A&G Newsletter Q2 2023

1. Commission Revamps Agri-Food Marketing Standards for Consumer Needs and Sustainability

The European Commission is proposing to revise marketing standards for various agri-food products including fruits, vegetables, fruit juices, jams, honey, poultry, and eggs to support informed consumer choices and prevent food waste. Key proposals include:

  • Origin labelling: A mandatory requirement to label the country of origin on honey, nuts, dried fruits, ripened bananas, and processed fruit and vegetables. This aims to increase transparency and promote EU production.
  • Food waste: Revisions address food waste and packaging waste. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables suitable for local consumption will be exempt from marketing standards, offering consumers cheaper options and benefiting local producers. Safe products affected by natural disasters may also be sold.
  • Packaging: Products for donation may be exempt from main labelling requirements to reduce red tape and facilitate donations.
  • Fruit juices: Labels may state “with no added sugars” to clarify that fruit juices cannot contain added sugars. Reformulated fruit juice may be labelled as “reduced-sugar fruit juice”. The term “coconut water” may be used alongside “coconut juice”.
  • Jams and marmalades: The minimum fruit content of jams will be increased, providing consumers with less sugar and more fruits. The term “marmalade” will be allowed for all jams.
  • Eggs: Solar panels may be used in free-range egg production to encourage renewable energy. Eggs will be marked at the farm to improve traceability.

Next Steps:
The proposals will undergo public feedback and scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council. Alongside this, the Commission plans to adopt new marketing standards for cider, perry, and pulses.

EU marketing standards aim to maintain high-quality products, protect consumers, and ensure consistency within the EU market. They also facilitate international trade. As agricultural markets evolve due to innovation and changing consumer demands, these proposals aim to promote sustainable products and address new consumer and operator needs.

Alber & Geiger can assist agriculture firms achieve their legislative and regulatory goals in the EU.

2. Commission Proposes Criteria to Fight Greenwashing and Deceptive Environmental Claims

The European Commission is proposing common criteria to prevent greenwashing and misleading environmental claims. The proposal aims to ensure that when a product or service is marketed as environmentally friendly, it truly is. It is intended to help consumers make informed choices and to ensure a level playing field for businesses truly committed to sustainability.

The proposal comes in the wake of a 2020 study that found over half of the environmental claims examined in the EU to be vague, misleading, or unfounded. The lack of common rules for voluntary green claims has led to ‘greenwashing’ and unfair competition.

Under the proposal, companies making ‘green claims’ will have to meet minimum standards in substantiating and communicating these claims. This includes explicit claims like ‘T-shirt made of recycled plastic bottles’ or ‘packaging made of 30% recycled plastic.’ The proposal also seeks to regulate the proliferation of labels and environmental labels. Any claims must be independently verified and backed by scientific evidence.

Aggregate scoring of a product’s overall environmental impact will not be permitted unless set in EU rules. Comparisons between products or organizations should be based on equivalent data. Moreover, new public labeling schemes will only be permitted if developed at EU level, and new private schemes must show greater environmental ambition than existing ones and get pre-approval.

Next Steps

The proposal is part of a wider package of the European Green Deal and complements the March 2022 proposal on ’empowering consumers for the green transition.’ It will be subject to approval by the European Parliament and the Council.

Our experienced team can help influence opinions and agendas.

3. Global Pact Reached for High Seas Biodiversity Protection

The global community has reached a landmark agreement, the Treaty of the High Seas, aimed at protecting the ocean, addressing environmental degradation, combating climate change, and preventing biodiversity loss. The treaty will facilitate the creation of extensive marine protected areas on the high seas, in line with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Agreement’s commitment to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030. Additionally, the treaty mandates assessment of the impact of economic activities on biodiversity in high seas and includes provisions for capacity-building and technology transfer to aid developing nations. The treaty also provides a framework for equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources.

This treaty was finalized at the 5th Intergovernmental Conference in New York, marking over a decade of global efforts to address this critical environmental issue. The EU and its Member States spearheaded the High Ambition Coalition, comprising 52 nations committed to ambitious ocean protection actions.

The treaty will come into effect once ratified by 60 states. The EU has committed €40 million to a Global Ocean Programme to expedite this process and aid developing countries in preparing for implementation. The formal adoption will occur once legal review in UN languages is complete.

High seas, covering nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean and seabed beyond national jurisdiction, offer significant ecological, economic, social, and food security benefits. These regions are currently under significant strain from pollution, overexploitation, climate change, and biodiversity loss. This new treaty, an Implementing Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), aims to protect and sustainably use these critical resources.

Alber & Geiger can help maritime and environmental organizations voice their interests and concerns regarding the High Seas Treaty to EU policymakers.

4. EU Commission Proposes Reform to Enhance Renewables and Consumer Protection

The European Commission has proposed a significant reform to the EU’s electricity market design aimed at expediting the shift to renewable energy and phasing out gas. This transformation aims to decrease consumer bills’ reliance on fluctuating fossil fuel prices, protect consumers from potential price hikes and market manipulation, and promote clean industry competitiveness within the EU.

The EU has successfully maintained an integrated electricity market for over two decades, providing security of supply, stimulating decarbonisation, and offering consumers the economic benefits of a single energy market. The energy crisis from Russia’s Ukraine invasion underscores the need to adapt the electricity market for the green transition, securing affordable, renewable power for households and businesses.

The proposed reform includes revisions to the Electricity Regulation, the Electricity Directive, and the REMIT Regulation. These changes introduce measures promoting longer-term contracts with non-fossil power production and incorporate more clean flexible solutions into the system to compete with gas. This will result in a decrease in the impact of fossil fuels on consumer electricity bills and ensure that the lower cost of renewables is reflected in the final cost.

In addition, the proposed reform will enhance competition in the European wholesale energy markets by improving market transparency and integrity. It will also improve consumer protections, offering a wider choice of contracts and clearer information, enabling consumers to secure long-term prices and avoid excessive risk and volatility.

Lastly, the reform aims to boost industrial competitiveness by enhancing the predictability and stability of energy costs. It proposes the deployment of more stable long-term contracts such as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and obliges Member States to ensure the availability of market-based guarantees for PPAs.

The proposed reform will now be debated and agreed upon by the European Parliament and the Council before it can be enacted

Alber & Geiger can ensure renewable energy firms’ interests are heard and considered as the EU’s electricity market undergoes transformation.

5. Commission Presents Regulations for Renewable Hydrogen

The European Commission has proposed detailed regulations defining renewable hydrogen in the EU, with the adoption of two Delegated Acts required under the Renewable Energy Directive. These Acts, part of a broader EU regulatory framework for hydrogen, will ensure that all renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs) are produced from renewable electricity. The legislation will provide regulatory certainty for investors, aligning with the EU’s goal to reach 10 million tonnes of domestic and imported renewable hydrogen production as per the REPowerEU Plan.

The first Delegated Act establishes conditions under which hydrogen can be considered as an RFNBO, clarifying the principle of “additionality” for hydrogen. This principle ensures that renewable hydrogen generation boosts the volume of renewable energy available to the grid and supports decarbonisation and electrification efforts.

The Act also introduces criteria ensuring that renewable hydrogen is produced only when and where sufficient renewable energy is available. The rules will be gradually phased in, with provisions for hydrogen projects operating before 1 January 2028 and a transition period for electrolysers entering the market.

The second Delegated Act provides a methodology for calculating life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for RFNBOs, considering emissions across the full lifecycle of the fuels. The Acts, following adoption, will be transmitted to the European Parliament and the Council for scrutiny and potential approval or rejection.

The Commission’s hydrogen strategy, adopted in 2020, envisions a comprehensive European hydrogen ecosystem, from research and innovation to production and infrastructure. Hydrogen is expected to play a significant role in decarbonising industry and heavy-duty transport in Europe and globally.

Alber & Geiger can get your message to the appropriate audience.

6. Securing EU’s Green & Digital Future with Critical Raw Materials

The European Commission has presented a comprehensive set of measures aimed at ensuring a secure, diverse, affordable, and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the European Union (EU). Critical raw materials are essential for various strategic sectors, including the net-zero industry, digital industry, aerospace, and defense sectors. Currently, the EU heavily relies on imports of these materials, often from quasi-monopolistic suppliers in third countries. The proposed regulations seek to mitigate the risks associated with such dependencies and enhance the EU’s economic resilience.

The Act establishes clear priorities for action by updating the list of critical raw materials and introducing a list of strategic raw materials. The Act sets benchmarks for domestic capacities along the supply chain, aiming to achieve a minimum of 10% extraction, 40% processing, and 15% recycling of the EU’s annual consumption of strategic raw materials by 2030. It also limits the share of each strategic raw material from a single third country to no more than 65% at any relevant processing stage.

The Act aims to create secure and resilient EU supply chains for critical raw materials by reducing administrative burdens and simplifying permitting procedures. Strategic Projects will receive support for access to finance and shorter permitting timeframes. Member States will develop national programs for exploring geological resources.

To mitigate supply risks, the Act includes provisions for monitoring critical raw material supply chains and coordinating strategic raw material stocks among Member States. Large companies will be required to conduct audits of their supply chains, including stress tests. The EU aims to diversify its imports of critical raw materials through global engagement and partnerships with reliable countries. It will establish a Critical Raw Materials Club for like-minded countries, strengthen the World Trade Organization, and expand sustainable investment facilitation agreements and free trade agreements. The EU will also take trade actions to combat unfair practices.

Next Steps

The proposed Regulation will undergo discussions and agreements in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before its adoption and entry into force. These measures, along with other initiatives, will contribute to the EU’s efforts to achieve its climate and digital objectives and enhance the competitiveness of European industries.

Our team enjoys long-lasting relationships and understands the complexities to help shape decisions.

7. Net-Zero Industry Act: Boosting Clean Tech Manufacturing and Green Jobs

The European Commission has launched the Net-Zero Industry Act, a part of the Green Deal Industrial Plan, to scale up clean technology manufacturing and secure a sustainable energy future for the EU. It aims to reach a 40% domestic production capacity of net-zero technologies by 2030, to accelerate the EU’s climate goals, strengthen industries, and create quality jobs.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, emphasized that the Act will create a conducive environment for clean energy sectors crucial for achieving net-zero by 2050, like wind turbines, solar panels, renewable hydrogen, and CO2 storage.

The Act targets technologies essential for decarbonization, including solar and wind energy, batteries and storage, heat pumps, geothermal energy, and others. It also introduces measures to stimulate investment in net-zero technology manufacturing, improve market access, and foster innovation.

Additionally, the Act includes plans for the European Hydrogen Bank to promote renewable hydrogen production within the EU and incentivize its imports.

Next Steps

The proposed Regulation will undergo discussions and agreements in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before its adoption and entry into force. These measures, along with other initiatives, will contribute to the EU’s efforts to achieve its climate and digital objectives and enhance the competitiveness of European industries.

Alber & Geiger – Ensuring your voice is heard in the EU’s clean energy transformation.

8. New Consumer Rights: Commission Introduces Easy and Attractive Right to Repair

The European Commission has put forward a proposal to promote the repair of goods, aiming to benefit consumers and contribute to the goals of the European Green Deal by reducing waste. In the past, replacement has been prioritized over repair, and consumers have lacked incentives to repair goods after the legal guarantee expires. The new proposal seeks to make repair more accessible and cost-effective for consumers, while also stimulating the repair sector and encouraging sustainable business models from producers and sellers.

The proposal includes measures to facilitate repair and reuse. Within the legal guarantee period, sellers will be required to offer repair unless it is more expensive than replacement. Beyond the legal guarantee, consumers will have the right to claim repair from producers for products that are technically repairable under EU law. This ensures that consumers have options for repair and encourages producers to adopt more sustainable practices.

Additional tools and rights will be available to consumers, including a matchmaking repair platform to connect them with repairers and sellers of refurbished goods. An online platform will provide information about repair services and enable consumers to compare offers. A European quality standard for repair services will also be developed to help consumers identify repairers who meet minimum quality standards.

The proposal will need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before it can be implemented. If approved, it will promote a shift towards repair and reduce waste, benefiting consumers and supporting the objectives of the European Green Deal.