Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hungary and the EU Treaty, eHealth in EU, slovenian presidency, part funding and activists in EU

Hungary first country to ratify new EU Treaty

18 December 2007

With the ink on the new EU Treaty barely having dried after last week's signing ceremony by heads of state and government in Lisbon, Hungary is hoping to set an example of the swift ratification needed to implement the institutional reforms by January 2009.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed the vote as an "expression of Hungarian support for a more effective, democratic and transparent and stronger EU". "It is an important first step in bringing the concrete benefits of the new Treaty into effect. I hope that other member states will follow the lead given by Hungary."

An overwhelming majority of 325 members of parliament voted in favour of the new EU Treaty, with only five opposed and 14 abstentions on Monday (17 December).

"Hungary is behind this new Treaty, which retains the virtues of the Constitution and is also in the interest of Hungary," Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said.

The Lisbon Treaty provides for an institutional overhaul after the draft EU Constitution was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005. The reforms should streamline decision-making, slim down the institutions and create the new posts of a permanent EU president and a foreign representative.

So far, Ireland is the only country expected to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but pressure in the UK is mounting, with the Conservative opposition calling for a public vote. source

Slovenian Presidency wants further progress on Lisbon strategy

An update on the renewed Lisbon strategy on growth and jobs will be a key objective when Slovenia takes over the EU presidency from Portugal on 1 January 2008, according to Slovenian Minister Žiga Turk.

Slovenia will strive to initiate the next three-year cycle of the Lisbon strategy and adopt 'Integrated Guidelines' for economic reform until 2010 at the next EU Spring Council (13-14 March 2008), the government says.

"The very key to success is consistent continuation of the process and implementation of national reform programmes," the Slovenian government points out on its special webpage.

Although no major changes are expected under Slovenia's leadership, efforts will be made to increase research and development (R&D), support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and create flexible labour markets, Slovenia's EU Ambassador Igor Sencar outlined at an EPC conference in Brussels this November.

In an interview in September, Sencar said that the presidency will be "a test of maturity" for his country.

Speaking at the annual SME day in Brussels on 5 June, the Slovenian growth minister Žiga Turk emphasised that "finance is not the biggest problem in Europe. It's the lack of risk-taking that is the main problem".

He added that education and promoting success stories was important and commented that less government interference would benefit SMEs.

Besides further promoting SMEs and simplifying Europe's regulatory environment, business federations such Eurochambres are urging the presidency to push forward with the key European patent system dossier with the aim of finally reaching an agreement. The aim is to achieve a more efficient, workable and business-oriented patent system, according to a Eurochambres dossier on the Slovenian Presidency.

Slovenia itself has reported remarkable progress on the implementation of the Lisbon strategy, according to the government's annual report published in October. Particular progress had been made in the areas of pension reform and measures favouring flexibility on the labour market, Minister Turk said in the latest issue of 'Most', the quarterly bulletin of the Slovenian Business & Research Association. In his words, the Slovenian state budget clearly reflected the development-oriented policy of his country.

"Deficit reduction and a decreased share of public spending in the country's GDP on the one hand, and an increased budget share dedicated to research are clear indicators for this positive trend," Turk said.

The Commission stated on 11 December in its strategic report on economic reform across Europe that the renewed Lisbon Strategy was working but further reforms were needed to succeed in a globalised age.

As a means of better communicating the Lisbon Strategy to citizens, member states should extend the usage of high-speed internet to 30% of the overall EU population by 2010 as proposed by the Commission on 11 December, Turk wrote on Blogactiv.

"This is the kind of goal-setting the internet generation understands," Turk said. source

Party funding reform aims to boost turnout in 2009 EU elections

19 December 2007

The EU institutions yesterday adopted a new regulation designed to raise the profile of European political parties, with a view to raising public awareness of European issues and improving voter turnout ahead of the next European Parliament elections in 2009.

The regulation on European political parties, signed by the presidents of the Commission and Parliament on 18 December, aims to improve the financial stability and flexibility of European parties and paves the way for the creation of European 'political foundations' to better communicate EU issues to citizens and foster pan-European debate.

The regulation builds upon the "Plan D" initiative on democracy, dialogue and debate launched by Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström in 2005, which aims to improve the communication of EU affairs to citizens.

The reforms set aside €10.6 million of EU funding for the election campaigns of ten different European-level political parties in 2008. An additional €5 million will be allocated to the new political foundations envisaged by the regulation.

The foundations, affiliated to EU-level political parties, are expected to contribute to the ideological debate over EU issues by engaging with civil society and academia. "European political foundations will play an important role in involving citizens in a permanent, genuine and informed political dialogue", Wallström said. source

Activists see new lobbying prospects in EU Treaty

14 December 2007

With national parliaments set to gain more powers to scrutinise EU laws, environmental NGOs are hoping that European capitals will offer a new battleground to defend their cause. But others warn that the new powers are essentially defensive and could lead to obstruction.

With new rights to scrutinise EU legislation, national parliaments are widely said to be the greatest winners of the new treaty (EurActiv 5/12/07).

A protocolword on the application of the subsidiarity principle, attached to the treaty, provides that any national parliament (or indeed chamber) may object to EU legislation "within eight weeks" of receiving a draft legislative act. It is then invited to send "a reasoned opinion stating why it considers that the draft in question does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity".

If all national parliaments - agreeing by a one third majority - support the initiative, "the draft must be reviewed" (Article 7). In case the Commission decides to maintain its proposal, the European Parliament or the Council can decide to scrap it (simple majority and 55% of votes required respectively). But the threshold is raised: it would then take a majority of national parliaments to ask the Council or European Parliament to effectively stop a Commission initiative.

The subsidiariy principleexternal was enshrined in the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997. It ensures that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that EU action is justified only where no better alternatives are available at national or regional level. source

Brussels presses for progress on lead markets for eHealth

7 January 2008

The European Commission has called for quick action and strengthened national co-operation on lead market opportunities for eHealth in order to increase economic benefits and improve quality of health services.

Lead markets are high-growth potential markets for research and innovation-rich goods and services. EU initiatives focus on areas where public authorities can facilitate industry-led innovation by creating favourable legal and regulatory frameworks, setting standards, improving access to risk capital, providing support for research and acting as a launch customer.

eHealth has been identified as one of the areas in which an innovation-friendly market can be created for businesses to launch new products and services. eHealth stands for the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across the whole range of functions that affect the health sector - from the doctor to the hospital manager and from data processing to social security administrators and patients.

"The prospective return on investment of eHealth is relatively high when compared to the costs inherent in the health sector," argues a Commission report on accelerating the development of the eHealth market in EuropePdf external , published in late December 2007.

he recommendations, directed at industry, member states and other eHealth stakeholders, focus on four main obstacles to the development of the eHealth lead market, namely:

  • Reducing market fragmentation and lack of interoperability through pilot actions, benchmarking, standardisation and certification;
  • improving legal certainty and consumer acceptance by possibly adopting a legal initiative for eHealth and telemedicine as well as an initiative to enforce personal data protection legislation, disseminating best practice and guidelines;
  • optimising funding opportunities through strengthened national and community R&D co-operation on eHealth; and;
  • improving procurement by facilitating the expression of public demand through more innovation-friendly procurement activities and networking public procurers.

Just days before the publication of the report, the Commission adopted a new strategy on investing public money in high-risk technological research. The initiative seeks to clarify possible conflicts of this type of investment with EU state aid rules and procurement regulations and envisages flexibility for the member states to co-operate with suppliers across borders in risk-benefit sharing. source

My comment:Well, I agree more or less with all the news. It's kind of no comment comment. When something is positive you simply shouldn't spoil it with empty worlds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stricter rules for navy submarines

Judge Imposes Stricter Rules on Navy to Protect Marine Life

Published: January 5, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has ordered the Navy to adopt stringent new safeguards intended to improve protection of whales and dolphins during its sonar training exercises off Southern California.
The ruling, issued Thursday by Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, orders the Navy to limit its use of medium-range sonar to an area beyond 12 nautical miles from shore. Closer to the shore, marine mammals have exhibited frenzied and disoriented behavior during the emissions of sonar blasts as part of the Navy’s practice missions.
Judge Cooper’s order also outlined safeguards, which include a monitoring session one hour before a military exercise to detect the presence of marine mammals, the use of trained aerial lookouts throughout exercises and a mandatory sonar shutdown when mammals are spotted within 2,200 yards of training maneuvers.
The ruling stems from a long-running legal battle between environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Navy, which has argued that mid-frequency sonar is vital to the training of submarine seamen and other crews who now face a new generation of quiet submarines that cannot be detected by traditional passive sonar waves.

A spokesman at the Pentagon said Friday that the Navy was reviewing the judge’s ruling to determine its next move, which could include an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Despite the care the court took in crafting its order,” said the spokesman, Cmdr. Jeff Davis of the Navy, “we do not believe it struck the right balance between national security and environmental concerns.”
The Navy, Commander Davis said, remains especially concerned over the larger safety buffer zone now offered to protect marine mammals. Additionally, he said, Navy experts worry that some restrictions may make it difficult to adequately train submarine crews in certain underwater warfare techniques.
A senior lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Joel Reynolds, said the order established a precedent for court cases in other jurisdictions, although it applied only to a specific set of military exercises used in Southern California.
“Although the court’s order recognizes the Navy’s need to train with sonar for our national defense,” Mr. Reynolds said, “this is the most significant environmental mitigation that a federal court has ever ordered the U.S. Navy to adopt in its training with mid-frequency sonar.”

My comment: We often talk here for the environmenatal issues in EU, so I thought it would be a nice for a change to see how this is done in USA. I like the direction it's going. I don't see how training of seamen involve the national security. Yes, on an abstract level, yes, but on more practical-they'll just have to be more careful when they are in the open sea. I hope that verdict stays.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Airlines to join the massacre and billions over research in EU, hopefully.

State-funded research gets Commission green light

The Commission has cleared the way for member states to invest public money in high-risk technological research, in a new strategy that seeks to clarify possible conflicts with EU state aid rules and procurement regulations.

The Commission adopted, on 14 December 2007, a new strategy on investing public money in high-risk technological research.

The aim of the CommunicationPdf external on Pre-commercial procurement: Driving innovation to ensure sustainable high quality public services in Europe is to give the green light to procurers of innovative new products and services that address the needs of tomorrow. It thus identifies some flexibility for the member states in this area.

The new strategy "gives a green light to drive new innovative solutions to meet the challenges of the future, to co-operate with suppliers in risk benefit sharing and to co-operate across borders [...] without coming into conflict with state aid rules, procurement regulations or WTO obligations," explained Ulf Dahlsten from the Commission.

It is also expected to help reduce the research investment gap with the United States, as the European public sector has enormous purchasing power of €1,700 billion but currently only 0.15% (less than €3 billion) is used for procuring the research and development of new products and services.

According to the Commission, the US spends some €35 billion (2.5% of their purchasing power), mostly on defence, but also on health and energy. If European procurers used 2.5% of their purchasing power to procure the R&D of new innovative products and services, it would amount to some €40 billion for that purpose. source

My comment: Just pay attention to the billions being discussed.

EU states agree on airline emission trading plan

Ministers from the EU’s 27 member states overcame their differences regarding the details of plans to include aviation in the bloc’s CO2 cap-and-trade scheme, sending out a “very strong political signal” to the rest of the world on the need to take concrete measures on climate change.

In an effort to tackle aviation's small but fast-growing contribution to climate change, the Commission issued a legislative proposal in December 2006 to include the sector in the EU's emission trading scheme (EU-ETS) – similarly to other energy-intensive industries, including chemical and steel production.

The proposal involves imposing a cap on CO2 emissions for all planes arriving or departing from EU airports, while allowing airlines to buy and sell 'pollution credits' on the EU 'carbon market'.

Meeting on 20 December, at the last Environment Council of 2007, ministers succeeded in reaching a compromise on the details of including aviation activities in the ETS, but their failure to beef up the levels of ambition compared to the original proposal from the Commission could lead them to clash with Parliament next year, when the text goes to second reading (for more information on the first reading vote in Parliament, see EurActiv 14/11/07).

The main divergences surrounded starting dates for the scheme, the amount of CO2 allowances that airlines should receive for free and the question of what should be done with the money raised from auctioning pollution permits.

Under the final compromise in Council:

  • All airlines flying to and from EU territory would join the scheme in 2012. Ministers, like MEPs, thus rejected the Commission's proposal that international flights should be given an extra year and ignored threats from third countries, including the US, that they would instigate legal action if the EU attempts to unilaterally force them to comply with the scheme;
  • airlines would be required to maintain emission levels at average 2004-2006 levels, which is bound to disappoint MEPs, who had agreed on a 10% reduction and environmentalists that were demanding much bigger cuts;
  • in accordance with the Commission’s proposal, 90% of pollution permits would be distributed to airlines for free. MEPs had demanded at least 25% auctioning, saying that otherwise airlines would make windfall profits by passing on non-existent costs to their passengers. Many also feel that auctioning is the only way all airlines would be treated in the same way.
  • the question of how to use revenues from emission allowance sales was resolved by stating that the money “should” be invested in climate change mitigation measures but that ultimately the decision is left to member states. The UK and Germany had been insistent on this point, rejecting a request from Parliament that the money raised be used to compensate for a lowering of "taxes and charges on climate-friendly transport such as rail and bus";
  • no measures are proposed for dealing with the additional climate impacts caused by Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) other pollutant emissions from airplanes. MEPs had called for the cost of all CO2 permits bought by airlines to be multiplied by two unless legislation was enacted to address this;
  • airlines with very low traffic levels on routes to, from or within the EU would be exempt, so that, for example, operators from developing countries, with only limited air traffic links with the EU, will be exempt. Air services of public utilities would also be excluded, and;
  • 3% of total allowances will be set aside in a special reserve and handed out for free to new entrants or very fast-growing airlines. (WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT??? Since when fast-growing airlines are better than the non-growing ones?)
Green groups were however disappointed with the compromise, underlining that it would allow the aviation industry to pollute around 90% more than in 1990 when it joins the EU emissions trading scheme – in complete contradiction with the Kyoto target of -8% based on 1990 levels.

João Vieira, of Transport and Environment (T&E) said, "If environment ministers get their way, the scheme simply won't cut emissions, and will end up being yet another subsidy to the aviation industry. It's a shameful end to a year filled with promise for action on climate change."

Environmentalists also lamented that the Council had failed to take up the Parliament’s proposal on applying a multiplier on the price of allowances bought by airlines from other sectors to make up for the effect of other aviation emissions on the climate.

My comment: Well, I think the list gives pretty good idea of what will be voted. For me, this is a step behind in the fight with Global Warming and for Cleaner Earth. Once again, the most protected are the airlines companies. At least the international airplanes will have to pay too. Because it would be very strange to make local companies pay while letting international go.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The new social toys of Europe

Commission hails EU reform progress, calls for more

Despite much-improved results over the past two years, EU governments will have to focus more on "investing in people" and "unlocking SMEs' business potential" in the next three years if they are to cope with the competitive challenge of globalisation, the Commission has said.

After five years of dismal results, EU leaders, in March 2005, re-launched the bloc's Lisbon Strategy aimed at making it "the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010".

Two essential elements of the "Lisbon renewal" included a greater emphasis on growth and jobs, and transferring more ownership of the strategy to the member states via national action plans.

EU policies to boost jobs and growth in the 27 member states – the so-called Lisbon Strategy – are finally paying off, according to a report, published by the Commission on 11 December 2007, which will be delivered to Heads of State and Government when they meet for their annual Spring economic summit in March 2008.

Economic growth jumped from 1.8% in 2005 to 3% in 2006 and employment rates reached 66% - close to the Lisbon target of 70%.

It suggests that governments should continue on the same path they have been following so far but with a special focus on a few "high-impact actions", including:

  • Connecting at least 30% of the EU population and all schools to high-speed internet by 2010;
  • improving basic learning skills, such as reading; setting targets to reduce early-school leaving; and; adapting school curricula in accordance with constant monitoring of companies' skills requirements;
  • increasing availability and affordability of quality childcare;
  • adopting the Commission's "blue card" proposal for a skills-based immigration policy (EurActiv 24/10/07);
  • fostering SME growth by pushing through a comprehensive "Small Business Act", aimed at cutting red tape, increasing SMEs' access to European programmes and public procurement, and reducing barriers to cross-border activity through the creation of a European small company statute (EurActiv 15/05/07).
  • encouraging innovation by agreeing on an integrated patent jurisdiction and a single affordable patent;
  • facilitating the exchange of researchers with the introduction of a "researcher passport"; and;
  • completing the internal market for energy, including setting mandatory energy reduction targets for government buildings and systematically including energy efficiency as the one of the award criteria for public procurement.


Electronic customs deal to boost EU traders' competitiveness

The European Parliament has paved the way for the introduction of less costly, "paper-free" customs procedures between EU countries, after approving a Commission proposal to ensure that member states' electronic customs systems are compatible with each other.

The vote, which took place on 11 December and confirmed a common positionPdf external reached by member states over the summer, means that by 2011, companies will be able to electronically lodge all the information required by customs authorities for cross-border movements of goods within the EU.

While all member states already have electronic customs systems, the novelty will be in the inter-connection of all of these systems and the creation of a common electronic portal containing all the information relating to customs transactions in each member state.

The MEP in charge of steering the legislation through Parliament, Chris Heaton-Harris (UK, EPP-ED) explained: "Today, despite heavy investment in automated customs, member states use different systems, sets of rules and databases. Their huge disadvantage is the lack of interoperability. This new proposal requires member states to make a substantial allocation of resources to overcome this problem and provide a truly streamlined customs system."

The next move, expected within five years, will be the creation of a single contact point for all economic operators, irrespective of their country of origin or the destination of their goods. This will allow traders to deal with just one regulatory body instead of several border control authorities, as they do at present.source

My comment: Finally something useful! It was about time to see that international system becoming more achievable.

ICT networks prerequisite for healthcare at home

Technologies to deliver healthcare at home can ease the burden of chronic disease in an ageing Europe, but an integrated network enabling interconnection of different medical devices and linking patients to doctors and hospitals needs to be put in place first, argue public sector representatives.

Homecare' refers to a wide range of health and social services delivered at home.

The ageing population is rapidly leading to an increase in the number of Europeans dependent on care and a modification of disease patterns, making chronic-degenerative diseases more prevalent. This, combined with shrinking healthcare and nursing workforces, has led experts and policymakers to consider homecare as a long-term solution.

Technology, particularly active devices such as dialysis systems, wrist-worn monitoring devices and biomedical clothes, can add to the quality of homecare. However, several barriers to the take-up of such technology exist. These include financial, organisational and legal issues as well as privacy concerns, data protection and interoperability.

The European Homecare ConferencePdf external , which took place on 4 December 2007, gathered policymakers, industry representatives and patient groups to discuss the organisation and financing of homecare, the need for integrated homecare services, the impact of healthy technology and the health policy challenges for decision-makers.

In the session on the impact of health technology on homecare, the medical device industry urged for existing technologies to be taken up more quickly, whereas the Commission and a regional representative emphasised the need to put in place health information and communication networks first.

"Even though the technology is there, its uptake in the homecare sector is too slow because of the financial hurdles and the rigid organisation of healthcare," said Rosanna Tarricone, director of Eucomed economic affairs.


EU's new defence procurement initiative broadly welcomed

The Commission has presented its new defence package, saying it would bring the EU closer to its long-term goal of setting up a 'genuine European defence market' for military equipment, in a move applauded by politicians and the defence industry.

The package, presented on 5 December, contains the following three elements:

  • A Communication with recommendations for fostering the competitiveness of the sector;
  • a Directive on defence procurement to enhance openness and intra-European competition in the national defence market; and;
  • a Directive on intra-EU transfers of defence products.

The proposed new legislation should contribute to "creating a genuine European market in this sector without sacrificing member states' control over their essential defence and security interests", the Commission said.

Current EU procurement rules were "ill-suited to most defence and security equipment", according to the Commission.

The Commission expressed its hope that the proposal would "pave the way for increasing industrial cooperation and optimising supply chains" and make a "crucial contribution to a more competitive European industrial and technological defence industrial base".

The Commission's initiative complements the Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement launched in July 2006, which covers contracts placed outside of EU internal market

'Communication dimension' needed for European research

The Commission wants to strengthen the culture of science communication in Europe in order to avoid misperceptions that could lead to public opposition to scientific advances and thus lost innovation opportunities.

In the framework of the creation of the European Research Area (ERA), the Commission aims to promote effective public communication of scientific research activities and results. The EU executive thinks that "the media can play a crucial role as an interface in the science domain, helping to increase public support and understanding regarding the need to create a knowledge-based society".

Furthermore, science communication "could contribute to encouraging investments in research and justifying public funding" as well as attracting more European young people to careers in science to contribute to the EU's future competitiveness.

A reportPdf external on research and societal engagement by the Commission's own research advisory board (EURABexternal ), published in June 2007, stated that researchers should remain aware of "how the actions of the past have generated negative public perceptions of research today (regarding issues arising from nuclear energy, GMOs and pesticides) and that better dialogue with the public either directly or via the societal actors could have prevented much of the friction and lost potential innovative developments in these research fields."

Steve Miller also said that specialised science magazines such as Nature should consider having a short section "vulgarising" their full scientific articles, so that research results would get more media coverage in the general press.


My comment: Well, as a scientist I think it's important to popularize the researches and the new discoveries which I do with my other blog To The Future With Love

But if we want to get real, you can't require this from anyone. Science is busy and hard enough if you have to deal with scientist, what will happen if you have to comply the public opinion? I mean, yes, people have to know what's going on in their world. But the fun and the drama are necessary evil, while making the science a popular vote will simply kill it. We need independence, because not always our guts can be justified for the public. And that doesn't mean that because of the same gut, it's not possible 50 years later to be made the greatest discovery ever. It's a game of chance.

You can read my official opinion here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

EU on the climate, December, in short

EP vote paves way for tighter EU air quality rules

Following an agreement with the Council, Parliament voted by a large majority on 11 December in favour of air quality legislation that sets new limits on fine particle pollution in the EU.

The Commission's proposed Air Quality Directive seeks to group five existing pieces of legislation into one, and focuses on reducing emissions of key airborne pollutants, in particular fine dust particles that are blamed for a range of health problems. source

UK looks to lead in offshore wind power

The UK has announced plans to build an unprecedented 33 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by 2020, surpassing Denmark in sea-based wind power output. But sceptics questioned whether the turbines will ever be built.

The plan, announced on 10 December in Berlin by UK industry secretary John Hutton, would represent a major step for the UK in meeting its obligations towards the EU's target of 20% renewable energy use by 2020.

"The draft plan I'm setting out today could allow companies to develop up to 25 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2020, in addition to the eight gigawatts already planned”, Hutton said.

If built, the combined 33 gigawatt capacity would be enough to power every home in the country, according to the government. Construction of the necessary wind turbines would be preceded by an environmental impact assessment of the seas surrounding the UK coastline.

And Alan Duncan, Tory shadow industry secretary, said the announcement looked much like a similar announcement made five years earlier, which never materialised.


'Travelling food' causes environmental headaches

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2007

Europeans' taste for processed food imported at low cost from developing countries has far-reaching environmental consequences, argues a study which aims to provoke discussion on the issue.

"Europeans are eating – and importing – more food from outside the EU than ever before," concludes a study on 'European Food Systems in a Changing World', the results of which were presented in November 2007.

The multidisciplinary studyexternal examined how complex technological and policy factors, including CAP reform, will affect the interactions between food availability, access and use. The research looked at where food comes from, and how it gets from the field to the fork. By studying what Europeans eat, scientists hope to understand the economic, political, and cultural impacts of food on European society.

Regarding the impact of Europeans' growing taste for overseas foods, the study foresees a "greater impact on the environment", mainly due to protective packaging for transport. "On average, 5% of what we buy in supermarkets is packaging," said Watkiss. In addition, food travelling around the globe results results in "more road congestion, greater damage to infrastructure, and higher emissions of pollutants, including greenhouse gases".


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Post-Bali fever

Bali progress on forests and tech transfers despite EU-US row

With the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali set to wind up amidst outrage over US-led opposition to binding emissions cuts, delegates have agreed to include efforts to curb deforestation and to promote clean technology transfers to developing countries in the Bali 'roadmap'.

Efforts to mitigate the loss of tropical forests, particularly in the Amazon basin, parts of Africa and South-East Asia, will feature in the climate change negotiation roadmap to be finalised in Bali today (14 December).

Deforestation accounted for 20% of global CO2 emissions in the 1990s, according to UN figures, and the ability of tropical and other forests to sequester CO2 is considered crucial for mitigating climate change.

But while the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows developing countries to implement afforestation and reforestation projects, progress has so far been limited, and substantive talks on reducing CO2 emissions from deforestation began only two years ago following the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal (COP 11).

Bali paves the way for an expansion of the system. While details of the plans remain subject to negotiations, developing countries will be able to benefit from a so-called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD) scheme, whereby certified preserved forest areas can be traded as carbon offset credits to developed countries, according to 11 December statements by Indonesia's foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda.

The efforts will receive a boost from the World Bank, which in October announced a new $300 million forest preservation fund as well as a $200 million pilot programme that features carbon credits granted in exchange for the prevention of deforestation.

Meanwhile, developing countries will also benefit from a new clean technology transfer mechanism (EurActiv 13/12/07).source

My comment: So, if I understand it correctly, developing countries may trade their credits (which suppose preserved forests which they don't have) to developed countries. Which basically says-developed countries will emit more and pay to developing to stay developing. Nice...

Bali paves way for two years of tough negotiations

The UN climate talks in Bali wrapped up on 15 December, producing a two-year negotiation 'roadmap' to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New climate change adaptation funds, anti-deforestation mechanisms and technology transfers are seen as Bali's main achievements.

Binding commitments or targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as advocated by the EU, were rejected by the US and other countries.

The text of the roadmap states that the parties will agree to "measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions, including quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives, by all developed country parties, while ensuring the comparability of efforts among them, taking into account differences in their national circumstances".

Developing countries are to adopt "nationally appropriate mitigation actions".


My comment: Check out the source-site to see details on the history of the fight for the Climate as well as some opinions on it. I'm speechless on the result of Bali. Check out here for the review of Avaaz (eco-organization) of the outcome of the event, check the already mentioned source-site at EuroAktiv and compare. It seems to me that the only positive outcome is the common joy of everyone involved. Just like in Bulgarian elections everyone wins. Always! Just the people loose.

Climate change and deforestation 'a vicious cycle', says WWF

Climate change and deforestation of the Amazon forest reinforce each other as global warming leads to forests being damaged by drought, reducing their capacity to absorb greenhouse gases and releasing billions of tons of extra C02 to the atmosphere, warns a WWF report.

"The point of no return may be closer than we think," warns a WWF reportPdf external about the changes underway in the world's largest tropical forest in the Amazon. It argues that the changes "could lead to extensive conversion and degradation of the Amazon forests over the next 15-25 years".

Furthermore, it states that if rainfall declines 10% in the future, as predicted by climate change scientists, "then an additional 4% of the forests will be damaged by drought". This is why the report refers to the Amazon and climate relationship as "a vicious cycle of climate change and deforestationexternal ".

It argues that the growing world demand for soybeans, biofuel and meat are speeding up deforestation in the Amazon as farmers and ranchers convert their forest reserves to agriculture and pasture in a drive for increased profitability.

However, "there is still time to lower the risk of widespread Amazon forest degradation and the acceleration of global warming that it would stimulate,"

These include, in particular, protecting the forest from fire. If protected from fire, the rainfall functions of primary forests will stabilise within 15 years and "each year of fire-free recovery that goes by, the flammability of the forest declines and the amount of rain cloud forming vapour that is pumped into the atmosphere increases." source

My comment: Well, at least one outcome from Bali has any positive side for the Planet.

Low-carbon technologies in the post-Bali period

Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)

Firms' reduction commitments that give carbon a value will be 'critical' in any post-2012 climate change agreement in order to create a framework where innovation for climate change technologies flourishes, the authors of a December CEPS paper suggest.

In their opinion, such a framework offers the "best prospect of a competitive edge, technological leadership, export markets and employment opportunities".

The CEPS analysis outlines three fronts on which technology plays "a fundamental role in advancing efforts to address climate change":

  • Accelerating the deployment of existing low-carbon technologies;
  • developing and deploying new breakthrough technologies for the longer term (beyond 2030), which requires stepping up the speed and scale of innovation; and;
  • avoiding, at the same time, locking-in high-carbon technologies in developing countries.

"Domestic responses will remain the backbone of technology policy for addressing climate change", the authors say, adding, however, that there is also a need for separate and cooperative, technology-specific research, development and deployment at a global level.

Additional technology activities are needed to increase the scale of development, remove barriers, and develop financial and policy responses for key climate change technologies.source

My comment: As I already stated, technology and innovations are critical for any realistic reduction of our emission. We really have to change our perspective and search for the solution not in the brute power and new fancy ways of using oil and gas, but in brand new greener technologies!

Monday, January 21, 2008

(Not so) green Europe-the smell of money

EU member states call for increased industrial use of biomass

Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France and Luxembourg are calling for a new EU action plan to promote the use of biomass for the chemicals, construction and packaging industries, which are concerned that excessive biofuels production may undermine their raw materials base.

In a memorandum presented to agriculture ministers on 17 December, the group of member states calls for a new EU action plan to "promote the material and industrial recovery of renewable resources in the EU".

Manufacturers of chemicals as well as paper and packaging products in particular have expressed concerns that the EU's drive to increase the use of bio-energy for heating and transport may lead to a shortage of 'renewable' raw materials commonly used by these industries.

While natural fats and vegetable oils, for example, are burnt for energy, they are also used to make soaps, paints, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. "As such, we are unable to compete for these limited raw materials due to the massive distortion in competition created by legislation", argued the European oleochemical industry in February 2005 press statement.

In their memorandum, the group of member states propose that threats to these industries from increased use of biofuels should be corrected "by setting development targets.

The new plan should supplement existing EU action plans on biomass and biofuels for energy use, according to the memorandum

Specific measures proposed in the memorandum include a change in state aid rules and tax breaks to encourage and reward the use of raw materials that have a "positive link with climate policy". Additional "guidance and support measures" for farmers who produce "non-food crops" are also proposed, as well as new standards and eco-labels.

"In the agricultural sector, this European action plan will of course have to be based on the principle that the cultivation of crops for the purpose of producing materials and industrial raw materials must comply with agricultural good practices that protect the soil, water, air and biodiversity", the memorandum notes.

Sustainability issues and the use of genetically modified organsims (GMOs) during agricultural production of industry raw materials were highlighted in July, when the Commission approved the cultivation by chemical giant BASF of a special inedible potato used for industrial starch production.

Meanwhile, the climate change benefits of biomass were put into question by a recent EU-funded studyexternal , which showed that "between 50% and 70% of carbon pollution in winter comes from sources such as wood fires in homes and buildings and the burning of agricultural and garden waste". source

My comment: As much as I hate to say it, this plan smells of money. It's great, of course, to involve the industry into the use of bio-mass and quite correct. When they see there is profit in eco-friendly materials, they'll research for them also.

But I don't like one of the trends. We can't get into the mass-production of bio-mass on the place of new, better technology, nor to produce GMo crops on our soil. Edible or not, if the potato is used to feed the cattle, it gets into our food chain and we eat it. Thus, it's not SAFE!

EU eyes common energy market with Mediterranean

Ministers from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East agreed, on 17 December, to a six-year Action Plan which ultimately aims to create "a common Euro-Mediterranean energy market" based on free competition and reciprocal access to energy markets.

Meeting for the 5th Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Energy in Cyprus, the 37 countries pledged to gradually harmonise their energy legislation and policies, and improve gas and electricity interconnections among themselves. The joint declaration also foresees the integration, in the longer term, of other countries, including Libya and sub-Saharan nations, into the Euro-Mediterranean energy market.

Ministers further agreed to work together to diversify energy sources, including through the development of low-carbon sources and renewables, and support the deployment of energy-efficient technologies.

As part of the Action Plan, the EU has said it will spend more than €3.2 billion on infrastructure projects of common interest over the next four years. Some notable projects include the establishment of a Maghreb-Europe pipeline and of a trans-Saharan pipeline that would allow Europe to import Nigerian gas via Algeria. Setting up electricity interconnections between Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and their EU neighbours Spain, Italy and Greece will also be a key focus.source

My comment: Again, the smell of money! We want to be eco-nation and still make contracts for more oil and gas with Africa. Hmmm, is this a controversy or we can phrase Ayn Rand sentence for EU-In EU there are no controversies if you see one-check the flow of the money! Oh, wait, that goes for the whole world!

Agriculture ministers keep pesticides deal under wraps

The Agriculture Council has reached a political agreement on controversial new EU rules governing pesticide use. But the content of the agreement is being kept from the public until January, fuelling speculation that the Portuguese EU Presidency is trying to 'bury' the file before the holidays.

Under the agreement reached on 17 December, EU agriculture ministers agreed that national authorities should be allowed to designate 'appropriately-sized' buffer zones around bodies of water where pesticide use is prohibited./yeah, 30 cm is very appropriate distance, don't you think?/

Ministers also voted in favour of a ban on aerial pesticide spraying, with certain derogations for Bulgaria and Romania, where geological and climatic conditions apparently leave few alternatives to aerial spraying. /uh, whaaat? what conditions?/

But the Council did not take on board a number of stricter measures to restrict pesticide use as advocated by the Parliament during its first reading vote on 23 October, ENDS Europe reported.

In particular, ministers rejected EP calls for national reduction targets to halve the use of high risk and highly toxic pesticide by 2013, according to one stakeholder group close to the discussions. source

My comment: Well, yeah, no problems. Words are BIG enough, no need of actions...What a shame to my beloved EU! Of course we have to take into account all the details, but I fail to see what fundamental difference that new legislation does. It's simply useless!

EU car emissions plan faces difficulties

Just a day before the Commission is due to adopt proposals to regulate CO2 emissions from cars, key figures are still missing on how cuts should be divided among manufacturers of small and large vehicles and on the levels of penalty that should be imposed.

The timing of the proposals was intended to confirm the EU's leading role in the fight against climate change, following a two-week UN climate conference in Bali (EurActiv 17/12/07), but severe divisions between member states as well as between Commissioners Günter Verheugen, in charge of enterprise and industry, and Stavros Dimas, responsible for the environment, mean the plan could be put off until the new year.

According to Chris Davies, the British Liberal MEP, an internal draft of the Commission's proposal still states only that the size of the reductions to be achieved by each manufacturer should be calculated using a formula "based on the equation AxB+C, where B is the mass of each car, while A and C have 'still to be determined'". /yeah!/

Nevertheless, in an attempt to ensure that individual carmakers are not singled out, the Commission intends to allow manufacturers to team up in order to share out the burden of meeting their goals. This would mean, for example, that BMW, whose average fleet emissions in 2006 still stood at over 180g/km, could team up with France's Peugeot-Citroën, whose fleet emits just 142g/km, in order to submit an average figure for the complete range of vehicles they produce. However, it would be up to manufacturers to negotiate such "pool" arrangements.

The Commission is also expected to propose a system where fines for failing to meet the emission targets are phased in over three years.

But the size of these penalties is also proving to be a source of controversy, with fees yet undecided.

The Portuguese Presidency is expected to propose postponing the inclusion of aviation in the EU's emissions trading scheme until 2012 for intra-EU flights, while intercontinental flights would stay out of the scheme until as late as 2013. "Given the warnings from scientists, this is completely unacceptable since we should start earlier in order to really limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2015," said Liese (see LinksDossier on aviation and ETS). source

My comment: Simply no comment! I know Germany is big power in the EU, but that can't justify what they're doing on this issue! They are ruining everything. You can comply with the companies, you must set the conditions and let them work out the rest. Especially when you're not asking for the impossible. The way they act now, they're setting very bad example for future tough decisions.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

US states eye EU-style measures for curbing plane emissions

US states eye EU-style measures for curbing plane emissions

The Bush administration's staunch opposition to an EU plan to cap emissions from planes flying to and from Europe has come under attack as a number of American states called for US airlines to be included in a similar scheme.

In a petition released on 5 December, the States of California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania as well as the District of Columbia and the City of New York joined environmental groups in calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from domestic and foreign aircraft departing or landing at American airports.
The paper highlights airlines' "disproportionate impact on global warming" and suggests implementing a cap-and-trade system, similar to the one that the EU wants to introduce as of 2011, which would force all airlines flying over US territory to buy carbon credits for emissions exceeding the legal limit.

The EU plans have come under sharp criticism from US officials, who insist that the EU has no right to unilaterally force US airlines to comply with its scheme and have threatened legal action.

However, the petition defends the right of countries to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from foreign aircraft operating within their airspace, saying it is consistent both with general principles of international law and obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"International law requires nations to ensure that activities within their territory do not cause transboundary environmental harm […] International law also recognises the sovereign right of nations to regulate activities within their jurisdiction or control, especially where those activities adversely affect the health and welfare of their own citizens," it states.
The EPA said it would review the petition, which was timed to coincide with a major UN climate conference taking place from 3-14 December in Bali, where representatives from 187 countries are discussing a global warming treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

However, the agency noted that the US has already invested more than $37 billion on science, technology and tax incentive programmes relating to climate change and that the airline industry has already made significant progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The US Air Transport Association also reacted negatively to the proposals, saying: "We also do not believe that it is necessary to establish a greenhouse gas emissions standard for aircraft engines when the commercial airlines already are driven to be as fuel efficient and environmentally conscious as possible," said spokesman David Castelveter.

My comment: I'm firmly after EU position-every country has a right to require from companies using its sources (such as air) to obey certain rules. It's just natural. You can't come in my home and throw your garbage, because you do it home. However, I would like to see more compliency from European companies first. As much as I worship EU, I still don't see enough physical action. And words are just words, they don't change anything. Only actions do.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bali summit-who's going after what

Alejandro Litovsky, Open Democracy

The current climate change summit in Bali could be "a milestone towards real progress on climate change" and therefore needs to identify ways to "link the emission reductions to incentives for cleaner, alternative paths for growth", argues Alejandro Litovsky in an Open Democracy commentary. "The principal challenge for climate diplomacy is to engage actors across energy-sector divides and ensure they support the climate process," according to the author.
The commentary cautions that "the climate problem cannot be solved without transforming the energy sector," adding that "this is a difficult task, but also an urgent one."

"The diplomatic task is to make room for a large-scale transition to renewable energy," the Open Democracy commentary argues. There are 3 desired outcomes:

  • Gain support from trade rules and the WTO for the climate agenda as the Kyoto dispute settlement mechanisms do not adequately consider trade-related disputes.

  • Continue to build on existing initiatives from the private financial sector such as the UNEP "finance initiative", the "HSBC climate partnership" or the "investor network" on climate risk, with the objective of developing an coordinated approach in which stronger commitments from private investors to finance renewable energy can strengthen "country commitments" to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Achieve stronger commitments from multilateral agencies to address emission reductions. Multilaterals should help decrease the dependency of developing countries on carbon-based technologies, not lock them into a technology-path dependency.

Litovsky concludes by saying that 2008-09 is "a crucial period to re-engineer the global climate architecture" and "we will fail our targets for 2050 unless we act now". source:EuroAktiv
Interview: Barroso sets 2009 'deadline' for UN climate deal
"Our main objective is to achieve a clear commitment to start negotiations towards an agreement on how to tackle climate change after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires," Barroso told EurActiv.
Earlier in October, the EU's 27 environment ministers set out a number of "building blocks" for a future global climate deal, laying down eight criteria about how the agreement should look. This included a commitment to limit global average temperature rises to 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and "fair and effective contributions" by developing countries to achieving this goal (see EurActiv 3/12/07).
China, for instance, is the focus of increasing international attention as it is believed to already have overtaken the US as the world's largest emitter in 2006. However, it is unwilling to commit to binding cuts unless all industrialised countries, including the United States, follow suit.
"I am cautiously optimistic that we can reach a consensus" about China in Bali, said Barroso, who has just come back from an official visit there.
A number of EU countries, led by France, are pushing for a so-called border adjustment tax to be slapped on goods imported from countries which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. They argue that energy-intensive industries such as chemicals and steelmaking put them at a competitive disadvantage and threaten to delocalise their production to countries which have less stringent environmental regulations.
"The European Union will seek to protect but not enter into protectionism," Barroso warned when asked about the possibility of introducing such a tax at EU level.
However, he says the Commission is concerned about creating "a level playing field" and considers it "important" to address CO2 emissions concerns "for specific industries".
"It would be neither good environmental policy nor economically viable if energy-intensive industries were to leave Europe and emit emissions, perhaps even higher ones, outside Europe," Barroso said.source: EuroAktiv
My comment: I am for that tax-not to encourage protectionism-but to show other countries that they cannot exploit and abuse our concern for the Nature. Because it's easy to just switch the location and start polluting elsewhere, but in the end, it's all on the same planet. And even worse, the new countries will be probably still developping and thus with lower standards for the emission thus, those companies will pollute even more! I am really FOR this tax!

Debate heats up over Europe's 'carbon competitiveness'

While delegates from over 190 nations meet in Bali to set a negotiating framework for a post-2012 global regime to reduce CO2 emissions, Europe's energy intensive industries have expressed concerns about how they will fare in a new world order with a potentially high carbon price tag.

The EU is expected to play a crucial role during the Bali talks, as its CO2 trading mechanism - the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) - is seen as a key building block in the construction of any future international emissions trading system.
EU leaders have also put forward an ambitious wish list for the Bali talks, and in March EU leaders committed to 30% reduced CO2 emission reductions by 2020 under the condition that a global post-Kyoto deal, featuring a US commitment to binding CO2 cuts, is agreed.
But despite the EU's stated ambitions at Bali, within the EU there are doubts as to whether the bloc is technologically and financially able, and willing, to live up to EU's international 'green' reputation.

The list:

  • Tightening the carbon belt -even if other nations level the playing field by applying a carbon trading mechanism similar to the EU ETS, Europe's global competitiveness would likely suffer in a 'carbon competitive' world since the carbon-intensity of EU exports is higher than those of China, the US and other exporters.

  • Towards a two-track carbon market? -Creating international sectoral agreements, as mentioned by Barroso, would allow energy intensive industries to operate under a separate carbon regime based on emissions reduction targets agreed by the industries, effectively sheltering the sector from a severe increase in operating costs related to clean technology upgrades or the purchasing of emissions credits from projects in developing countries. (/I strongly oppose this one, because it doesn't make sense- if the most polluting industries are being "sheltered" from any clean technology upgrades, then what are we talking about at all?/)


EU, US eye WTO free trade pact for climate-friendly goods

As world leaders meet in Bali to outline a new global climate regime, the EU and the US have launched a joint push for an international deal on eliminating tariffs on green technologies in the hope of opening up new market opportunities for business.

In March 2007, EU leaders committed to addressing the challenge of climate change through a unilateral 20% cut in CO2 emissions by 2020, adding they would up this target to 30% if other developed nations joined them.
However, countries such as the United States and Australia are opposed to binding targets, for fear that they could harm the global competitiveness of their energy-intensive industries, including chemical and steel production, by causing them either to delocalise to countries with less stringent environmental norms or face significant losses in market share.
While these questions remain hypothetical for most countries, they are already a reality for EU member states, which have been subject to carbon caps ever since the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme came into force in 2005.

However, policymakers will first have to scrutinise World Trade Organisation legislation, as it remains far from clear whether some of the measures under consideration would be compatible with international trade rules.

On 30 November, the EU and the US announced what they termed "a ground-breaking proposal" for a WTO-wide deal on the full elimination of tariffs on 43 products identified by the World Bank as environmentally-friendly. The deal would come under the current "Doha" negotiations on trade liberalisation.
Such a pact, which would cover items such as solar panels and wind turbines, has been strongly advocated by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who claims it will foster the development of green products by making them more easily available to all nations and create opportunities for European industries, which lead the market in alternative energy technologies.
The joint move underscores the determination of many EU and US leaders to pursue an offensive business and climate agenda.


  • Preferential market access for "green technologies"?Although the Doha Round already includes a mandate for freeing up trade in environmental goods and services (EGS), progress so far has been hindered due to a disagreement over which products should be covered.

  • Subsidies for renewables and green technologies? Governments are increasingly introducing support schemes for green technologies such as biofuels, despite the fact that the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures prohibits subsidies directed at specific industries or sectors.
    In a resolution adopted on 29 November, the European Parliament called on the Commission to press its trade partners for a review of WTO rules on subsidies and anti-dumping so that environmental subsidies would no longer be actionable, while, on the other hand, failure to comply with global, social and environmental agreements would be considered as forms of dumping or undue subsidies

  • Border tax adjustments?
    The imposition of a 'carbon tax' on imports from countries that are not part of the Kyoto Protocol has been advocated by a number of policymakers as an effective means of cancelling out the competitive disadvantage suffered by European companies compared to foreign ones, which do not have to implement costly emission-reduction schemes.
    An alternative measure would be to require importers to purchase emission allowances under the EU ETS before their products can enter the EU market.

  • Product and labelling standards?
    The European Parliament's report on trade and climate change also highlights the need "to raise public awareness of consumer products' total environmental costs" and calls for legislation that would make it mandatory for products placed on sale within the EU to have "carbon footprint product labels displaying the level of CO2 emissions caused by the production, transport and eventual disposal of a product". Such a measure would also have to be examined according to WTO rules against imposing non-tariff barriers to trade.


My comment: I really don't understan WTO. It looks like it was created with some good ideas but now it's just not up to the time we're living in. It's weird that for example, it can force a country to allow the import of possibly dangerous products(the case with Austria and GMo corn). I don't think it's right one organisation to have so great responsibilities and rights. All should be done for the well-being of humanity and Earth, not for the well-earning of few companies.

US CO2 cap 'inevitable', says Washington climate expert[fr][de]

Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Washington spoke to EurActiv about climate change and what can be expected from the US at Bali and in the coming years. Meanwhile, the US Bali delegation has found itself increasingly isolated following Australia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

Delegations from the 192 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are meeting in Bali, Indonesia from 3-14 December at the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to hammer out a negotiating framework and roadmap towards a future global climate change agreement.

It is widely accepted that any international agreement to significantly reduce global CO2 emissions cannot succeed without the support of the US, which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

2008 Presidential election
Timing will play an important role in any future US involvement in a global climate regime, says Eileen Claussen. Considering that a new US administration, to be elected in 2008, will not take office until the beginning or middle of the following year, "the US will probably have a cap-and-trade system passed through legislation by mid-2009", she said.
But Claussen does not expect the current Bush administration to make any major concessions in the meantime.

Winds of change?
Despite concerns that the US will block progress in Bali, some positive signals have emerged from comments made by the US delegation yesterday (3 December).
"We're not here to be a roadblock," said Harlan Watson, leader of the US delegation during the Bali talks. "The United States intends to be flexible and work constructively on a Bali roadmap," he said.
Watson even stated that the US remains open to binding emissions targets, according to Reuters. The EU favours binding targets and is hoping for US backing in order to negotiate "fair and effective" contributions from developing states (EurActiv 03/12/07).

Australia saves the day? The decision by Australia's new government under recently elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to ratify the Kyoto Protocol was welcomed with a one minute standing ovation by the delegates at Bali on 3 December.
Australia's move isolates the US as the only nation to not have ratified Kyoto, leading to speculation that Washington is now under increased pressure to sign onto a future climate deal.


My comment: Well, I know winds are blowing pretty strongly in some places in the USA in favor of Kyoto and Bali, but on some other places they definitely don't blow on the right spot, unfortunately. It's sad to see how politicised is the question in USA, when we're facing such a grave situation with the world's climate. I hope those people, that prefer to believe, it's all just one giant conspiracy intended to enslave their minds or whatever, to face the reality and start acting instead of just rubbing their fur.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Poor countries need billions to cut emissions

Poor countries need billions to cut emissions

Calls for increased investment from rich countries in low-carbon technologies for the world's poorest regions have intensified in Bali, as new reports point to the climate risks related to the rapidly accelerating energy demand in developing countries.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, developed countries are to take "all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to developing countries".
One mechanism, created under the Kyoto Protocol to help foster technology transfers to developing countries, is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which has been linked to the EU's carbon-trading market.
Under this "flexible mechanism", EU countries are entitled to partly meet their own greenhouse gas reduction targets by financing emission reducing projects in developing countries – which also allows them to achieve cheaper emission cuts than they would do at home.
However, the take-off of the scheme has been relatively slow.

The idea of a "technology transfer fund" that industrialised nations would have to pay into and developing countries could draw from in order to finance clean energy technology projects or buy patents, is being mooted by China, as delegations from 187 countries gathered in Bali for the 3-14 December UN climate conference.
While the Asian giant - now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases – continued to fend off calls for binding CO2 reduction targets for developing countries, it insisted that rich countries should be doing more to encourage the spread of clean technologies.

Last year, the Clean Development Mechanism succeeded in directing $5 billion investment into cutting greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. However, the UN estimates that climate mitigation efforts will require an annual investment of $200 billion by 2030, with nearly half of that in developing nations.

A report published on 3 December by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) also notes that, although the CDM has succeeded in bringing clean energy technology to some countries in the developing world, hundreds of projects have been "stopped at the starting gates" due to lengthy approval processes, uncertainty regarding commercial returns and worries about intellectual property theft.
The result is that projects have focused on a select group of countries like China, Brazil and India, where existing market potential is high, whereas the African continent has only succeeded in attracting 3% of all CDM projects - primarily within South Africa.

The global business association points out: "Unless policies change and ways are found to facilitate investments in lower carbon technologies at all stages of their development and deployment, developing countries are expected to follow the same carbon-intensive development pathways of today's industrialised nations. This would constitute a lost opportunity of immense proportions, as the consequences of carbon- and energy-intensive investment decisions made today lock in those emissions for decades."
Indeed, the risk of a technology lock-in is particularly worrying considering that the demand for energy in developing countries is expected to increase by a factor of 2.3-5.5 between now and 2050. India, for example, is already the world's fifth largest emitter, despite the fact that nearly half of its population has no access to electricity and 85% of its population lives on less than $2 per day.

According to a parallel study published on 3 December by US think tank the Centre for Global Development (CGD), cumulative emissions from developing countries alone would be sufficient, by 2060, to push carbon dioxide levels over the 450 parts per million threshold that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change associates with large, irreversible climate impacts.

According to Martin Khor, director of NGO Third World Network (TWN), a key question resides in intellectual property rights (IPRs) over climate-friendly technologies, which are pushing up the cost of climate-friendly technologies and preventing developing countries from making the switch to low-carbon development pathways: "IPRs confer monopoly rights and can serve as a barrier for introducing or upgrading technologies by private industry or public-sector agencies in developing countries, or simply curb affordable access on account of high prices".
"We should be reminded of how Indian companies were hindered from introducing a new chemical that is not harmful to the ozone layer as a substitute to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) because of patents on that chemical," he cautioned.
Climate specialist Zou Ji of the Chinese delegation to Bali agreed: "It's a trade-off between intellectual-property rights and climate protection."
However, US officials said that while they backed the idea of an "international clean energy fund", they would reject any fund structure that might slash incentives for US companies to develop new technologies. "We do not support a technology-transfer fund that would buy down intellectual-property rights," said head of the US delegation Harlan Watson.

It underlined the EU's central role – as the world's largest carbon market – in making the CDM deliver "real climate and sustainable development benefits", and reminded EU nations that "CDM credits need to be additional to and not be used instead of domestic action".
The NGO concludes that "the use of CDM energy project credits within the EU ETS should be limited to those certified by the Gold Standard" – a quality benchmark established by the international NGO community. source:EuroAktiv

My comment: I like it, I utterly like it. It's the kind of international socialism that I'd like to see from now on more often. But as you can see for yourself, it's not without too little additional strain from the rich countries that are so scared someone in Africa would steal their cake. It's ridiculous and I hope someone will point that out to them and or in any case, force them to find a compromise.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


EU ministers find consensus on VAT reform

Revenues from value-added tax on a number of services, including transport hire, electronic services and telecommunications, will fall to the country where the consumer is located rather than the one where the company providing the service is established, after Luxembourg finally agreed to lift its veto on the plans.

The change comes as part of a broad VAT reform package to which EU finance ministers gave their backing on 4 December 2007, after around five years of stalemate caused by the unanimity requirement on all matters relating to taxation.
The aim of the package is to minimise the regulatory burden for companies engaged in cross-border operations and prevent distortions of competition between member states operating different VAT rates. It does so by shifting the place of taxation from the supplier's location to that of the consumer, so that all customers are charged the same VAT rate regardless of the service provider's country of establishment.
The main bone of contention related to the application of this system to electronic services – a sector which barely existed when the EU first introduced its rules on value-added tax, but which is now a booming industry.
Luxembourg has become home to a number of big electronic service companies, including, Skype and PayPal, thanks to its business-friendly VAT rate of 15%. This rate is the minimum allowed within the EU, and Luxembourg had previously vetoed the new proposals, saying it would lose out on VAT revenues worth around €200 million per year.
However, it finally agreed to a compromise, under which the changes will only be phased in as of 2015, rather than implemented directly as of 2010. The deal will allow countries that are home to telecom and electronic service businesses to keep their hands on 30% of VAT revenues collected after 2015, with the rest going to the country of consumption. This share would be cut to 15% after 2017 and zero as of 2019.
The system will be based on the creation of "one-stop shops" so that businesses only have to fulfill their tax obligations in the country where they are established. It will then be up to member state authorities to transfer VAT revenues to the country of consumption, whose rates and controls will apply.
Ministers also endorsed Commission plans to launch new proposals to fight tax fraud early next year, and agreed to extend temporary derogations to the 15% VAT rule for the Czech Republic, Malta, Poland, Cyprus and Slovenia.
The exceptions will allow the five countries to apply reduced or zero VAT rates to a series of goods and services, including foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, construction work and restaurant services, until 2010. By that time, ministers hope it will be possible to agree on a new VAT regime, which could include provisions for reduced rates on "green" products (EurActiv 13/11/07). source:EuroAktiv

CAP reform: Commission eyes subsidy cuts for big farms

The Commission has presented a series of reform recommendations designed to modernise the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). A tighter subsidy regime and a greater shift of funds from direct payments to rural development support are among the proposals on the table.

The last round of CAP reform efforts was launched in 2003 and featured a 'decoupling' of agricultural production from subsidy payments in order to prevent over-production and waste.
The new system involves a Single Payment Scheme (SPS), in which subsidies are allocated according to indicators such as land size rather than production volume. Cross-compliance measures, whereby farmers are required to meet certain environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards, were also introduced as a pre-condition for receiving payments under the SPS.
In addition to cuts in intervention prices for several sectors, the reforms also featured a shift or so-called 'modulation' in monies from the first "pillar" of the CAP (direct aids and market support) to its "second pillar", rural development. This measure was presented as an instrument to "green" the CAP, which accounts for over 40% of the EU budget.


My comment: Finally! It was about time EU stopped investing in the low end of production. I mean, it's obvious we need production, as it's the base of the economy, but with the ageing population, I think it's essential to start working on the high end. Meaning, science, technology and new sources of energy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Europe and the climate

Recycling: mining the waste resource
Our present rate of waste production is unsustainable and thus we urgently need effective waste management aimed at mining this resource, argues Pater Calliafas in a recent analysis on Environmental Research Web.
Self-sufficient resource management has two main benefits for consumers as well as policy makers, according to the author:
Consumers benefit from lower prices for raw materials because the supply will be secured on a long-term basis; and;
Governments can "minimise the risk impact of being wholly reliant on one or two key suppliers" and set their energy supply on a broader basis.
For recycling to work effectively, the loop between the "end of the pipe", the consumer, and the "start of the pipe", industry, needs to be closed, the author argues.
"Waste is merely another form or resource to be mined as any other" and "recycling can be viewed as a manufacturing process in all but name," the paper states.
"We need to create the equivalent of an 'environmental clunk-click campaign' similar to the successful promotion that encouraged seat belt wearing among car users in the 1970s," according to the author.source:EuroAktiv
The accountability challenge for climate diplomacy

The current climate change summit in Bali could be "a milestone towards real progress on climate change" and therefore needs to identify ways to "link the emission reductions to incentives for cleaner, alternative paths for growth", argues Alejandro Litovsky in an Open Democracy commentary.
From 2008 onwards, the UN climate system then needs to achieve the following three outcomes, according to Litovsky:

  • Gain support from trade rules and the WTO for the climate agenda as the Kyoto dispute settlement mechanisms do not adequately consider trade-related disputes.

  • Continue to build on existing initiatives from the private financial sector such as the UNEP "finance initiative", the "HSBC climate partnership" or the "investor network" on climate risk, with the objective of developing an coordinated approach in which stronger commitments from private investors to finance renewable energy can strengthen "country commitments" to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Achieve stronger commitments from multilateral agencies to address emission reductions. Multilaterals should help decrease the dependency of developing countries on carbon-based technologies, not lock them into a technology-path dependency.

Much depends on government policies: from lowering investor risks to new regulation, such as feed-in tariffs. "But individual governments can achieve little if the international patterns of investment in energy infrastructure, trade rules, and energy policy benchmarks" do not correspond with this goal, Litovsky says. "Here the climate diplomacy can make a distinctive difference," according to the analysis. source:EuroAktiv
EU-US 'green' trade plan comes under fire at Bali

A joint EU and US proposal to remove all tariffs on a select list of 43 goods deemed to be environmentally friendly, such as solar panels and wind turbines, were criticised at Bali over the weekend by developing countries who say the plans are incomplete and biased towards developed countries.

On 30 November, the EU and the US announced what they termed "a ground-breaking proposal" for a WTO-wide deal on the full elimination of tariffs on 43 products identified by the World Bank as environmentally friendly. The deal would come under the current "Doha" negotiations on trade liberalisation.
The notion of a special tariff regime for 'green' goods is part of a wider discussion on the use of taxation and customs policy to facilitate the transition towards a low-carbon economy by simultaneously promoting green goods while protecting more traditional energy intensive industries (see EurActiv 07/12/07).
Within the EU, there have been calls both for higher duties on industrial goods from countries with less stringent environmental regulations and tax breaks on environmentally friendly goods and services in the EU.
On Sunday (9 December), trade ministers met in the sidelines of the Bali UN Climate Change Conference to discuss a range of climate change-related trade issues.
North-South divide?
Celso Luiz Nunez Amorim, Brazil's minister of foreign relations, questioned the EU-US proposal, saying the list of 43 goods is 'incomplete' and that the plan is not an effective measure against climate change.
Brazil is concerned that the list of goods does not include biofuels, in particular ethanol made from sugar cane, a key export for Brazil.
Amorim also said the plan was a distraction and questioned whether it is in line with free trade principles. "What are we [in Bali] for? Are we here to make three things mutually supportive - development, trade and climate change - or are we here to discuss protectionist ways to slow down the process?", he said.
Pakistan also questioned the proposals, saying their real intention was to give an advantage to technology exporters in rich countries. "This is obviously against us, because we have not the capacity to produce goods in an environmentally friendly way," said Ali Baz, Pakistan's Ambassador to Indonesia.
The trade-climate change link
But Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said that some developing countries were leaders in green technologies and could benefit from the plans, adding that a special tariff reduction scheme could be made more equitable by being included in a wider global climate change regime.
"The relationship between international trade and indeed the WTO and climate change would be best defined by a consensual, international agreement on climate change that successfully embraces all major polluters," he said.
It is unclear if special tariffs on green goods could be agreed as part of a wider deal involving rich country technology transfers to poor countries as an alternative to a legally-binding international agreement to reduce CO2 emissions (see EurActiv 06/12/07).
EU seeks global roadmap at Bali climate talks
Under the Kyoto Protocol, EU-15 member states must reduce CO2 emissions by 8% by 2012, with individual targets agreed for 10 further member states (Cyprus and Malta have no targets).
The successes and failures of Kyoto will be a main item for discussion during the 3 to 14 December UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia (COP 13). Rather than a final deal on climate change, such as binding emissions reductions, world leaders are expected to agree on a negotiating framework and 'roadmap' at Bali.
This roadmap will guide the negotiations towards an eventual global climate change deal for beyond the expiry date of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. If all goes according to schedule, such a deal would be finalised at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 (COP 15).

On 27 November, the Commission presented its expectations for the Bali negotiation roadmap along with the results of the EU's progress towards the Kyoto targets, which, according to EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, illustrate that the EU has broken the link between economic growth and CO2 emissions.
The Commission's announcement of a strong EU perfomance under Kyoto has been widely interpreted as a way to boost the bloc's environmental credentials in advance of the Bali talks.
Kyoto report card
Dimas' claim is largely based on figures for the year 2005, which show that despite 35% economic growth between 1995 and 2005, EU-15 CO2 emissions were 2% below levels recorded at the base year (1990 for most member states). For EU-25, CO2 emissions were down 11% during the same period.
Despite the positive results for 2005, at current trends the EU is still not on track to meet its Kyoto targets by 2012. But the Commission argues that all the EU can reach and even surpass the Kyoto targets - projecting a total potential reduction in CO2 emissions of 11.4% by 2010 - as long as "additional policies and measures under discussion at EU level" are undertaken.
Most of these additional measures will be set out by the Commission in its climate and energy 'package', expected on 23 January 2008, which will include proposals on mandatory increases in renewable energy use and a revision of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for beyond 2012. The Commission is confident that the tighter caps set on emissions for the 2008-2012 EU ETS trading period will significantly reduce EU CO2 output.
Also included in the list of further measures is the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS, cleaner transport fuels and a cut in vehicle CO2 emissions, as well as the use of carbon 'sinks' through afforestation and reforestation.
Bali wish list
On 30 October, EU environment ministers set out eight 'building blocks' or negotiating tracks for Bali:

  • A commitment to limit global average temperatures to 2° Celcius above pre-industrial levels;

  • emissions reductions by developed countries in the order of 30% by 2020 and 60-80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels;

  • 'fair and effective contributions' by developing countries;

  • expansion of global carbon markets, including through link-ups with EU ETS;

  • more R&D and research cooperation;

  • increased efforts to adapt to climate change;

  • inclusion of aviation and maritime emissions; and;

  • a reduction of CO2 emissions from deforestation.

EU red lines
The EU will not be able to claim success at the talks unless its two main red lines - a commitment by developed countries to cut emissions and more efforts by developing countries - are included in the Bali roadmap, an official in the Council close to the negotiations told EurActiv.
And the EU's main challenge will be to get leaders to agree on a negotiating framework that is firm yet flexible enough to accomodate an evolution in the position of parties, the official said.
With US elections coming up in 2008 and a new administration expected to take office in the middle of 2009, there is some hope of a late shift in the stance of the US, which did not ratify Kyoto and which has been traditionally opposed to any binding international commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.
But an obstinate US administration is not the only concern on the minds of EU delegations as they head to Bali. India in particular has expressed its opposition to significant emissions reduction commitments on the grounds that these would undermine the growth of its fledgling economy. And there is some concern that the US may 'hide' behind India in order to block any global CO2 deal.source:EuroAktiv


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