Top 7 Environmental Policy Developments to watch from 2020

The focus on environmental policies and the progress of legislation in this field has become more central than ever for businesses. We have created an overview with seven critical areas of the EU environmental policy developments to follow.

The focus on environmental policies and the progress of legislation in this field has become more central than ever for businesses. At amfori, we monitor all developments in sustainability legislation for our members. This is of particular pertinence at a European level where a great deal of our members will be affected by any new legislation that comes into force. 

In this context, we have created an overview with seven critical areas of the EU environmental policy developments from the last number of months.

With the European Green Deal established as the roadmap to economic growth in the EU, environmental policies are evolving at a very fast pace to facilitate recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Climate and biodiversity emergencies, overconsumption of resources and environmental pollution are taking priority in decision making, creating momentum for ambitious environmentally-friendly policies.  Below you will find the top 7 trends to watch out for: 

1. Climate goals are being negotiated by the European member states

The Council, gathering the heads of all EU member states, has agreed on the objective to become climate neutral by 2050 as part of the discussions on the European Climate Law. Discussions will continue in December to decide on the 2030 target of reducing GHG emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels. The discussions will take place just before each country has to renew their commitment to the Paris Agreement (before the end of the year).

2. Environmental ministers are endorsing biodiversity objectives

Environment and climate ministers have endorsed the objectives of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, which aims at setting biodiversity on the path to recovery. They have called on the integration of these objectives in sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry for a coherent implementation. Ministers also reaffirmed the EU’s determination to lead by example in the global biodiversity crisis and to develop an ambitious new UN global biodiversity framework at the UN Biodiversity Conference in 2021.

3. Sustainability of products is being assessed from all angles through the Circular Economy

The European Commission has started its work on the Sustainable Product initiative, which is the main measure of the Circular Economy Action Plan. The roadmap of the initiative, which is currently open for feedback, indicates that the focus will be put on a few sectors (electronics, textiles, furniture, steel, cement and chemicals) and the products of these sectors will need to be more durable, repairable, reusable, recyclable and energy-efficient, and they will need to minimise the use of harmful chemicals. Eco-design will be extended to other sectors and information on the sustainability of products will be required and disclosed (with product passports and tagging, for example). The initiative will also tackle green claims (you can provide your feedback to the consultation of the regulation here) The finalised initiative will be published at the end of 2021.

4. The most ambitious chemical strategy of the last 20 years was published

The European Commission has published its Chemical Strategy for Sustainability which outlines over 50 actions planned by 2024 for a non-toxic environment. Amongst those measures, REACH Regulation will be reviewed to extend its scope to a larger pool of chemicals, efforts will be made to ensure the products are designed to be safe and sustainable, and the EU will have a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliance with chemical policies.

For more information

A few days after the announcement of the strategy, the official SCIP database has been put online. If you use Substances of Very High Concern in your products, you are required to input information in the database before 5 January 2021 or your products risk being refused entry to the EU market.

5. The EU is rolling up its sleeves to address deforestation

The European Parliament has adopted a report asking for due diligence requirements as well as reporting, disclosure and third-party involvement for all companies placing products on the EU market containing deforestation-risk commodities. Although this report is not legally binding, it will serve as inspiration for the Regulation that the European Commission will propose early next year. A public consultation is currently open to express your views on the topic.

For more information, see Help Shape Future Anti-Deforestation Legislation.

The European Commission is also reviewing the FLEGT EU Timber Regulations and is inviting everyone to respond to the public consultation on these two regulations.

6. The 8th Environment Action Programme paves the way towards SDGs

“Live well, within the planetary boundaries,” is the moto of the 8th Environment Action Programme presented by the European Commission in mid-October as they planned environmental and climate policy up to 2030. This is the legally binding instrument that supports the implementation of the European Green Deal with six priorities:

  • Achieving the 2030 GHG reduction target and climate neutrality by 2050
  • Enhancing adaptation and resilience to climate change
  • Accelerating the transition to a circular economy
  • Pursuing a zero-pollution ambition, including for air, water and soil and protecting the health and well-being of Europeans
  • Protecting, preserving and restoring biodiversity
  • Reducing environmental and climate pressures related to production and consumption 

7. A due diligence legislation is in preparation

If you have followed the discussions around Human Rights Due Diligence, you might already know that the European Commission is preparing a legislation requiring social and environmental due diligence from companies. This Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative is now open for public consultation.

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