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Industry and new technologies
During the 1995 Environmental Ministerial conference in Sofia, the Environment Ministers of the countries involved in the EfE process endorsed the cleaner production (CP) approach as a preferred strategy and called for a basic capacity level to be reached for cleaner production activities, requiring an active core of advisors, the establishment of a number of centres, training materials in local languages, case studies, demonstration projects and business plans, the introduction of the principles of CP in university curricula and a monitoring framework.
In Western Europe, the European Union has endorsed the cleaner production strategy through preventative measures such as the IPPC (Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control) Directive (96/61/EC). This entails the use of the best available technologies and takes into account all the environmental consequences and the entire life cycle of the product.
Acceptance of EMAS, initially slow, is growing rapidly with 1 502 sites registered by April 1998. Austria, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom are leading countries in terms of registration. With considerable funds being made available in the European Union for the development of cleaner production processes and technologies, this number is likely to increase further, although EMAS still remains voluntary. Demonstration projects, such as those funded by the Community Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE), and various sub-projects under the umbrella of the Framework Programmes for Research and Development of the European Union are also contributing to CP.
Economic incentives can also help to promote CP. In their June 1998 meeting, the European Union environment ministers coupled the introduction of greenhouse gas emission reductions to the introduction of an energy tax but the decision about when to introduce it has still to be made. Increasing VAT on resource and energy use, while simultaneously decreasing taxes on labour, is also frequently recommended as an instrument with positive effects on both CP and employment.
In Central Europe, with European Union harmonization approaching, some countries are already preparing for EMAS registration and have begun introducing the similar ISO 14001 environmental management standard; a bridging document highlighting the differences between the two as well as facilitating conversion has recently been published (REC 1997/1998). In addition, the EAP Task Force has played an active role in encouraging the adoption of CP activities outside Western Europe. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, for example, have already achieved the necessary basic capacity level with a further nine countries, including the Russian Federation and Ukraine, close behind.
Experience in policy formulation in the field is limited, however, with government support ranging from active to non-existent. While the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia have been active supporters from the outset, other countries have made more limited progress. This is partly because CP is still not a top priority among key government and industry decision-makers. The current regulatory framework, often outdated and poorly enforced, concentrates on end-of-pipe measures and thus does not provide an incentive to adopt a preventive approach among enterprises. The slow response of enterprises in Central and Eastern European countries to adopting CP can also be attributed to limited investment capital, the crowding out of CP investments by other projects, lack of awareness among enterprises, unwillingness to take risks, and the slow privatization process which delays transfer of ownership and management (OECD 1998a). An EBRD survey, however, indicated that 85 per cent of financial sources were willing to support CP investment, particularly since some observers say that pollution reductions of as much as 50 per cent can be achieved by investing in energy efficiency and waste minimization.
Further work is needed to strengthen support for CP among policy-makers, promote the use of a wider range of policy instruments, implement further environmental management systems and standards, and improve financing mechanisms. While the EAP Task Force supports these objectives, critical gaps in knowledge and information are still common. Overcoming these problems and raising awareness among industrial company managers about the available systems, technologies, and the costs and benefits of CP programmes also remains a priority of the Task Force. An international declaration supporting CP and sound environmental management practices is under preparation under the aegis of the Task Force, and was endorsed in Denmark at the Århus Ministerial Conference in June 1998 (OECD 1997).
Making technology more sustainable
In Western Europe the awareness that production processes and products have to be made more environment-friendly is by now widespread, both in science and industry (Schmidheiny 1992). In the scientific world, several institutes such as the DOMUS Academy in Italy and the Wuppertal Institute in Germany are now devoting attention to the design of 'eco-products' and services (von Weizsäcker and others 1995).
In practice, government activities in this area are rare. An exception is the Netherlands, where a five-year Sustainable Technology Development Programme was financed by five ministries (IEEP-B 1994). It addressed key sectors such as food production, housing, water management, transport and the chemical industry, and has found widespread interest in science and industry.
The introduction of concepts such as ecological space and carrying capacity has led to a growing emphasis on eco-efficiency - developing or choosing between alternative products and services on the basis of their total environmental impact. An important tool for this is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) in which all environmental impacts (such as energy and resource consumption, pollution, and impacts on bio-diversity) are determined from 'cradle-to-grave' (or, in agriculture, from 'stable-to-table'). For a product or device, this implies that the impacts of mining, production of raw materials, the production process, product use and final disposal (including reuse or recycling) are all taken into account. In Western Europe, the European Union has been active in developing LCA (Udo de Haes 1996) and promoting its application. For example, the application of LCA is demanded in the EMAS regulation and the directives on IPPC and eco-labelling.
The concept of tradeable permits (see page 207) can in principle provide an important incentive for increasing eco-efficiency - companies that can do better than their permit demands can benefit by selling all or part of their emission rights. The concept has been developed into a highly sophisticated system in the United States (see page 305) but there is as yet no counterpart in the European Union and it is applied only rarely in individual member states. This may change, however, as a result of the joint implementation agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol. The allocation of the emission reductions agreed in Kyoto and presently under discussion in the European Union will inevitably lead to national emission allowances for greenhouse gas emissions that could be further distributed via tradeable permits.
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