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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Green green Europe-e-bussiness, transport and soil protection

First of all, I'd like to express my utter ecstasy from the new 9 countries in the Shengen zone of EU. For many people that never knew the utter desperation when passing a border in old Europe that may seem like exaggeration, but to those of us that had to suffer hours of anger on those borders that's a lot. So, hooray for the new members of our European Dream and I can't wait for Bulgaria to join Shengen :)

Parliament approves soil strategy despite calls for its dismissal

Overriding a motion by 225 MEPs who argued that there should be 'no rush' to legislate on soil protection, the Parliament has voted in favour of a proposed EU soil protection law that grants considerable flexibility to member states.
The Commission's proposed framework directive on soil, part of its September 2006 soil strategy, defines common principles, objectives and actions but shies away from setting specific targets for member states.
On 9 October, MEPs in the Environment (ENVI) Committee voted in favour of a report, drafted by Spanish centre-right MEP and rapporteur Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines, which calls on member states to list contaminated sites in public inventories that must be updated at least every five years.
The soil dossier is not without controversy. In October, members from the EPP-ED group called, unsuccessfully, for an outright rejection of the proposal on the grounds that it lacked coherence and that more time was needed by member states to study different soil management and protection options.

The environmental impact of e-business and ICT

Scientific assessments of the environmental impact of information and communications technologies (ICT) are generally insufficient, write Lan Yi and Hywel R. Thomas in this paper from the University of Cardiff.

The paper addresses the issue of the environmental impact of ICT by providing a review of previous technological devlopments in this area, giving a critical summary.

In Europe, information technologies have a positive environmental impact, note the authors. They cite examples including the dematerialisation of transport, such as the switch from air travel to videoconferencing, and the digitalisation of information represented by the switch from catalogues to websites.

However, ICT equipment contains toxic and hazardous substances and is energy consuming, the paper says. In this regard, the study outlines three categories of environmental impact for ICT:

  • Environmental impact of business creation and development:
    Manufacturing ICT equipment uses resources and generates carbon emissions. The disposal of ICT equipment also raises environmental concerns;
  • Environmental impact of ICT use in business applications: The use of ICT has a generally positive impact on the environment, for example, the switch from travel to video conferences;
  • Environmental impact of mass use of ICT over the medium to long term: For example, if more and more people work at home due to increased use of ICT, they are more likely to take leisure drives.

Traditional environmental assessment approaches are "insufficient to accommodate the digital technology revolution" and "cannot accommodate the challenge of measuring the impact of ICT on environmental sustainability", concludes the paper.

'Green' transport projects to receive fresh EU cash

Railways and inland waterways will receive the lion's share of EU funding for trans-European transport network (TEN-T) projects for the period 2007 to 2013, the Commission has announced.

The construction of a trans-European transport network (TEN-T), where national networks for all modes of transport are accessible, interconnected and interoperable, is fundamental to securing a single market with free movement of passengers and goods, as well as for reinforcing economic ties and social cohesion and promoting competitiveness and sustainable development in the European Union.

After lengthy negotiations, member states downgraded the Commission's proposals to spend as much as €20 billion to the development of the trans-European transport network, and a total of €8.013 billion was finally allocated to under the multi-annual financial framework 2007-2013 – of which €5.1 billion for 30 priority projects, deemed essential for completing cross-border connections among the EU's 27 member states.

The Commission hopes that the 30 priority axes could be completed by 2020.
The EU is only entitled to contribute to projects at maximum rates of 10 to 30% - depending on the type of project . The rest of the money must come from national or private budgets.

The EU's limited funds available for financing transport infrastructure across Europe, for the period 2007-2013, will be concentrated on projects related to "critical cross-border sections" and on "the most environmentally-friendly transport modes – inland waterways and rail", the EU's Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot told members of Parliament on 21 November.

The Commission received 221 project proposals from member states, with support requests totaling over €11.5 billion. However, with a Community budget limited at just €5.1 billion, the

Commissioner explained that he preferred to concentrate these funds on a limited amount of important projects, rather than spreading them out among all of them. He said this would help create a "leverage" effect and accelerate the realisation of projects important for removing
remaining transport bottlenecks and for the effective functioning of the single market.

Underlining the EU's commitment to sustainable development, Barrot pointed out that inland waterways would receive 11.5% of the total budget. Railways will get 74.2% of total funds, while roads receive just 2.7%.

The Commission is also proposing to allocate funds to two "traffic management" projects aimed at optimising existing infrastructure:
  • €350 million to the SESAR project, which aims to create a 'single European sky' that will help deal with the increasing number of flights that arriving and departing from European airports, while also helping to contribute to fuel savings and cutting CO2 emissions.
  • €100 million for intelligent road transport systems, to help optimise infrastructure capacity, promote intermodality and improve the safety of road networks.
source: EuroAktiv
My comment: I think this is very nice development-after all, we all know how polluting airplanes and cars are, so let's stimulate the other transports and see what will happen.

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