Stakeholders back mandatory EMAS

Public organisations, polluting companies, firms in high environmental risk areas or EU-funded organisations should be made to implement the EU eco-management and audit scheme, according to more than half of the respondents to a consultation on proposals to revise the EMAS Regulation.

The European Commission published responses to its consultation on proposed revisions in April.1The proposals followed an earlier EU study which concluded that a radical overhaul of EMAS was needed to address the scheme’s slow uptake compared with certification to the international standard ISO14001 (ENDS Report 376, pp 32-35 ).

More than a quarter of the 214 responses were from organisations already registered to EMAS. Just 8.4% were UK-based.

More than half agreed EMAS should be mandatory for organisations from certain sectors. Introducing the scheme as a requirement for public organisations and local authorities over a certain size gained the most support (58.5%), followed by organisations receiving EU funds (56.7%) and specific firms with high environmental risks, emissions or resource use (51.7%).

The Commission says countries that have made EMAS compulsory for certain organisations had not experienced major problems, although EMAS will remain a voluntary system overall.

Half of respondents found EMAS useful to some extent, but said its complicated structure and verification system, high costs and low profile needed addressing.

Some 70% favoured sharpening legal compliance and performance requirements, and mandatory reporting on key performance indicators, to increase the scheme’s profile.

A stronger focus on performance would help focus EMAS on EU priorities such as climate change and help differentiate it from the procedures-based ISO14001 scheme, says the Commission.2Most respondents wanted member states to provide more financial, fiscal and market-related incentives for registered organisations.

Almost 80% agreed that integrating EMAS into EU or, in particular, national legislation would make the scheme more attractive. The revised EMAS Regulation could require member states to "reduce the administrative burden" of EMAS-registered organisations, despite little evidence that an EMS leads to increased compliance (ENDS Report 382, pp 30-33 ).

More than two thirds of respondents felt that innovative communication tools such as product information sheets externally verified under EMAS would make the scheme more attractive. Most would also like to see the scheme promoted more effectively.

EMAS registration could be opened to organisations in more than one member state or outside the EU, if a proposal backed by more than 70% of respondents goes ahead.

The Commission is expected to table a legislative overhaul of EMAS later this year. The application process is expected to be simplified to reduce bureaucracy. The accreditation, external verification and registration procedures could be aligned and harmonised to make EMAS more user-friendly and affordable.

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