One of the European Commission’s six priorities is to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Explanations with the European Consumer Centre (ECC) France.
This European Green Deal or Green Pact for Europe is accompanied by ambitious measures in many areas of consumers’ daily lives. According to a study published at the end of November 2019, more than half of European consumers are aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment. This is why many European countries such as France have already taken steps in this direction. From the end of single-use plastics to the banning of diesel cars in Europe’s major cities and better information on products sold in the EU, the European Consumer Centre France proposes an overview of good practices in Europe with regard to the objectives of the European Green Deal.
Reliable, comparable and verifiable information for responsible purchasing
To combat misleading environmental claims and guide consumers in responsible purchasing, the European Commission wants to improve information on the characteristics of products sold in the EU. Equipped with an electronic passport, consumers would be able to find out the origin, composition, repair and dismantling possibilities and end-of-life treatment of products.
The “omnibus” directive, which came into force on 7 January 2020, also reinforces consumer information, particularly on Marketplaces, in order to clearly indicate who the seller is (identity, status, address, etc.) and indirectly inform them about the environmental impact of transporting products.
The draft law on the fight against waste and the circular economy, adopted by the National Assembly on 21 January 2020, provides for the introduction of a reparability index on certain electrical and electronic equipment such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners or lawnmowers as of 1 January 2021. Information on the availability or non-availability of spare parts needed to repair electrical and electronic equipment and furnishings will also become mandatory.
“Zero pollution” in the air
The European Commission wants transport to become much less polluting, especially in cities. It will propose tougher CO2 emission standards to set a clear path towards zero emission mobility by 2025.
Belgium: “Low Emission Zones” in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent
Only vehicles registered in Belgium or abroad that meet specific environmental criteria can circulate in these 3 cities. Failure to register your vehicle can result in heavy fines.
More information on eco-zones in the European Union.
Germany: Diesel ban in certain large cities
Due to excessive air pollution, some German cities have taken measures to ban old diesel vehicles. After Hamburg in 2018, Darmstadt, Stuttgart and Berlin in 2019, Cologne or Aachen could in turn ban diesel vehicles in 2020.
France: an increasingly severe automobile malus
France removed the cap on its car malus in January 2020. It can now be applied from 110 grams of CO2 per kilometre and reach €20,000 above 184 g (compared with €12,500 for vehicles emitting 173 g of CO2 per km in 2019). A new scale is expected in the first half of 2020.
Polluting transport more heavily taxed
In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the European Commission is planning far-reaching measures concerning transport: adjustment of the price of transport to its impact on the environment and health, removal of subsidies for fossil fuels, replacement of 75% of road freight with rail and inland waterway transport, revision of energy taxation, in particular with regard to tax exemptions for aviation and maritime transport.
Germany: reduction of VAT on trains and increase of tax on aircraft
With the aim of encouraging passengers to take the train, the federal government has reduced VAT on long-distance train tickets to 7% instead of 19% since 1 January. The German railway company Deutsche Bahn has passed on this reduction in the prices of many tickets and season tickets, in some cases by up to 10%. In addition, the tax on airline tickets is expected to increase by 1 April 2020. Depending on the distance of the flight, the ticket could cost around 6 to 18 euros more.
France: tax on airline tickets
Since 1 January 2020, flights from France have become slightly more expensive due to the increase in the Solidarity Tax on airline tickets, created in 2006. This tax varies according to the type of travel, intra-European or outside the EU and increases the price of tickets between €1.50 and €9 in economy class, €3 and €18 in business class. Flights between Corsica or overseas collectivities and the mainland, as well as connecting flights, are not affected.
To combat overpackaging and waste generation, Europe has taken measures in 2015 (Directive 2015/720 on the reduction of consumption of light plastic bags) and 2019 to ban single-use plastics in the EU and to combat microplastics (the main cause of marine pollution). It wants “all packaging on the EU market to be reusable or recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030”.
In Scotland, there are no more plastic straws since 1 January 2018.
Italy stopped all manufacture and marketing of non-biodegradable cotton buds and cosmetics containing microplastics in 2019.
In the Netherlands, all single-use plastics are banned.
In Germany, returning bottles to the shop has become an everyday reflex since the introduction of the deposit system in the 1990s. When paying for your purchases in Germany, you pay a deposit on most bottles, large glass jars (e.g. yoghurt), almost all aluminium cans, cartons and drinks in plastic bottles. This deposit can then be retrieved when you return the packaging thanks to the deposit-refund machines that are available at almost every point of sale.
France: its roadmap for the circular economy
Plastic bags have been banned at merchant checkouts since 2016. Only reusable plastic bags or bags made of other materials (fabric, paper, etc.) can be given to customers, whether free of charge or not. On the other hand, in its roadmap for the circular economy unveiled in 2018, France wants to achieve 100% collection of recyclable waste by 2025 and make waste sorting much simpler for the French (harmonisation of sorting rules throughout the country by 2022, compulsory TRIMAN pictogram…). Since 1 January 2020, cotton buds, bottles of water in collective catering, cups and disposable dishes sold in batches have been banned. In 2021, it will be the turn of straws, disposable cutlery, stirrers, takeaway cup lids, polystyrene boxes, steak spikes, balloon stems, plastic confetti and plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg.
Fighting food waste
In its “From Farm to Table” strategy, the European Commission wants to “help consumers make healthy and sustainable food choices and reduce food waste”. The Commission wants to strengthen consumer information on the origin, nutritional value and ecological footprint of food.
In the vast majority of European countries, supermarkets can donate their expiring products to associations. But there are no sanctions, as there are in France or Portugal, if they do not do so. The anti-waste bill adopted by the National Assembly on January 21, 2020, also provides for extending the obligation to offer unsold food still fit for consumption to associations and to give priority to these products to associations fighting against precariousness. The incineration or landfilling of unsold new non-food products (clothing, shoes, cosmetics …) could be prohibited, in favor of their reuse, reuse or recycling.