You might have missed it with COP26 going on in Glasgow, but the UK Government recently published a crucial new framework which could soon impact every household in the UK and the products we buy.
What’s the framework for?
The Energy-related Products (ErP) Framework sets out the government’s vision for improving the energy and resource efficiency of a range of products, as well as considering how many of our products can be made more durable, repairable and recyclable, and how it can be made easier for all of us to decide between different products and pick the greenest ones.
Achieving these aims will be crucial if we are to meet our climate targets, with the Climate Change Committee recommending that by 2050 the longevity of electronics will need to increase by 120% with a 30% increase in longevity by 2025.
Why do we need it?
The new ErP Framework has come about as a result of the UK leaving the European Union (EU) and no longer having to adhere to European Directives and Regulations related to products. The UK Government consulted last year on how we could at least match these regulations and, where possible, go further and faster.
The ErP Framework is the result of this process. The government describes it as being “guided by several objectives: reducing emissions across the product lifecycle, delivering consumer savings, reducing wider environmental harms by building a more resource efficient and circular economy, and driving innovation.” The framework sets out in broad strokes where the government wants product policy to go.
Energy Saving Trust’s view
We strongly welcome the ambitions set out in the ErP Framework to improve product efficiency and reduce consumer cost but also to make it easier for people to repair their products and for the things we buy to last longer. We were also pleased to see continued support for energy labelling and the suggestion that labels could be further updated to inform consumers of lifetime energy costs, embedded carbon or the repairability of a product among other options.
Some of these important issues are beginning to be addressed with new regulations. New ‘ecodesign’ measures introduced in summer 2021 require manufacturers for the first time to make spare parts available and replaceable with common tools and provide information to professional repairers to help with repairs. It is hoped that this is the first step towards a ‘right to repair’ for consumers, though some have argued it doesn’t yet go far enough. We have also recently seen the energy label be rescaled to make it easier to understand.
Is there support for the framework?
UK consumers want to see much of the ambition of the ErP Framework met, with a recent YouGov poll commissioned by the Restart Project showing that a majority across different population groups would support the existing right to repair legislation going further.
The Citizen’s Climate Assembly also looked at the issue, with 91% of participants being in favour of greater resource efficiency and standards. The group of informed citizens was also in favour of greater repairability and sharing of products. It is also becoming clear that pursuing a more circular economy can be a boon to jobs and growth.
The ambition set out in the ErP Framework should be celebrated. It is a wide ranging and forward-looking document, and if policy and legislation can be crafted to match its ambition, we will get some way to a more circular economy. The issue is that the government expects most of the policies it proposes to come into force around 2025, with more consultations pencilled in for 2022 and 2023 to be followed by Parliamentary scrutiny and lead in times for industry to prepare.
One barrier to starting on parts of this work had been the delay to the Environment Bill, meaning that the powers needed to implement the ambitions contained in the framework weren’t available. Now that the Environment Bill has been passed into law, we hope that we can move full steam ahead with developing new standards and approaches for specific products or in particular areas as quickly as possible, and creating a world-leading products policy that will reduce emissions and pollutant waste and give customers lower cost and higher quality products.