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Thursday, February 7, 2008

EU industries to go greener, pollution in Spain, biomonitoring and of course, SUV under fire

Business criticises green industry plans

8 January 2008

A Commission proposal aimed at toughening up emissions legislation for industrial installations has come under fire from business leaders, who say it could force power stations and other plants to shut down.

The 1996 Directiveexternal on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) introduces a permit system to prevent and limit pollution from large-scale industrial installations. Sectors covered include everything from metals, chemicals and paper to processed food, oil refineries and large-scale pig and poultry farms.

Permits are issued by the competent authorities in member states and require industrial operators to apply Best Available Techniques (BATs) - the most cost-effective techniques to achieve a high level of environmental protection.

Based on the BATs, which are set at EU-level, the permits include precise limit values for atmospheric pollutants that cause acid rain and smog, such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), dust and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Nevertheless, the current directive allows authorities to take into account the technical characteristics of the installation concerned, its geographical location and the local environmental conditions when drawing up emission limits – a flexibility that the Commission believes is being abused.

Indeed, although member states were given eight years (until October 2007) to ensure that their existing industrial installations are fully compliant, according to the Commission, just 50% of installations in the EU have been granted permits so far.

Commission plans to revise the existing rules on emissions from industrial installations across the EU are under attack from business leaders for being overly costly and lacking flexibility.

The proposalPdf external , presented by the Commission on 21 December 2007, seeks to ensure that existing rules on industrial emissions are better complied with, after a reviewexternal revealed that only 50% of industrial installations in the EU have thus far been granted permits containing limit emission values.

Under the new plans, installations would only be able to diverge from the use of "best available techniques" (BATs) under specific conditions, meaning that governments will no longer be able to grant increased flexibility to certain installations according to their location or design.

It is this provision that constitutes the major sticking point for industry, which relied on such exemptions to keep certain older plants alive. The Commission says it will investigate the possibility of introducing more flexibility through the development of EU-wide rules on emissions trading for NOx and SO2 – similar to those in existence for CO2 – although no such provisions are included in the legislative proposal.

Minimum emission limits for large combustion plants would be strengthened under the new rules, and medium-sized plants generating between 20 and 50 MegaWatts (MW), as well as activities such as the production of wood-based panels and preservation of wood – until now excluded from the scope of the directive – would also be subjected to limit values, in order to ensure that all member states receive the same high level of environmental protection.

Furthermore, the proposal introduces minimum provisions on environmental inspections of installations, a review of permit-granting conditions, and reporting of compliance. Incentives for the development and promotion of environmentally-friendly technologies are also included. source

My comment: Well, it was about time to see some change in this sector. Again, I don't understand why EU should give so much power to companies and local authorities to decide. What I mean is, local companies have tighter relation (and by relation I mean mostly corruption) with local governments. If we want the new rules to get in action, we must ensure they will be forced everywhere and to everyone, not just to those that won't pay enough. Of course, we have to stay in touch with business, because they are the producing part of our society and there are essential to our survival and development, but we must make sure they obey our regulations and fulfill our requirements.

Spanish study feeds into pesticide controversy

8 January 2008

As the EU's pesticides package moves into the final stages of adoption, new research shows that all Spaniards are affected by at least one type of pesticide, fungicide or insecticide classified internationally as potentially harmful to human health.

The Commission proposed in July 2006 to tighten pesticide usage and authorisation rules in Europe, as concerns over the health and environmental impact of such plant protection products grows.

Whereas environmental and health NGOs welcome the initiative, farmers and pesticide producers have expressed concern that the measures will lead to more red tape and remove harmless substances from the market.

In its first reading on the package, in October 2007, the Parliament voted to expand the scope of substances banned from use in EU pesticides production (see EurActiv 24/10/07), while EU-27 agriculture ministers, who met in December 2007, are said to have reached a political agreement on the dossier (see EurActiv 19/12/07).

However, there have been conflicting press reports about the outcome, as the full text of the Council agreement will only be made public in January 2008 when a common position is finalised and sent to the Parliament for a second reading.

The Spanish study, carried out by the University of Granada, examined the contamination levels of certain persistent organic pollutantsexternal in a sample of the adult population (387 individuals) and tried to find determining factors associated with such levels. People from both urban and semi-rural areas were part of the sample.

According to the results, published in late 2007, 100% of Spaniards carry at least one type of harmful chemical in their bodies. The researchers also detected more of these potentially harmful substances in women than in men and more in adults than younger people. They also found that diet is an important factor in the concentration of these substances.

Higher concentration in women and older people is "possibly due to the great persistence of these substances in the environment, which results in their biomagnificationexternal in the food chain and in their bioaccumulation over time," explained Juan Pedro Arrebola Moreno.

The researchers took a sample of each volunteer's fatty tissue via surgery, and asked questions about their place of residence, lifestyle, eating habits and activities throughout their life. The six substances sampled included compounds related to industrial processes, such as PCBsexternal , and fungicidesexternal used to prevent spread of fungi in crops as well as insecticides.

The substances, which can enter the body through food, water and air, tend to accumulate in human fatty tissue through which they enter into the organism, with potential significant adverse effects on human health. These include cancers and damage to reproductive or immune systems.

Regarding the importance of diet as a factor in the concentration of these chemicals in the body, the study argues that the "ingestion of some aliments, particularly those of animal origin and high fat content, triggers a greater presence of these toxic substances in the human organism." source

My comment: Well, I have been to Spain enough times to know that food there is simply not all right. It's not even ok. We made a simple steam vegetables meal and we couldn't eat half the quantity we eat in Bulgaria. We felt so full and I didn't get hungry for hours. And people always complain to get overweight in not time while eating normal quantities of food in Spain. So, obviously there is a problem with the food. I hope this research continue, because I feel it's important people to be aware what they are eating.

Ministers press for quick progress on human biomonitoring

20 December 2007

EU environment ministers have asked the Commission to press ahead with an EU pilot project that will test human blood for pollutants in support of environmental and health policy.

The conclusionsPdf external on environment and health, adopted by the EU-27 environment ministers on 20 December urged the Commission to ensure adequate funding for the EU pilot project on human biomonitoringexternal (HBM). The Commission is invited "to implement this project as early as possible [...] to provide data to develop, adapt and evaluate environmental policies".

The European pilot project in human biomonitoring, launched in the framework of the EU Action Plan on Environment and Health 2004-2010, aims to measure pollutants in human tissue and fluid. The data can be used to support both environmental and public health policy and help policymakers to identify priorities.

The ministers also invited the Commission to support the development of a database on environment-related health problems to enable better understanding of "multi-cause environment and health relationships".

More generally, the EU executive was told to increase funding for research, demonstration and awareness programmes aimed at providing more effective prevention and responses to hazards and science-based decision-making. source

My comment:Very well :)

EU proposes clean vehicle procurement plan

20 December 2007

As part of its drive to promote more sustainable urban transport, the Commission has revived a proposal requiring government authorities to ensure that their public transport fleets and other public-utility vehicles, such as garbage lorries or delivery vans, are clean and energy efficient.

As of 2012, public authorities will be obliged to include environmental criteria when acquiring vehicles, including life-cycle costs for fuel consumption and CO2 and other pollutant emissions, if proposals presented by the Commission on 19 December are approved by member states and Parliament.

The new plans would cover all road vehicles, rather than just heavy-duty ones, and would apply to all vehicles procured by public authorities, rather than just one quarter of them.

According to Commission estimates, the inclusion of lifetime costs for fuel, CO2, NOx, non-methane hydrocarbons and particulate matter (PM) would push the price of a normal bus up from around €150,000 to €594,030 – meaning that it would become more interesting to pay a higher price up-front for a cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicle with lower fuel energy consumption and emissions.

A study by the consultancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) estimates that energy savings of 22% of the vehicles covered could be achieved by 2017 under the new measure, as well as a 29% reduction in CO2 emissions. source

Commission plans CO2 fines for carmakers

Thursday 20 December 2007

Automobile manufacturers will have to slash their average fleet emissions or face hefty fines, according to new legislation presented by the Commission, which has already come under fire from Germany, manufacturers and green groups.

With cars accounting for around 20% of total European carbon-dioxide emissions, the Commission, last February, proposed introducing new binding legislation (EurActiv 7/02/2007) that would compel vehicle manufacturers to cut average emissions from new cars from current levels of around 160 grammes of CO2 per kilometre to 130g/km by 2012, through vehicle-technology improvements.

The February Communication also required other players, including tyre-makers, fuel suppliers, repairers, drivers and public authorities, to contribute, in parallel, to a further 10g/km reduction.

In concession to Europe's powerful automobile lobby, an average 130g/km target for car CO2 emissions will be implemented by setting laxer limits for heavier vehicles, such as SUVs and luxury models (EurActiv 30/08/07).

According to a draft Regulation, presented by EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas on 19 December, all new vehicles registered in the EU after 2012 – whether produced domestically or imported – will have to respect a "limit value curve of permitted emissions of CO2", based on their weight.

This means that cars weighing more than two tonnes, such as the Porsche Cayenne or the Land Rover, would still be allowed to emit more than 150g/km, while emissions from lighter cars, such as Renault's Twingo, which weighs less than 900kg, would be capped at as little as 110g/km.

Nevertheless, the calculation method used in the Regulation ensures that manufacturers of larger cars will have to make proportionally bigger cuts than producers of smaller vehicles, according to the Commission.

  • Flexibilities

The envisaged system would enable manufacturers to make up for the production of larger cars by producing smaller, less-polluting ones too.

What's more, for those manufacturers specialising in larger or more powerful vehicles, such as Porsche, whose average CO2 emissions currently stand at 282g/km, the Commission proposal leaves the door open to a "pooling" system, whereby manufacturers can team up in order to share out the burden of meeting their goals.

Also, independent manufacturers, who sell fewer than 10,000 vehicles per year, like Jaguar, and who cannot or do not wish to join a pool, can instead apply to the Commission for an individual target.

Special purpose vehicles, such as those built to accommodate wheelchair access, are excluded from the scope of the legislation.

  • CO2 penalties

Manufacturers who overstep their CO2 limits will be subject to financial penalties, the Commission announced.

The fines will be phased in over four years following the entry into force of the legislation, starting at just €20 per gram of carbon dioxide that each car emits over the target in 2012, and rising to €95 in 2015.

source

My comment: Well, you know it already. For me, this is to lax for the big cars. I decided to start a campaign against big automobiles. I know they are required on the field, I'd buy myself a 4x4 for going to my villa, but driving them in the city for me is unacceptable. Not to mention the german cars that are not SUV but still burn like crazy. That shouldn't be allowed, but of course, go tell Germany. Whatever. Now it's up to us and what we want to buy.


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