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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Energy and climate in February,2008

In this edition:

Environment ministers favour flexible EU climate action

4 March 2008

EU environment ministers have seconded the generally positive reaction to the Commission's climate and energy package given last week by energy ministers. Flexibility is needed for reducing CO2 emissions, however, to prevent key EU industries from moving operations elsewhere, they said.

The Commission, on 23 January, proposed a package of climate and energy proposals designed to bring the EU's emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) down by 20% by 2020 while increasing the use of renewable energies by 20% during the same period. A revised EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) with an EU-wide CO2 cap was presented as a central part of the package.

A separate Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) was also proposed at the end of 2007. It is meant to support the 20% targets by increasing the use of 'clean' or low GHG-emitting energy technologies. Financing issues related to the SET Plan have been delayed until November 2008 (see EurActiv 27/02/08).

EU efforts to reduce GHG emissions will be upped to 30% by 2020, under the condition that an international agreement for tackling climate change beyond the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 is reached.

EU member states have made numerous public calls for tough action on climate change, and the Council and Parliament have applauded the Commission's 23 January proposals and have set to work on adopting the laws that will translate the EU's commitments into binding measures.

But a comparable international commitment to greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol is still missing. Many EU states, notably those with a high concentration of energy-intensive industries, are concerned that if the EU acts 'alone', the bloc's green agenda could push industries to take their operations to countries with laxer environmental laws.

Concerns about this sort of delocalisation, or 'carbon leakage', were most recently aired yesterday (3 March) during a meeting of EU environment ministers in Brussels. EU energy ministers gave their input to the climate measures on 28 February (EurActiv 29/02/08). source

My comment: Yeah, yeah. Read the comments in my last posts on carbon leakage. Absolute nonsense.

Technology not enough to cut transport emissions, says EEA

4 March 2008

EU policies focusing mainly on improving vehicle technology and fuel quality are not enough to reduce the transport sector's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, argues the European Environment Agency (EEA).

To address transport demand, policy measures "must go beyond the transport sector itself and be introduced into sectors of the economy such as households, industry and services, within which the demand for transport actually originates," states the EEA reportexternal , which was presented to the European Parliament's Committee on Climate Change on 3 March 2008.

The report was released on the same day as EU environment ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss proposed new measures to reduce CO2 emissions from cars.

This year's report aims in particular to explore the options for climate change mitigation via transport-oriented policies. It concludes that voluntary commitments by car manufacturers to improve efficiency in vehicles "have not resulted in sufficient gains".

"Transport has been a free-rider for too long when it comes to the fight against global warming and carbon emissions," said EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade. "Governments and citizens need to rethink radically their approach to transport policy - if nothing else, out of self-concern in protecting their health. We cannot continue to give privileges to less efficient transport modes," she added.

According to the EEA, total EU-27 CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2005 would have fallen by 14% instead of 7.9% if transport sector emissions had respected the same reduction trends as society as a whole. Furthermore, the agency notes that as passenger volumes steadily increase and freight transport grows faster than the economy, the movement of goods is becoming less efficient, despite technological progress.

Last week, the "world's cleanest ship", the Victoriaexternal , was put on show in the port of Brussels as one of the outcomes of EU-funded research on reducing the environmental impact of inland navigation. The engine of the ship has been modified in such a way as to substanially reduce several of its emissions (by up to 98%), while a special navigation system helps to optimise the route and speed to slash fuel consumption. source

My comment: Cars aren't a transport? Because if they are, it's weird we're talking about ships, while we very delicately leave automobiles and train outside of the picture.

EU Court rules against Spain in energy merger saga

7 March 2008

The European Court of Justice has ruled against Spain's energy regulator, which previously succeeded in blocking a takeover attempt of Endesa by Germany's E.ON. Meanwhile, Brussels has said it will take a closer look at a blocked merger in Hungary's oil and gas sector.

"Spain has failed to fulfil its obligations under Community law," the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in a 6 March press release.

The statement was made in reference to the refusal by Spain's energy regulator CNE to withdraw certain merger conditions imposed on Germany's energy giant E.ON during its bid to acquire Spain's Endesa.

The CNE ignored warnings and demands by the Commission to remove restrictive conditions attached to the merger, prompting the Commission to refer the case to the ECJ (EurActiv29/03/07).

E.ON ultimately withdrew its Endesa bid due to concerns about shareholder losses and 'unpredictable lawsuits' (EurActiv 03/04/07). But the expiry of the bid does not relieve CNE from obligations to remove regulatory obstacles to merger bids by other non-Spanish firms, according to the EU court.

In a separate case, the Commission has decided to launch an 'in-depth investigation' into a bid by Austria's OMV to acquire Hungary's MOL, a merger that was blocked by Hungarian competition authorities over fears that it would create an oil and gas sector monopoly.

Initially the Commission expressed concern that Budapest was acting contrary to EU competition rules (EurActiv 27/09/07), but Brussels may have reconsidered its assessment.

The Commission now wants to make sure that "effective competition is preserved for the benefit of both domestic and industrial consumers," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement. source
My comment: I don't really understand that article. I mean, we have to opposing forces-customers and share-holders. Because a monopoly is good for its share-holders but not for the European consumers.

Europe wary as Russia-Ukraine gas row intensifies

5 March 2008

A lingering spat over Ukraine's unsettled gas debt to Russia threatened to hit Europe yesterday as Gazprom carried out its warning to cut supplies to Ukraine by a further 25%.

The standoff between the two former Soviet allies escalated on Tuesday, prompting a wave of statements by both Gazprom and the European Commission insisting that gas supplies to Europe remained uninterrupted.

The latest move means deliveries to Ukraine have been cut by at least half since the beginning of the week after Gazprom had already cut shipments by 25% on Monday (3 March). About a quarter of all gas consumed in the EU originates from Russia and 80% of it is shipped via pipelines crossing Ukraine.

The dispute is reminiscent of a January 2006 row that saw deliveries to Western Europe briefly interrupted, highlighting the EU's dependency on Russian gas imports and prompting it to seek new supply routes (EurActiv 18/01/06).

In a statement, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs called for "a determined effort to resolve the current disagreement," saying that "to date, no member state has reported any reduction in supplies".

A spokesman for Naftogaz, the natural gas company which controls pipelines in Ukraine, warned on Tuesday that the company may begin reducing supplies to Europe if Gazprom carries out its threat to impose a second cut. "We will do that if our energy security is threatened. At the moment it is not," Valentyn Zemlyansky told The Associated Press in Kyiv.

In a statement, Gazprom said it "would fulfil all contracts, as it has done for decades" but that, as a commercial company, it needs "clients to pay for the services provided".

"Natural gas deliveries to EU countries will continue at full volume," said Gazprom spokesperson Sergei Kypriyanov, adding that "the cuts in gas supplies to Ukraine were caused exclusively by the non-payment of debts for additional Russian gas".

A deal between Gazprom and Naftogaz to displace trade intermediaries between the two state monopolies was announced in February but the details were not immediately communicated to trade partners in Europe (EurActiv 14/02/08).source

My comment: Reading this, I start feeling odd. I mean, the bad guy in the picture is surely Ukraine. Because as I see it, it owes Gazprom money, Gazprom is trying to force them to pay by the only means possible-cutting the gas and Ukraine instead cuts the gas for Europe. I don't want to be that pro-Russian, usually I'm all for EU, but this isn't quite fare. To force Russia to keep the gas steady while Ukraine is using that gas for free is kind of wrong. And it's heavy interference with the relations between two non-European countries.

EU governments clash on car CO2 plans

4 March 2008

A Commission proposal to limit emissions from cars sold in the EU is pitting countries home to the production of larger, luxury models against those which traditionally specialise in smaller, less-polluting ones.

The Commission, last February, proposed binding legislation 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. A further 10g/km reduction is expected to come from improvements in other areas including tyres, fuels and eco-driving.

The new legislation would replace a 1998 voluntary agreementexternal signed with the EU's Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which committed carmakers to achieving a target of 140g/km by 2008.

Concrete measures are still to be approved by Parliament and member states, but the Commission is envisaging CO2 caps proportional to vehicles' weight, with fines of up to €95 per excess gram of carbon dioxide that is emitted (EurActiv 20/12/07).

A first ministerial debate in the Environment Council on 3 March on the Commission's December proposal revealed a clear standoff between the French and the Germans.

The dispute centred on how much of the burden for cutting average fleet emissions should be borne by small vehicle manufacturers, mainly located in France and Italy, and how much should be borne by larger ones, mainly in Germany and Sweden.

The 'slope of the curve' indicates how strongly CO2 standards depend on a car's mass under the Commission's weight-based proposal.

If targets were based solely on weight (i.e. a vertical slope), manufacturers of larger vehicles would have no incentive to make their cars lighter – and thus more fuel-efficient – as any loss in mass would immediately result in stricter CO2 targets. Such a curve would also penalise manufacturers of small cars by requiring them to achieve much lower emission levels than for heavier cars, despite the fact that they already emit less.

While the Commission is pushing for a 60% slope, Germany is insisting on an 80% slope to accommodate its companies including Mercedes, BMW and Porsche. French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo however said that even a 60% slope would be "very difficult" to achieve and that 30% should be the maximum.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia, which are all home to German car manufacturing hubs, as well as Sweden, with its Saab and Volvo brands, backed Germany, while France was supported by Italy, Spain and Romania.

Britain, on the other hand, took an alternative approach, calling for a "simpler 25% effort by everybody", but with exemptions for "niche market" producers such as Rolls Royce and Bentley.

Environment ministers also clashed on the size of fines for manufacturers that miss their individual CO2 targets, with many delegations saying the Commission proposals were "excessive" and would both push up car prices and lead to a slower renewal of the existing fleet.

The issue of penalties has also been raised by Parliament's legal affairs committee, which has requested legal advice on whether the Commission has the authority to impose fines, pointing to a Court of Justice ruling which states that decisions regarding types and levels of criminal penalties must be left to the discretion of member states (EurActiv 24/10/07).

Green NGO Transport and Environment (T&E) says penalties have not been set high enough to ensure full compliance. "On the basis of the studies done for the Commission such a level is €150 per gram of CO2 exceeded per car," it stressed, adding: "We would like to stress that the €20, €35 and €60 levels of penalties, as proposed by the Commission for 2012-14, is well below the penalty level in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme of €100 per tonne of CO2".

It further insists that a weight-based system is "counterproductive in environmental and safety terms as it takes away a large part of the incentive to make cars lighter". source

My comment: Again, I'm with Greens. I hope France wins this one, but don't you find it funny how every country is defending its industries? I find it rather sweet :)

Solana to sound alarm over coming climate conflicts

11 March 2008

Europe must prepare for increased competition over dwindling resources, waves of climate change refugees and energy wars, warns a new report to be presented to European leaders during the 13-14 March Spring European Council.

"Climate change is already having a profound impact on international security," according to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who will present the reportPdf in Brussels on Thursday (13 March).

Solana points "reductions of arable land, widespread shortages of water, diminishing food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts" as drivers of increasingly hostile competition between states for dwindling global resources.

The west faces the potential for conflict with Moscow over resources in the Arctic, according to the report. The Arctic ice cap is melting at an increasing rate due to a rise in global average temperatures, making commercial exploitation of mineral and other resources in the untapped Arctic a possibility in future (EurActiv 17/09/07).

Russian scientists made headlines and startled the international community last year when they placed a flag on the Arctic sea bed in an apparent claim to precious mineral deposits.

Another concern cited in the report is the possibility of millions of 'environmental' migrants or refugees fleeing climate change-related fallout. "The multilateral system is at risk if the international community fails to address these threats," Solana warns.

In April 2007, the US military put forward a similar report warning that climate change could become "an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism" (EurActiv 17/04/07).

Solana makes a number of recommendations for dealing with the problem, including providing greater EU disaster response and conflict prevention capabilities. More 'carbon diplomacy', or cooperation with countries likely to be most affected by climate change, is also recommended.

And since rising waters and melting sea ice are expected to have a profound impact on the size and location of existing borders and territories, there is a need to "address the growing debate over territorial claims, exclusive economic zones, and access to new trade routes", he said.

While the report does not make any explicit calls for greater military spending as a means to deal with climate change fallout, Greenpeace issued a "word of warning" in response to the text.

"Any suggestion to increase military spending to deal with the impacts of climate change should be swiftly replaced with the notion that, to avert the starkest of these predictions, we need to act now to combat climate change", Mahi Sideridou told EurActiv. source

My comment:I'm not going to comment that as it's very obvious. Just read it. It's kind of scary.

EU to update law criminalising pollution at sea

12 March 2008

The Commission has tabled a revised version of an EU directive imposing criminal sanctions in cases of maritime pollution. The original proposal had to be modified following a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling last year.

The ECJ ruling, issued on 23 October 2007, supported the Commission proposal to impose criminal sanctions for pollution at sea. But it also stated that it does not have the authority to lay down the type and level of criminal penalty, which is left to the discretion of member states (EurActiv 24/10/07).

The ruling represented an important victory for the Commission, which had been arguing with member states over its right to intervene in criminal matters. The proposed revised text therefore aims to fill the legal gap left open by the ECJ.

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot commented: "The large majority of operators carrying polluting and dangerous goods are behaving fully responsibly and correctly. The proposal is focused on the small minority operators for whom this might not be the case and who tarnish the image of the shipping industry."

The revised text also complements a more general proposed directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law, on which Franco Frattini, the EU's justice and home affairs commissioner, said he hoped to reach an agreement soon. source

My comment: I agree with that. Any big-scale pollution should be penalized.

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