A guiding principle of product-related environmental protection is to promote those products on the market which are the best in ecological terms and the most efficient with regard to the consumption of energy and resources. The so-called “Top Runner” approach, developed in Japan, promotes the eco-design and dissimination of products. Although increasing energy and resource efficiency is considered extremely important for ecological modernisation, there has so far been no concept that specifies implementation of the Top Runner model in the EU and takes account of existing promotion instruments. A study conducted by Ökopol, the IÖW and the Leuphana University in Lüneburg and commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) now contributes towards closing this gap.
The study contains starting points for implementing a Top Runner approach at EU level. It addresses the use of the existing mixture of product-policy instruments, strengthening the regulatory “push” of the Ecodesign Directive as well as the importance of mandatory and meaningful communication of energy efficiency. “Pull” instruments are also treated in the study. Efficient frontrunner products could play a greater role in public procurement and in this way a system of incentives could be created for product innovations.
The study also contains conceptual ideas for overall structural and institutional coordination of Top Runner promotion in order to reduce the hitherto fragmented competencies in the EU and thus enhance the dynamics of the regulatory framework. To analyse the starting situation, a benchmark of Top Runner approaches was set in an international context and existing models in e.g. Japan, South Korea, Australia and the USA evaluated.
The long version of the study (only in German language) as well as a short concept paper in English can be downloaded free of charge from the UBA website.
Dirk Jepsen, Norbert Reintjes, Frieder Rubik, Rebecca Stecker, Florian Engel, Patrik Eisenhauer, Thomas Schomerus, Laura Spengler (2011): Product-related top runner approach at EU level, Project No. (FKZ) 363 01 233