A resilient future requires a responsible industry and sustainable supply chain. In this article, we reject business groups’ calls to halt environmental rules for electronics and home appliances in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

The world is fragile, but a better future is possible. As we pull through the Covid-19 crisis, we need a vision for a stronger and more resilient society.

Europe’s response calls for economic inclusion, innovation and sustainability. It is times like these we need to let science and equity guide our actions to protect people and the planet.

For climate and environmental action, this means we must pick up where we left off. We cannot afford to roll back environmental laws, caving into the demands of corporate lobbyists.

This month, big tech manufacturers have joined a growing number of industries calling to dismantle or delay environmental rules and targets. This time the attacks are aimed at the EU’s energy saving and waste reduction policies concerning our everyday products.

From washing machines and fridges to small electronics, these rules reduce our energy bills, and they will soon also make it easier to repair the things we own. They are designed to spur technological innovation and sustainability while reducing costs for households and businesses.

A win-win situation? Not according to lobbyists who are having a field day writing to the European Commission. Digital Europe, a powerful lobby group representing Apple and other tech giants, has already asked to delay “new ICT product compliance”. It’s not clear what that means, but many fear that they are taking aim at the recently agreed eco-design rules, which, from next year on, would oblige manufacturers to make computer monitors and TVs easier to replace and repair.

More explicitly, home appliances association APPLiA has asked to postpone the implementation of the new energy saving requirements for washing machines, fridges and dishwashers until 2026. Though these rules don’t come into force until 2024, manufacturers are already trying to push them into a distant future.

 The group also requested a two-year delay of the EU target for the collection of electronic waste, which was set in 2012 and should have been met this year.

Likewise, the Consumer Technology Association wants to delay energy saving requirements for chargers sold in Europe, which were finally agreed in 2019 after long delays, and which entered into force on 1 April.

Most of these demands are hard to justify at best. One would expect manufacturers to have already met targets set for this year, and to have enough time to comply with laws coming into force in years from now.

Nonetheless, we must not underestimate these threats. A leaked document suggests that the Commission is already considering the postponement of initiatives aimed at giving consumers better information on the lifespan of products.

Delaying progress made so far by halting environmental protection would be a terrible mistake.

According to the European Commission, the new eco-design requirements alone will deliver 167 TWh of energy savings per year by 2030. This is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of Denmark. These savings correspond to a reduction of over 45 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and about €150 per household every year.

This is the kind of progress we need to aid economic recovery and step up our fight against the ongoing climate and environmental emergencies.

We made this clear in a letter sent this week to the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen. Together with over 200 green groups and repair advocates across Europe*, we called on the EU to reject the postponement of environmental provisions unless industry groups can properly substantiate their arguments. Eco-design and energy labelling policies have already unnecessarily suffered from long delays.

As a priority, governments and EU institutions should be bolstering the resilience of citizens and industries. Any rescue package should be conditional on the achievement of environmental targets and protection of workers. This is not the time to choose vested interests over people and the planet.

Before the Covid-19 crisis, Europe set out a strategy to move beyond our wasteful economy. Now more than ever we need to accelerate this transition to rebuild the economy.

*Over 200 NGOs and repair groups have joined our call. These include national member organisations in the networks of ECOS and the EEB as well as groups under the umbrella of the Coolproducts and Right to Repair campaigns.

Coolproducts (www.coolproducts.eu) is a coalition of NGOs promoting energy and resource efficiency through eco-design and energy labelling. Right to Repair Europe (www.repair.eu) brings together green groups and repair advocates to campaign for repairable and longer-lasting products.

Here are some of the national groups involved in the campaigns:

Association for Waste Prevention (Austria) – Anstiftung (Germany) – BUND (Germany) – Catapa (Belgium) – Cler (France) – CLASP (UK) – Deutscher Naturschutzring (Germany) = ECOS (EU) – European Environmental Bureau (EU) – eReuse (Spain) – Ethikis Ad Civis (France) Fair Danmark (Danmark) – Free ICT Europe (EU) – Friends of the Earth Norway (Norway) – Friends of the Eart France (France) Giacimenti Urbani (Italy) – Green Alliance (UK) – Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée (France) – Ifixit (Germany) – Inforse (Denmark) – Legambiente (Italy) – Natuur & Milieu (Netherlands) – Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken (Belgium) – Netzwerk Reparatur-Initiativen (Germany) – Quercus (Portugal) – Repairably (Slovakia) – Repair Café Danmark (Danmark) – Repair Café International Foundation (Netherlands) – Repair Café France (France) – Repair & Share (Belgium) – Repair Together (Belgium) – Repanet (Austria) – Reparaturnetzwerk Wien (Austria) – Restarters Norway (Norway) – Rreuse (EU) -Runder Tisch Reparatur (Germany) -Sustainability & Design Lab (Norway) -The Restart Project (UK) -Zero Waste Poland (Poland)

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With the support of thr European Union (LIFE Programme and European COmmission). This work reflects the author's views and does not commit donors.