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Friday, March 14, 2008

Ecology in January,2008

Little bit late, but there are so many things to read and publish. So in this edition:
For more, read below. My comment are after the articles as usual.

Report: EU 2010 renewables target 'out of reach'

8 February 2008

The EU will not achieve a 12% share of renewables in its overall energy mix by 2010, despite 'remarkable' performance by Germany, according to a report by eurObserv'ER, the French observatory of renewable energies.

"In spite of 2006 being a good year" in terms of increased renewables in primary energy consumption, "it's certain today that the targeted 12% threshold is not going to be reached." says the French 'Observatoire des énergies renouvelables' (eurObserv'ERexternal ).

Its 2007 State of Renewable Energies in Europe reportPdf external notes considerable growth in the biofuels, biomass and wind sectors, but laments that "progress and advances are too small to be able to fill the existing gap over the four years [from 2006] to come".

The report also regrets that this limited progress was "not accompanied by any real effort to conserve energy" in the EU, with electricity production from renewable sources being somewhat stagnant.

"Since the beginning of the 21st century, the share of renewable energies in electricity production has been fluctuating between 13% and 15% without having begun a clear-cut trend towards a sustainable increase," the report says.

The EU's target for electricity production from renewables is 21% for 2010. Both the 21% target and the 12% overall target are non-binding, but are set to be replaced by a binding target of 20% renewables by 2020 as part of a new directive on renewable energies proposed on 23 January (see EurActiv 24/01/08).

Despite the overall slow progress, Germany is singled out for praise in the report. The country accounts for "43% of the advance recorded in 2006 for all the members of the European Union," it says.

The EU's proposed 2020 target of 20% renewables in the bloc's energy mix is "not only realistic but above all an act of responsibility," says eurObserv'ER. source

My comment: What I found important in this report is that part of the problem is that EU are not improving its energy efficiency. I simply can't understand what is the reason as for me this is the first logical thing to do. I hope more effort goes to improving energy efficiency as this is extremely important, otherwise we're simply changing one source for other, but the over all emissions will be the same.

Study suggests pesticides 'crucial' for EU food supply

6 February 2008

Overly stringent EU rules on pesticides will lead to a decline in European agricultural self-sufficiency resulting in ever-increasing food prices and job losses in the agri-food sector, warns a recent industry-funded study. The findings were immediately rejected by environmental activists, who derided the study as "professional scaremongering" by "lobbyists behaving like a posse of corporate cowboys."

In July 2006, the Commission proposed a new regulationPdf external to tighten pesticide usage and authorisation rules in Europe, as public concerns are growing over the health and environmental impact of so-called plant protection products. EU lawmakers are voting on the proposed regulation separately from a related EU strategy and draft framework directivePdf external on "the sustainable use of pesticides", which was voted upon by the Council in December last year (EurActiv 19/12/07).

Whereas environmental and health NGOs have welcomed the initiative, farmers and pesticide producers fear the proposed stricter authorisation rules will remove harmless substances from the market and hamper their business with increased bureaucracy.

In its first reading on the package, in October 2007, the European Parliament voted to expand the scope of substances banned from use in EU pesticides production (EurActiv 24/10/07).

A recent industry-commissioned study argues that reduced availability of so-called plant protection products "could lead to a decline in overall European agricultural productivity" and will hamper the food industry's ability to produce "safe, high-quality, affordable food for European consumers." As a result, adds the study, Europe would see its already declining levels of self-sufficiency in primary agricultural materials worsen in future.

The study predicts that the proposed EU measures will have a serious impact on farming and consumers in the form of:

  • Drastic reductions in yields: Yields of wheat, potatoes, cereals and wine grapes could be reduced by 29%, 33%, 20% and 10% respectively by 2020;
  • higher prices and decreased availability of fresh fruits and vegetables with 30-40% of locally produced food at risk, and;
  • increased EU food imports from countries with lower quality standards than Europe and where, eventually, the same pesticides will still be allowed.

According to Syngenta, a global leader in agri-business, "the challenge before us in the EU is to create a proportionate balance between hazard and risk in the assessment of plant protection products, which are essential tools for farmers to use in the sustainable production of high-quality food in Europe". "If we deny farmers these tools by failing to find such a balance, we run the risk of outsourcing our food supply beyond the EU's borders, where quality and sustainability standards may not be as stringent. This could result in unnecessarily high food prices for Europe's consumers and threaten jobs in the agri-food industry," the company warns.

Elliott Cannell, Europe co-ordinator at the Pesticides Action Network, an environmental group, derided the study as "professional scaremongering", saying European politicians were being bombarded with "bad science and misinformation".

The Italian research institute that conducted the study, Nomisma, said that the study "was independently conducted, based on various scientific references and studies coupled with more than 25 years of experience in the field of agriculture." The institute invites all interested parties to read the report and draw their own conclusions on the basis of the data and information presented in the study.source

My comment:Well, it's obvious that producers will argue with any regulation that could decrease their earning. But I liked the point that we should find the balance between acceptable hazard and hurting the industry. Just I'd rather leave that balance not to industry itself, but to health and environmental organisations(backed up with scientific proofs) as we know business tends to maximize its income on the back of anything on the way.

London launches world's largest 'low-emission zone'

4 February 2008

Trucks driving around the UK capital will be fined up to £200 per day if they are found to be over EU pollution standards in an attempt to improve the city's poor air quality. The initiative will be closely watched in Brussels as the Commission is currently considering action to 'green' transport in Europe's cities.

The scheme, which begins on 4 February 2008 and will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will initially apply only to large diesel trucks weighing over 12 tonnes.

Cameras around the zone will check their number plates against a database of vehicles registered as meeting the EU's 'Euro' limits on emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) – two pollutants found in exhaust fumes that are blamed for serious health and environmental problems.

Those exceeding the limits will be fined a daily fee of £200 and risk a further £1,000 fine if they fail to pay up. Truck-drivers from abroad also risk paying the fine unless they register their vehicle in advance and it meets the required standards.

The scheme will be extended to cover buses and coaches in July and to large vans and minibuses in October 2010.

Transport for London (TfL), which is implementing the £49 million project, says it will improve quality of life for Londoners and reduce the number of people suffering from asthma, cardio-vascular disease and other health conditions, cutting healthcare bills by £250 million.

"Levels of particulate matter in many parts of London are way over EU standards […] Air quality is the worst in Britain and among the worst in Europe […] The Mayor has a legal obligation to take steps towards meeting national and European Union air quality objectives which are designed to protect human health," explained the body.

70 towns and cities in eight European countries including Norway, the Netherlands and Germany already have or are planning low emission zones. But London's scheme, covering a 1,577-square kilometre zone inhabited by 7.5 million people, will be "the largest in the world by a significant margin", according to TfL.

The implementation will be closely followed at EU level as the Commission is preparing a package of measures aimed at greening transport in Europe's cities (EurActiv 26/09/07). One measure under consideration is the introduction of harmonised rules on urban green zones that would enable local authorities across Europe to implement similar schemes to the one in London, while preventing a fragmented patchwork of different zones and standards.source
My comment: Cool! So cool :) Me likes...

Fisheries: Parliament calls for discard ban

1 February 2008

Beam trawl and cod fisheries should be selected as pilot projects for the elimination of discards with a view to extending the scheme across the entire EU fishing sector, recommends a report adopted yesterday (31 January) in the European Parliament.

Adopted during the Brussels plenary session, the report welcomes the Commission's attempts to address the issue "with a view to finally shifting the emphasis of the Common Fisheries Policy so that the practice of discarding is ultimately eliminated."

Fishermen 'discard' healthy fish by dumping them back into the ocean in order to avoid prosecution under EU rules on under-sized or 'out of quota' fish. Discards create imbalances in ocean ecosystems and are believed to be a major cause of stock depletion.

The report - drafted by Swedish MEP Carl Schlyter (Greens/EFA) - estimates that discarding by fishermen results in over a million healthy fish being thrown back into European waters each year, constituting a "serious ecological and economic problem". Discard estimates worldwide amount to a quarter of all fish caught, it adds.

The report urges the Commission and national authorities to introduce specific incentives for the industry to improve its fishing practices, including:

  • Allowing more days at sea or increasing the permitted fishing time for vessels equipped with selective gear;
  • providing preferential access for vessels using selective gear to areas that would be closed to those without it, and;
  • allowing vessels with selective gear to fish during times when others are not allowed.

The report proposes reducing the overall fishing effort because over-fishing leads to depleted stocks, which in turn contain under-sized fish. "Reduced fishing pressure would bring significant benefits for the industry by allowing depleted stocks to recover and become more productive as well as saving time and effort in sorting the catch", it states.

Moreover, Parliament is calling for a total ban on discards to be implemented "after other types of negative incentives have been tried, including timed series of increases in mesh sizes and closed areas."source

My comment: Throwing back the healthy fish is absolutely disgusting! I hope they find a way to fight such irresponsible behaviour.

EU launches 'Clean Sky' research project for low-carbon aircraft

6 February 2008

European Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik yesterday launched a seven-year, €1.6 billion public-private partnership aimed at helping the aviation industry to develop environmentally friendly technology.

Through the 'Clean Sky' Joint-Technology Initiative launched in Brussels on 5 February, industry hopes to develop technology that will allow aircraft noise to be cut by half and emissions of CO2 and NOx to be slashed by 50% and 80% respectively by 2020.

The initiative comes as the EU is attempting to stem rising air pollution from the rapidly growing aviation sector. It is part of a three-pillar approach, which features a controversial proposal to include airlines in the EU's carbon emissions cap-and-trade system (see LinksDossier on Aviation & ETS).

It is one of six planned joint-technology initiatives (JTIs) created by the Commission in order to avoid fragmentation of research efforts and boost large-scale and long-term investment in strategic research fields (EurActiv 7/03/07).

So far, the 'Clean Sky' initiative incorporates 54 industries, 15 research centres and 17 universities across 16 countries.

It will be financed equally by EU money under the 7th Research Framework Programme and industry funds, and will focus on six specific projects, including the design of greener engines, adapting wing technologies to make new aircraft more energy efficient and developing lighter materials.

The EU hopes that this will help European aircraft manufacturers compete in the race to build the world's cleanest planes. "Aeronautics' future expansion relies on its ability to reduce its environmental impact. Vast resources are needed and neither the EU, nor industry, nor scientists could achieve this on their own," said Potočnik, welcoming the launch of the very first JTI as the other five initiatives continue to suffer from serious delays (EurActiv 23/11/07).

While pointing out that aviation only contributes 2-3% of total EU CO2 emissions, Åke Svensson, president of the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), nevertheless stressed: "We recognise that this carbon footprint is not acceptable." However, he added: "We see industry not as being part of the problem but rather the solution."

Marc Ventre, chairman of the Clean Sky Provisional Executive Committee (PEC) said he expects new technologies to be tested and validated by 2015, allowing the next generation of cleaner and quieter aircraft to begin entering into service from then on.

Airlines have welcomed the initiative but, at the same time, have urged EU governments to focus more on the third pillar of Europe's strategy to limit the environmental impact of aviation – the creation of a 'Single European Sky'. The Association of European Airlines claims the latter initiative could cut carbon-dioxide output by around 12% by improving infrastructure and operational inefficiencies. source

My comment:Well, that's a good idea, we can't just whip companies, we have to help them occasionally, especially when it comes to something that essential and still difficult. But I figure the greatest problem are not the money, but the work that now have to be done. And whether it would be done or we're continue scratching our heads and claiming there's nothing that could be done.

Automotive forum showcases alternative measures to cut CO2

4 February 2008

If cars are to meet EU CO2 reduction targets while remaining affordable for consumers, European legislators must start considering areas other than engine technology, such as fuel-efficient tyres, alternative fuels or eco-driving, said representatives of the automotive sector and fuel industry at a forum in January.

The 2008 European Automotive Forumexternal (EAF), organised on 23 January by the Belgian Automobile Federation (Febiac) and the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), lined up a series of workshops with topics ranging from "the complexity of car engineering" to "changing the consumer mindset" and "better roads: a denied source of emission reduction," where Norwegian consultancy Sintef presented a study on how improved road infrastructure can reduce vehicle emissions (EurActiv 11/04/07).

While the aim was clearly to raise the profile of "complementary car technologies", which the European Commission currently foresees contributing to no more than a 10g/km emissions reduction, a number of interesting alternative CO2 reduction options were presented.

Patrick Ozoux, the director of Michelin's EU office, presented a study revealing that European cars could emit up to 7g/km less just by switching to better tyres. "One out of five tanks is only for the tyres," he stated, highlighting the important contribution tyres can make to fuel consumption.

Jan De Strooper, managing director of the Belgian company DrivOlution, presented his E ecodriving projectexternal – a practical experience over eight months during which changes in fuel the consumption of 150 drivers were monitored after they had received five hours of eco-driving training.

According to him, participants in the programme consumed on average 7.5% less fuel, with half of them in fact achieving reductions of 10-18%, saving 6,275 litres of fuel over one million kilometres. This not only amounts to individual monetary savings of roughly €275 per year, but also to a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 8%, said De Strooper.

The figure contrasts with that put forward by ACEA – €3,600, which is the additional cost per car that it claims would be incurred under the proposed EU regulation.

However, green groups have accused industry of "attempting to shirk off its responsibilities by calling for an 'integrated approach'". MEP Chris Davies, Parliament's rapporteur on cars and CO2, has also rejected the idea of putting more focus on complementary measures in EU legislation, saying: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it". source

My comment: I second the greens, little bit less conversation and more action is needed.

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