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Identifying products with the greatest potential for environmental improvement

Introduction

The Commission announced in its Communication on Integrated Product Policy (COM(2003) 302 final) that it will seek to identify and stimulate action on products with the greatest potential for environmental improvement. This work is carried out sequentially in three phases.

The first phase consists of a research to identify the products with the greatest environmental impact from a life-cycle perspective consumed in the EU. In the second phase possible ways will be identified to reduce the life-cycle environmental impacts of some of the products with the greatest environmental impact. The research in phase one and two is led by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville, which is part of the DG Joint Research Centre (JRC). In the third phase the European Commission will seek to address policy measures for the products that are identified having the greatest potential for environmental improvement at least socio-economic cost.

EIPRO – Environmental Impact of PROducts (phase 1)

The first phase of the project identifies the products that are consumed in the EU having the greatest environmental impact from a life-cycle perspective. Consumption of the society has been grouped into almost three hundred product categories and assed in relation to different environmental impact categories, such as acidification, toxicity, global warming, ozone depletion, etc.

The study that was completed in May 2006 shows that products from only three areas of consumption - food and drink, private transportation, and housing - together are responsible for 70-80 percent of environmental impacts of private consumption. These products also account for some 60 percent of consumption expenditure altogether. All other areas of consumption together account for no more than 20–30 percent of most environmental impacts. These findings are based on a review of existing studies plus supplementary work on a new methodology developed by the JRC-IPTS in cooperation with organisations of the ESTO research network.

For a summary in non-technical language, click on Summary Report (pdf~99kb). To see the full report 'Environmental Impact of Products - analysis of the life cycle environmental impact related to the final consumption of the EU-25' please click on Full Report (pdf~3Mb) and Annex (pdf~1,3Mb).

For more information on the EIPRO project, see the IPP web-site at the JRC-IPTS.

For more information on the draft final report, stakeholder comments and responses etc. click here.

IMPRO - environmental IMprovement of PROducts (phase 2)

The second phase of the work will attempt to identify possible ways in which the life-cycle environmental impacts can be reduced for some of the products that are among those with the greatest environmental impacts. The analysis will first consider improvement potentials that are technically feasible. Following this, the associated socio-economic impacts will be considered and analysed. The analysis covers the following aspects:

  • Estimate and compare the environmental impacts of the products under a full life-cycle perspective.
  • Identify the main environmental improvement options related to the products addressing all the different life cycle stages and estimate the size of the environmental improvement potentials.
  • Assess the main improvement options regarding their feasibility and potential social and economic impacts:
    • What could be achieved at the various life cycle stages and what would be overall the environmental benefit of these various options?
    • What are the potential trade-offs between the different options and between the different types of environmental benefits?
    • What are the different barriers (economical, social, market, etc.)?

The first three groups of products that are among those with the greatest environmental impacts currently analysed are:

The IMPRO project will be carried out by the JRC-IPTS in 2006-2008. The final results are expected Mid 2008.

For further information and updates on the IMPRO project, see the IPP web-site at the JRC-IPTS.

Policy implications (phase 3)

Following this, the European Commission will in the third phase seek to address policy measures for the products that are identified to have the greatest potential for environmental improvement at least socio-economic cost.

Study on Environmentally Extended Input-Output Tables (EEIO)

Related to and based on the first phase of the project, i.e. the EIPRO study, the JRC-IPTS initiated a study named Environmentally Extended Input-Output Tables and Models for Europe. This study explores how methodologies based on analysis of environmentally extended input-output tables can be further developed and applied in policy making. This study was completed in 2006 and is available here.