between the Commission and companies. Their aim is to accelerate the contribution of businesses to a sustainable economic recovery and to build consumer trust in the environmental performance of companies and products. Colruyt Group, Decathlon, LEGO Group, L'Oréal and Renewd are the first pioneering enterprises that are participating in this pilot project. The functioning of the Green Consumption Pledges will be assessed in a year from now, before next steps are taken.

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said: “Empowering consumers to make green choices – that is what we set out to do last autumn, when we published the New Consumer Agenda. For informed choices, consumers need more transparency on the carbon footprint and sustainability of products. This is what today's initiative is about. I therefore warmly welcome the five companies to the Green Pledge and I applaud them on their commitment to go beyond what is required by law. I look forward to working with many more companies, so we can boost further sustainable consumption in the EU.”

The Green Consumption Pledge is based on a set of five core pledges. To join it, companies commit to ambitious actions to improve their environmental impact and to help consumers make more sustainable purchases. They have to take concrete measures in at least three of the five pledge areas and they need to prove their progress with data that they then make public. Each pledging company will work with the Commission in complete transparency to ensure that the progress is reliable and verifiable. The five core pledge areas are the following:

  1. Calculate the carbon footprint of the company, including its supply chain, using the calculation methodology or environmental management scheme developed by the Commission, and establish proper due diligence processes towards achieving footprint reductions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  2. Calculate the carbon footprint of selected flagship products of the company, using the methodology developed by the Commission, and to achieve certain footprint reductions for the selected products and disclose the progress to the general public.
  3. Increase the sale of sustainable products or services within the total sales of the company or its selected business part.
  4. Commit part of the corporate public relations expenditure to the promotion of sustainable practices in line the Commission's implementation of the European Green Deal policies and actions.
  5. Ensure information provided to consumers in relation to the company and product carbon footprints is easy to access, accurate and clear, and maintain this information up-to-date following any reductions or increases of the footprints.

The Green Consumption Pledge initiative focuses on non-food products and it is complementary to the Code of Conduct that is launched tomorrow, 26 January, as part of the Farm to Fork strategy. The Code of Conduct will bring together stakeholders from the food system to make commitments for responsible business and marketing practices.

Next steps

Any company from the non-food sectors as well as companies in the retail sector selling both food and non-food products interested in joining the Green Pledge can contact the European Commission before the end of March 2021.

This initial pilot phase of the Green Consumption Pledge will be completed by January 2022. Before next steps will be taken, an evaluation of the functioning of the Pledge will be conducted in consultation with the participating companies, relevant consumer organisations and other stakeholders.

Background

The green transition is one of the key priorities of the New Consumer Agenda, aiming to ensure that sustainable products are available to consumers on the EU market and that consumers have better information to be able to make informed choices. Taking into account the key role that industry and trade operators play upstream, it is essential to complement legislative proposals with voluntary, non-regulatory initiatives addressed to pioneers in the industry that are keen to support the green transition. The Green Pledge is one of the non-regulatory initiatives of the New Consumer Agenda.

The Green Consumption Pledge is one of several initiatives the Commission undertakes in order to empower consumers to make more sustainable choices. Another initiative is the legislative proposal on substantiating green claims which the Commission will adopt later in 2021. This initiative will require companies to substantiate claims they make about the environmental footprint of their products and services by using standard methods for quantifying them. The aim is to make the claims reliable, comparable and verifiable across the EU – avoiding ‘greenwashing' (companies giving a false impression of their environmental impact). This should help commercial buyers and investors make more sustainable decisions and increase consumer confidence in green labels and information.

The European Climate Pact, adopted on 9 December 2020, aims to help spread scientifically sound information about climate action and provide practical advice for everyday life choices. It will support local initiatives and encourage climate action pledges by individuals or collectives, helping to mobilize support and participation.

More information

Green Consumption Pledge

Green consumption pledge by Colruyt Group

Green consumption pledge by Decathlon

Green consumption pledge by LEGO Group

Green consumption pledge by L'Oréal

Green consumption pledge by Renewd

Event: Launch of pilot phase of the green pledge initiative

New Consumer Agenda: strengthening consumer resilience for sustainable recovery

Consumer strategy

Farm to Fork strategy

Contact DG Justice and Consumers

EU

Joining forces to protect biodiversity worldwide: Commission acts to engage more supporters

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On the occasion of the World Wildlife Day (3 March), the Commission reiterates its invitation to all world institutions to raise their voices to build the momentum for nature and help convince more governments to be ambitious at the crucial Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CoP 15) later this year. Exactly a year since the Commission launched its Global Coalition ‘United for Biodiversity', more than 200 institutions worldwide - national parks, research centres and universities, science and natural history museums, aquariums, botanic gardens and zoos - have already joined forces to tackle the biodiversity crisis. The Commission has also joined the intergovernmental High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, launched at the One Planet Summit in January this year, actively supporting the goal to conserve at least 30% of land and sea by 2030.

European Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “Humanity is destroying nature at an unprecedented rate, and we risk losing nearly 1 million species. This is a direct threat to our own health and wellbeing, as we are fully dependent on the planet's rich web of life. We must urgently restore balance in our relationship with nature and reverse biodiversity loss. Action starts with awareness and the work done via coalitions like ‘United for Biodiversity' is crucial to help put our natural environment on the path to recovery.”

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “On this year's World Wildlife Day and as we celebrate the first anniversary of the launch of the Global Coalition ‘United for Biodiversity', we are also highlighting just how much we stand to lose in a world without nature. This is why we are acting with all means to bring aboard more partners worldwide and call upon nations to join the High Ambition Coalition as we come closer to the decisive CoP 15.”

With their collections, education and conservation programmes, the institutions forming part of the global coalition are important ambassadors to raise public awareness about the dramatic effects of the current biodiversity crisis. More information is in the press release and the full list of organizations of the Global Coalition is here.

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Denmark

Commission approves Danish support for Thor offshore wind farm project

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, Danish support for the Thor offshore wind farm project, which will be located in the Danish part of the North Sea. The measure will help Denmark increase its share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources and reduce CO₂ emissions, in line with the European Green Deal, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

Executive Vice President, Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said:  “This Danish measure is a very good example of how member states can provide incentives to companies to take part and invest in green energy projects, in line with EU state aid rules. The Thor offshore wind farm project will contribute to achieving the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets set out in the Green Deal, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.”

Denmark notified to the Commission an aid measure, with a total maximum budget of DKK 6.5 billion (approximately €870 million), to support the design, construction and operation of the new Thor offshore wind farm project. The project, which will have offshore wind capacity of minimum 800 Megawatt (MW) to maximum 1000 MW, will include the wind farm itself, the offshore substation and the grid connection from the offshore substation to the point of connection in the first onshore substation.

The aid will be awarded through a competitive tender and will take the form of a two-way contract-for-difference premium of the duration of 20 years. The premium will be paid on top of the market price for the electricity produced.

The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

The Commission found that the aid is necessary and has an incentive effect, as the Thor offshore wind project would not take place in the absence of the public support. Furthermore, the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary, as the level of aid will be set through a competitive auction. Finally, the Commission found that the positive effects of the measure, in particular the positive environmental effects, outweigh any possible negative effects in terms of distortions to competition, in particular, since the selection of the beneficiary and the award of the aid will be carried out through a competitive bidding process.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules, as it will foster the development of renewable energy production from offshore wind technologies in Denmark and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal, and without unduly distorting competition.

Background

The Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy allow member states to support projects like the Thor Offshore Wind Farm. These rules aim at helping member states meet the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market.

The Renewable Energy Directive established an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030. The project contributes to reaching this target.

The recent EU Offshore Strategy identifies the importance of offshore wind as part of the Green Deal.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case numbers SA.57858 in the state aid register on the Commission's Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

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EU

Commission and UN Environment Programme agree to reinforce co-operation in tackling the crises in climate, biodiversity and pollution

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The European Commission represented by Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) represented by its Executive Director Inger Andersen, agreed to enhanced co-operation between the two institutions for the period 2021-2025. A stronger focus on the promotion of circular economy, the protection of biodiversity and the fight against pollution lie at the heart of the new agreement for greater cooperation. Commissioner Sinkevičius said: “I welcome this new phase of co-operation with the UN Environment Programme that will help us to implement the European Green Deal and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, but also to form a strong alliance ahead of crucial summits, which are to take place later in the year.”

In a virtual session, Commissioner Sinkevičius and Executive Director Andersen signed a new Annex to an existing already since 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The signing of this document is very timely. It takes place following the fifth UN Environment Assembly meeting last week and the launch of the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resources Efficiency (GACERE), while the global community seeks to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressing climate, resource and biodiversity emergencies. The partners underscored the need to mobilise all areas of society to achieve a green-digital transition towards a sustainable future. More information is in the news release.

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