4 months ago

Digital EU: the Good, the Bad — and the Ugly

  • Text
  • Strategic
  • Cooperation
  • Technologies
  • Economy
  • Innovation
  • Asean
  • Artificial
  • Global
  • European
  • Digital
The European Union has impressive digital ambitions and an equally impressive array of initiatives, proposals, directives and regulations, all designed to make the bloc ‘fit for the digital age’.


DIGITAL INNOVATION Stakeholder Article A European ‘right-to-repair’: The EU Commission needs to clear way for a circulareconomy revolution The right-to-repair could lead to more green jobs, less waste, better consumer protection and ultimately contribute to saving our planet. However, the European Commission has dragged its feet by repeatedly postponing its proposal on the Right to Repair. By SARA MATTHIEU, a Belgian MEP and city councillor in Ghent for the Greens. In the EU and globally, waste from electrical and electronic equipment (known by the acronym, WEEE) has become one of the fastest-growing waste streams, with more than 53m tonnes discarded in 2019. Although the information and communication technology sector accounts for only a small part of the growing demand for critical raw materials, the sector remains highly dependent on these non-renewable resources. Materials like lithium copper and rare-earth elements are often extracted and processed in poor environmental and working conditions. The increasingly high demand for these resources, as well as various crises including the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine, is posing a serious threat to the supply of these resources. Meanwhile, the recycling rates of many critical raw materials remains abysmal. It’s clear that our extractive and linear industrial production system and our throw-away culture affects the planet and impacts workers’ conditions. We need to transition to a more circular economy. In 2018, the International Labour Organisation published a study showing that “a just transition to a more sustainable economy offers much potential for job creation and the promotion of decent work”. To date, labour markets, education and training systems remain inadequately equipped to support the transition to the circular economy. For instance, for every 10,000 tonnes of waste processed per year in the EU, incineration generates just two jobs. Recycling generates 115 jobs, but repair creates up to 404 jobs, according to available data. We need to improve and accelerate skills, training, and certification, in particular in the repair, reuse and reuse sectors both in the context of the European skills agenda and the recovery plans. EU investment programmes and national recovery plans must work hand-in-hand to boost circular skills and good working conditions. That will allow us to seize the full employment potential of the right-to-repair. Good for the economy, great for consumers Moving towards a circular economy can also benefit our consumers and businesses. The shift to a circular economy could help companies to better match their customers’ expectations and societal trends. In fact, 77 percent of consumers in the EU would rather repair their broken devices than buy new ones, according to Eurobarometer. We can strengthen second-hand markets by requiring consumer-friendly designs that aim at empowering citizens. Consumers should have the right to receive more information about the repairability of a product. For example, products could feature a repair score with information on the estimated service life, repair services, the duration of availability of software updates and the price of spare parts. We can then do more to make repair more attractive to consumers, for example by reducing the VAT for spare parts at member-state level. Consumers could also be offered vouchers to (partly) cover the repair of a defective device, as about a third of consumers decide against a repair due to high costs. The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament have repeatedly brought the importance of making repair easy and affordable to consumers to the commission’s attention, like with our “Fix It - Make repairing affordable” action. We need the right-to-repair now The right-to-repair will work hand-inhand with other bold and ambitious policies, such as the Sustainable Product Initiative which introduces circular product design, a digital product passport, mandatory recycled material content in products and more. This entire Sara Matthieu MEP: ‘For every 10,000 tonnes of waste processed per year in the EU, incineration generates two jobs, recycling generates 115 jobs, but repair creates up to 404 jobs’ legislative package must become the leading example of how high consumer protection standards and climate protection work together. Ultimately, the European Union has to seize this opportunity to keep valuable materials and circular jobs within the EU economy. Systemic change in value creation is fundamental. The industrial revolution saw a tenfold increase in humanity’s mechanical and energy capacity, but since then, the people and the planet have had to pay a steep price. A circular economy is the next revolution that will bring about equally fundamental changes, providing a chance for us to improve livelihoods and safeguard the earth, all at the same time. Let’s not wait any longer. European Commission, publish the right-to-repair initiative now. 45

More magazines