UK establishes eco-labelling "competent body"

The UK will take its first major step towards formal compliance with the EC Regulation on eco-auditing on 1 July when the national "competent body" required to administer the scheme will be established in London.

Under the Regulation (ENDS Report 203, pp 18-19), the main task given to the competent bodies in each EC country is to take the initial decision on whether to award an eco-label to a specific product falling within a product group for which environmental criteria have been agreed at EC level. They will also supervise contracts with companies which are awarded an eco-label and publicise the scheme.

The UK's competent body is to be based in the same building as the National Rivers Authority's headquarters in London. Its secretariat is expected eventually to have 10-12 staff. About 10 officials from the Department of the Environment (DoE) and the Department of Trade and Industry who have been involved in setting up the UK scheme will transfer to the secretariat on 1 July.

Gerald Rendell, previously head of the DoE division which looks after the Royal Parks, is the first Chief Executive of the competent body. Its Chairman, Dr Elizabeth Nelson, was appointed in March (ENDS Report 206, p 24 ).

In addition to administering the award of eco-label, the competent body's officials will have a major task in participating in the EC-wide process of agreeing environmental criteria for specific product groups.

Late last year, it had been hoped that the eco-labelling scheme would be launched this autumn with criteria agreed for 10-12 product groups. This now seems unlikely.

The first meeting of the EC consultative forum - an advisory group of representatives of industrial, consumer and environmental interests - is not due to be held until September. Its main task then will be to make recommendations to the European Commission on the eco-labelling criteria drawn up by the UK for washing machines (ENDS Report 208, pp 27-8 ). The Commission itself will then need to agree the criteria in concert with a committee of officials from the Member States. Although this may be done some time in the autumn, it is unlikely that many more product groups will have passed through this procedure by the end of 1992.

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