22 January 2021

EU EHS And Product Compliance Laws: What To Look Out For In 2021

Reed Smith (Worldwide)


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2021 is shaping up to be a very busy year for those who are affected by EU laws relating to Environment, Health & Safety, ESG and product compliance matters.
European Union Environment
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2021 is shaping up to be a very busy year for those who are affected by EU laws relating to Environment, Health & Safety, ESG and product compliance matters.

Important developments are expected this year across a number of the EU's flagship Green Deal policy initiatives, but there are many other significant initiatives to watch out for.

Reed Smith's EMEA EHS & Product Compliance team will be keeping a close eye on them all for you and writing more detailed pieces on developments as they occur throughout the year.

In the meantime, in this short blog we provide just a snapshot of what you can expect to see during 2021:

Product regulations

  • New Blue Guide
    • See our Blog [here] for detailed commentary on what to expect from the first revision of the Blue Guide since 2016, due out on or around 1 July 2021.
  • EU Batteries Regulation
    • In December 2020, the EU Commission published a fully drafted proposal for comprehensive and far-reaching overhaul of EU batteries laws. The proposal takes the form of a new EU-wide regulation (which will apply directly in all EU member states), fully replacing the existing directive and amending all aspects of battery design, performance and end of life, and introducing over time innovative new supply chain diligence, carbon footprint, labelling and other new measures.
    • The proposal will undergo legislative scrutiny by the EU Parliament and Council during 2021 and as presently drafted is due to take effect from 1 January 2022.
  • New EU regulation of mobile phones and tablets
    • The Commission recently published an Inception Impact Assessment on the environmental impact of mobile phones and tablets. The Commission's intention is to introduce two new EU-wide regulations on this topic: an implementing measure under the Ecodesign Directive, and a delegated act under the Energy Labelling Regulation. The initiative is mainly targeted at what the Commission identifies as unnecessary waste and alleged planned obsolescence.
    • The Inception Impact Assessment identifies the following areas for potential regulatory intervention:
      • resistance when accidentally dropped
      • protection from water and dust
      • battery accessibility and longevity
      • availability of software/firmware/operating system updates
      • product durability
      • ability of the product to be disassembled
      • availability of priority spare parts
      • data deletion and transfer functionalities
      • provision of appropriate information for users, repairers and recyclers.
    • A detailed public consultation is planned for Q2 of 2021.
  • EU Consumer policy - strengthening the role of consumers in the green transition
    • The proposals in relation to phones and tablets mentioned above (among others) tie in closely with a parallel proposal for an EU Directive to better empower EU consumers to play their part in achieving a more sustainable economy.
    • Consultation has already occurred on the EU's new consumer empowerment measures and the Commission is expected to put forward detailed legislative proposals in Q2 2021.
    • This initiative will have a profound impact on the EU consumer products sector and aims among other plans to:
      • ensure that consumers obtain reliable & useful information on product lifespan and repair options
      • prevent overstated environmental information ('greenwashing')
      • prevent sale of products with a covertly shortened lifespan
      • set minimum requirements for sustainability logos & labels.
  • General Product Safety Directive
    • Draft text of a proposed law repealing the existing (20 year old) GPSD and replacing it with a new EU General Product Safety Regulation (which would apply directly in all EU member states) is expected to be published in Q2 2021.
    • Revisions will focus on modernising the general product safety regime for the digital and online world, and improving product recall effectiveness. Amendments will also cover AI, connected products, software/firmware updates and product traceability issues.
  • EU Machinery Directive
    • Draft text of proposed law repealing the Machinery Directive and replacing it with a new EU Machinery Regulation (again, which would apply directly in all EU member states) is expected to be published in Q1 2021.
    • Revisions are expected to include simplification of the requirements for documentation (including by allowing digital formats to be used), and measures to address the risks stemming from new technologies.
  • Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive evaluation
    • Fitness for purpose public consultation finishes at end January 2021.
    • A Commission report on its findings and possible reform is due Q2 2021.
  • RoHS Directive evaluation
    • A Commission report is due Q2 2021.

Environment, Health & Safety

  • Revision of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive and European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR)
    • Consultation on revisions to the IED is ongoing and will end in late March 2021.
    • A draft text of proposed revisions is expected in Q4 2021.
    • Expect changes in line with the general ambitions of the EU Green Deal and policies on energy, climate change and circular economy.
  • Revision of the EU Shipment of Waste Regulation
    • The EU SWR have for a long time received justifiable criticism as being too cumbersome and long-winded, with procedures designed for an analogue world, and not supportive of circular economy (recycling and remanufacturing principles).
    • In Q2 2021 the Commission is expected to propose revision to reduce shipments of waste to outside the EU, update waste shipment procedures to reflect the objectives of the circular economy and improve enforcement.
  • New initiatives on Sustainable Corporate Governance
    • Consultation is ongoing until early February 2021 on ways to enhance ESG performance of companies in the EU in a way that supplements and is complementary to the existing Non-Financial Reporting Directive.
    • A Commission initiative is expected to follow during Q2 2021.
    • Options under consideration including extension of existing directors' duties in the arena of sustainability as well as possible new mandatory human rights and sustainability due diligence requirements.
  • Revision of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)
    • Consultation currently ongoing until early February 2021.
    • Publication of a formal draft amending text is expected in the first half of 2021.
    • Proposals may extend the EU ETS to new sectors, including maritime, and generally enhance the regime to better align with the EU's 2050 carbon neutrality objectives.
  • Action on methane emissions in the energy sector
    • There is currently no EU-level legislation targeting methane emissions in the energy sector.
    • A public consultation is currently ongoing until 26 January 2021.
    • Adoption of the draft text of a proposed new Regulation is planned for Q4 2021.
    • The strategy under consideration involves possible binding rules on the monitoring, reporting and verification of methane emissions in the sector, as well as methane emission reduction measures to support the EU's climate neutrality objectives, including the elimination of routine venting and flaring of methane.
  • Review of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and Energy Efficiency Directive
    • Proposals to amend these laws to align with the EU's new 2030 climate target and accelerate the EU's transition to a more integrated and greener energy system, including specific proposals on hydrogen, are expected to be published together in Q2 2021.
    • A public consultation is ongoing and will remain open until early February 2021.
  • Carbon Border adjustment mechanism
    • This new mechanism aims at counteracting the risk of carbon leakage by putting a carbon price on imports of certain goods from outside the EU.
    • A public consultation was completed on 22 October 2020.
    • Adoption of the draft text of a proposed new Directive is planned for Q2 2021.
  • Review of the energy Taxation Directive
    • The revision will align EU climate and energy policies with taxation of energy products and electricity, and revise the scope and structure of tax rates.
    • Adoption of the draft text of a proposed new law is planned for Q2 2021.
  • Health and Safety at Work EU Strategic Framework 2021-2027
    • Building on the preceding EU Strategic Framework (2014-2020), the new framework aims to maintain and improve health and safety standards, particularly given the range of new challenges being faced by workplaces, such as new ways of working, technological development and digitalisation and COVID-19.
    • The new framework will also aim to identify common political objectives and establish a plan for action and cooperation between EU member states and stakeholders on certain key common priorities, including the improvement of health and safety at the EU and national levels.
    • A public consultation is ongoing and will remain open until 1 March 2021.
    • The Strategic Framework is anticipated to be finalised in Q2 2021.
  • EU Food and Feed laws
    • A range of regulatory initiatives have been introduced and are expected as part of the roll out of the European Commission's "Farm to Fork" strategy and the European Green Deal, including the following initiatives which are on foot:
      • The review of EU rules on sustainable use of pesticides. Public consultation is open until 21 April 2021.
      • The revision of EU rules on food labelling and the information provided to consumers. Public consultation is open until 3 February 2021.
      • The update of EU rules on feed additives and animal nutrition in the EU. Public consultation is open until 25 January 2021.
      • Review of the approval criterial for microbial active substances as biopesticides. This initiative is currently in preparation.
      • An update to the EU rules on pesticides in relation to approving active substances and for authorising products, including around new data requirements. These initiatives are currently in preparation.
  • UK Environment Act 2021?
    • While still before Parliament, there is growing pressure to pass the Environment Bill 2019-21 and its proposed new laws to improve and protect the natural environment in the post-Brexit UK.
    • The Bill introduces a range of environmental governance measures to improve the natural environment, including through environmental targets, improvement plans, monitoring and the development of a new regulating body, the Office for Environmental Protection. It also sets out a range of measures relating to waste and resource efficiency, air quality and environmental recall, water, nature and biodiversity and conservation covenants, and confers powers to amend the EU REACH Regulation.
    • A year since its reintroduction to Parliament, the Bill will have its report stage and third reading on 26 January 2021.

Watch out for more detailed individual blogs on these and many other EU Products Law and Environment, Health & Safety topics in the weeks and months ahead.

If you are interested in understanding more about any of the items mentioned in this blog, or similar/related topics, please do not hesitate to contact any one of the authors. Otherwise, please consider subscribing to this blog to receive timely updates throughout the year on these and other similar topics.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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