Packaging, air quality and business commitments: the Green Deal’s latest push on the eve of the European elections

In the last window available before the election, the Green Deal puzzle is enriched with three new pieces. Today, after its last plenary session before the June elections, the European Parliament approved three key measures of the European Green Agenda: the Packaging Regulation, the Air Quality Directive and the Duty of Care Directive. A significant leap forward for the package of environmental and climate protection measures that has marked the last five years of Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission, becoming one of the most debated issues of the election campaign.

Packaging Regulation

The first measure voted by MPs is the packaging regulation, which is one of the documents that Italy has fought for the most. The aim of the measure is to gradually reduce packaging waste: -5% by 2030, -10% by 2035 and -15% by 2040. In addition, from January 1, 2030, some single-use plastic packaging, such as packaging fresh fruit and vegetables, packaging for food consumed in bars and restaurants, some individual portions of sauces and spices or miniature products for hotel toilets. From 2030, ultra-light plastic bags (those below 15 microns), which can only be used for hygiene reasons or as the primary packaging for bulk food, will also be banned. Bar and restaurant managers will have to offer customers the option to bring their own containers to fill with drinks or ready meals at no extra cost.

Protests (and then satisfaction) Italy

The packaging regulation has been one of the most contested pieces of Green Deal legislation in Italy. Last December, when the EU Council expressed its position on the regulation, the Italian government was the only one to vote against. Among the criticized points of the provision was the requirement for EU countries to introduce so-called “security deposits” for disposable bottles. These are mechanisms already in place in many European countries, where a small deposit is required from the consumer, which is returned in full when the empty bottle is returned to a special collection center. In the final version of the regulation, states are given more flexibility. The text actually sets a common target for everyone to achieve at least 90% separate collection of single-use plastic bottles by 2029. For those who fail to do so, the obligation to introduce a bail system is triggered. In today’s vote in Strasbourg, the majority of MEPs finally supported this measure. Forza Italia, Pd, Italia Viva, Azione, Verdi and M5s gave the green light. The league is against it.

Air quality: exception confirmed for the Po Valley

The European Parliament also finally approved the Air Quality Directive, which sets a long-term goal of eliminating air pollution by 2050. The text voted on today in Strasbourg sets stricter limits on the concentration of toxic substances permitted by law and encourages Member States to implement the necessary measures to improve quality air. Annual limit values ​​allowed for PM2.5 and NO2, two of the most prevalent pollutants, increased from 25 µg/m³ to 10 µg/m³ and from 40 µg/m³ to 20 µg/m³. All of these new targets must be met by 2030. However, there are exceptions. The deadline for reaching these limit values ​​is in fact pushed back to 2040 for all areas “in which compliance with the directive within the specified period would not be possible due to specific climatic or orographic conditions”. This is a change that the Italian government is loudly demanding for the Po Valley, where today we breathe the most polluted air in all of Europe.

Due diligence: appeal to the business world

The third pillar of the Green Deal approved today in Strasbourg is the Corporate Due Diligence Directive. A seemingly technical and difficult-to-decipher problem, which is nevertheless considered essential to achieving the climate goals set by the European Union. The new directive requires companies to prevent, end or mitigate their negative impacts on people and the environment, including child labour, slavery, pollution and biodiversity loss. A provision that only applies to large companies with more than a thousand employees and a turnover of more than 450 million euros. The directive also requires all these companies to put in place a transition plan to bring their business model into line with the global warming targets set by the Paris Agreement of 2015. It will be the European Commission, but the Member States, to ensure effective compliance with all these restrictions. who will be able to impose sanctions of up to 5% of net turnover worldwide.

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