With the end of the year approaching, it's time to look back on the achievements of the last 12 months and prepare some good resolutions for next year. With the release of the Fitness Check, the publication of the updated annexes of the EMAS regulation and the new User’s Guide, 2017 has prepared the ground for a period of renewal.
Among our achievements, I would highlight the commitment made by many Member States to step up support for EMAS. After the Fitness Check assessed the effectiveness and added value of the EMAS Regulation, Member States were asked to confirm their support for the recommendations it contains, notably by introducing more regulatory relief and promotional measures for EMAS registered organisations. The feedback was positive and the European Commission is now working to identify best practices for the EU level, with a view to their swift dissemination.
EMAS has also become more flexible. Thanks to the updated annexes, it is now easier than ever to step up from ISO 14001 to EMAS. EMAS still involves a higher level of transparency and legal compliance, and it remains the premium environmental management scheme, but organisations certified with ISO14001 can now join more easily and adapt the scheme to their own specific sectoral and company needs.
Another innovation will come in the shape of the updated User’s Guide – about to be published. Large organisations with multiple sites will be able to have their sites audited on a sample basis. This will lighten the burden of verification, without compromising EMAS’s high standards. Our hope is that many multi-site organisations will take advantage of this change and implement EMAS on larger scale.
EMAS’s links to other regulations and sustainability goals are now more visible than ever. The 2017 EMAS Awards recognised organisations leading the way to a circular economy, and you can read about their examples in Moving to a Circular Economy with EMAS,a report filled with ideas about how organisations can get started on the journey to a more circular business model. Going circular involves better use of resources, decreasing GHG emissions and mitigating climate change. EMAS was much to the fore at COP23, the recent Climate Change Conference in Bonn: the conference itself was EMAS-certified, and a report on the environmental impacts of the conference will be available soon.
Looking to 2018, let's set ourselves a clear objective. Let's aim to further increase EMAS’s links to other policies, and build broader support for the scheme. Let's draw on the successes of existing EMAS organisations to convince stakeholders at all levels that EMAS is the best route not just to sustainability, but to a stronger, more circular European economy.
I look forward to working with you next year to implement this vision. In the meantime, happy holidays to all!
Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries