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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.

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