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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

EU and Climate, 03.08

In this edition-the victorious march of European heavy-polluting industries and more:
My comments are below the articles as usual.

Social partners demand protection from 'carbon leakage'

14 March 2008

Climate change topped the agenda of the Tripartite Social Summit yesterday (13 March), with social partners insisting that incentives must be offered to prevent potentially polluting industries from relocating and withdrawing jobs from the EU.

The Tripartite Social Summit, which meets once or twice a year, brings together European social partners (trade unions and employers' federations) with the Commission and the Council Troika (the present and the two upcoming EU Presidencies).

Prior to its meeting on 13 March 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had pointed out the risk of heavy industries moving outside Europe to avoid strict environmental standards and emissions trading within the EU (see EurActiv 13/03/08).

Addressing the Tripartite Summit, which he chaired, Commission President José Manuel Barroso said employers' organisations and trade unions must "make an active contribution to the new low-carbon economy". "Our industries must not leave Europe to go pollute elsewhere, taking jobs with them," Barroso added.

The Commission president agreed "legislative measures to protect industry" were needed, adding: "We have time, until 2009 or 2012, to put together a precise system, but we can already establish an obligation to define this objective."

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said the revised emissions trading scheme should include a border adjustment mechanism to ensure European industry remains competitive (see EurActiv 23/01/08).

The social partners also agreed to start negotiating a framework on how to maximise the potential of Europe's workforce, including providing easier access and better career opportunities for disadvantaged groups and promoting the reconciliation of work, private and family lifeexternal .

The social partners' framework, which is a follow-up to their joint analysis of EU labour markets (see EurActiv 19/10/07), may include measures such as active labour market policies and lifelong learning. Depending on the outcome of negotiations, it could be considered an endorsement of the Commission's flexicurtity agenda (see EurActiv LinksDossier). source

My comment:Honestly, I think industries are black mailing EU. As you can read also in the article below, there's simply something wrong. From one side, we want to be firm about climate, on the other, we don't want companies to leave Europe. Ok, I'm asking , how this is going to happen. Because it looks impossible to me. If we give them free CO2 allowances, they will continue polluting without doing anything to improve efficiency and the CO2 emission. We keep the jobs, we loose all we were fighting for. For me, we should clearly decide what is more important for us-climate or industries. Because let's face it, we can't have both in the current situation. The only thing, I figure it could be done on the issue is to subsidize those companies to improve their emissions/directly, we show them the money and they show us the improvements/. Otherwise, we're just wasting our time.

Merkel urges EU leaders to act on 'carbon leakage'

13 March 2008

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will press EU leaders meeting in Brussels today and tomorrow to back urgent measures to prevent heavy industries such as cement and steel from fleeing the continent, as the bloc debates tighter limits on CO2 emissions after 2012.

EU heads of state and government are meeting in Brussels on 13-14 March for their traditional Spring Summit, which is going to focus on climate change and economic issues (EurActiv 10/03/08).

In January, the Commission proposed to tighten the EU emissions trading scheme (EU-ETS) for the period after 2012, a move which it said could lead to a rise in electricity prices of up to 10-15% (EurActiv 23/01/08).

But it added that, unless a global climate change agreement is reached, a "compensation mechanism" would be put in place to prevent 'carbon leakage' whereby EU industries covered by the EU–ETS move to other parts of the world, like China or India, where CO2 emissions are not regulated.

Two options are being considered in that event:

  • Granting free emission allowances to industries which are particularly exposed to international competition, or;
  • imposing a "carbon tax" on imports from countries with no CO2 emission constraints.

However, the Commission has delayed making a decision over which industries could benefit from the measures.

In Germany's view, the matter must be addressed "urgently", before a potential international agreement is struck to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

"Until an international agreement is concluded, auctioning of greenhouse gas allowances should not apply to sectors with a significant risk of carbon leakage," according to the text pushed for by German diplomats.

Energy-intensive industries such as glass, cement and steel have stepped up warnings about the potential for 'carbon leakage', meaning the relocation of energy intensive factories and jobs beyond the EU's borders (EurActiv 27/11/07).

But until now, the Commission has only given them partial assurances, saying they may be given free emission allowances in the post-2012 phase of the EU emissions trading scheme.

However, at the same time, it has also resisted calls for immediate measures, saying the priority should be to conclude an international climate change agreement that would potentially resolve the 'carbon leakage' issue.

My comment: "Until an international agreement is concluded, auctioning of greenhouse gas allowances should not apply to sectors with a significant risk of carbon leakage," To me-that sounds like never. There will always be a country, no matter how small which won't sign the agreement and all the companies will head for it. That's not the way. At that moment, we simply can't expect to have an agreement that's been signed by ALL and been enforced by all.

EU global green energy fund endorsed by Parliament

14 March 2008

More than €100 million are set to flow into a new Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF), which the Commission hopes will generate up to €1 billion in risk capital for 'green' energy projects in developing states. Parliament approved the fund during a 13 March plenary session in Strasbourg.

Conceived as a public-private partnership, the fund's objective is to mobilise the large-scale public and private financing needed for pilot projects in renewable energy and clean technology projects, particularly in developing states.

The Commission, which proposed the fund in October 2006, hopes it will act as an incentive for private capital financing by offering "suitable risk sharing and co-funding options for various commercial and non-commercial investors with a global investment mandate".

The Commission estimates that initial capital costs are three to seven times higher for investment in renewables that they are for conventional energies such as coal and gas.

The EU will contribute €80 million to the fund by 2010, with a €15 million 'kick-start' contribution scheduled for 2008. Lending institutions like the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB) will also contribute to the fund, with €100 million in total initial funding from commercial and public sources expected.

Emphasis is to be placed on the promotion of renewable and energy efficiency projects in areas so far neglected by mainstream investments, signalling a link with EU-funded efforts in local development projects. source

My comment: That is GREAT! But, and that but is very essential, there must be a clear and obvious way of tracing where those money go, are they accessible to every state and are they invested in the right projects. Because as we saw recently, corruption in EU is too high, money are WASTED and lost. And this project is too good to be wasted.

EU agrees tight schedule for climate and energy deal

17 March 2008

Europe’s leaders have pledged to find agreement on controversial CO2 reduction and renewable energy laws before the end of the year, in a bid to maintain a strong position in international climate change negotiations. Energy intensive industries were given assurances that the measures would safeguard their competitiveness.

At a landmark summit in March 2007, European heads of state agreed to move forward with ambitious objectives to slash greenhouse-gas emissions and boost renewable energies by 20% by 2020 in a bid to reduce the EU's dependency on imported fuels and set the pace for "a new global industrial revolution".

On 23 January, the commitments were followed up by a package of Commission legislative proposals, notably on CO2 effort sharing and emissions trading as well as renewables, signalling the start of negotiations to agree the measures necessary to reach the '20-20-20' targets.

With a major international meeting on climate change scheduled for Copenhagen in December 2009, the EU is under pressure to agree internally on how to deal with the threat of climate change before pushing other states to agree a post-2012 global climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

But member states still need to iron out a number of differences before they can present a united front in Copenhagen.

And Europe's energy-intensive industries have put pressure on key member states, notably Germany, to get insurances from Brussels that their global competitiveness will not be undermined by the EU's tightening 'carbon belt'.

The argument put forward is that sectors like steel, cement and aliminium will be forced to take their operations outside of Europe if other states do not adhere to binding greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures. This would result in major job losses and so-called 'carbon leakage', meaning an increase in GHG emissions outside of the EU's borders.

The conclusions do address the apparent urgency of the matter. But the text also notes that "an international agreement remains the best way of addressing this issue", a reflection of the Commission's position.

But Brussels remains optimistic a global deal can be reached, and will not elaborate until 2010 any details about what kind of protective measures would be applied in case international negotiations fail.

The summit received poor marks from environmentalists. The Greens in the Parliament said the "Spring Council has proved that economic interests still rank higher than environmental protection".

"The half-successful attempts to grant exemptions to energy intensive industries before it is known if there will be an ambitious international post-Kyoto agreement, is a fatal signal. With this attitude EU leaders demonstrated their scepticism for the chances of a successful outcome of the next round of international UN climate talks", according the Greens' Vice-Presidents Rebecca Harms and Claude Turmes.source

My comment: I fully agree with Greens positions! This summit is just a joke. The only good thing that got out of it is that member states can decrease CO2 in their own way, which mean nuclear plants are safe for the moment. But it's absurd that EU can't make even a slight move without the enthusiastic agreement of big industries. Who rules who I'm asking!

EU to consider VAT cuts on green goods

17 March 2008

Heads of state and government from the EU’s 27 member states agreed to consider a Franco-British proposal to cut value-added tax (VAT) on certain environmentally-friendly goods, such as energy efficient light bulbs and insulation materials.

Current EU rules on value-added tax (VAT), spelled out in the 2006 VAT Directive external Pdf external , specify that member states must subject supplies of goods and services to a rate of at least 15%.

However, they also allow countries to apply reduced rates (never less than 5%) in a broad range of areas deemed essential, like medicines, or labour-intensive services, including renovation of private dwellings, cleaning and hairdressing (EurActiv 27/07/06).

While reduced rates for energy consumption are also allowed to ensure poorer households have access to energy, social considerations rather than 'green' objectives have traditionally driven the selection of items on the list.

The EU executive is due to bring forward new legislative proposals on VAT rates in the summer of 2008 with a view to putting some order to this highly disparate and complex VAT structure and create some additional certainty for businesses and consumers.

The final conclusions from the Spring Summit meeting, released on 14 March, invite the Commission to "examine areas where economic instruments, including VAT rates, can have a role to play to increase the use of energy-efficient goods and energy-saving materials" - a feat appararently achieved thanks to Brown's intense lobbying of other EU leaders.

According to him, products that could benefit from a reduced VAT rate of 5%, rather than the current minimum of 15%, include cars with reduced CO2 emission, insulation materials, efficient light bulbs and energy-efficient domestic appliances.

The move came as leaders restated their commitment to cutting greenhouse emissions and combating global warming (EurActiv 17/03/08).

However, the real test will come once the Commission – generally in favour of a greater harmonisation of VAT rates and the use of taxes as a tool for "greening" the EU economy – presents its new VAT plans in the summer.

They will require the unanimous backing of all 27 EU member states. Yet, any change in VAT rates across the EU remains a very sensitive issue, with many countries fearing the move could make them lose out on vast revenues generated by their VAT. source

My comment:Mhm, let's see that happening. Because I'm not sure even if this is doable. But of course, this is the right thing to do, because it will stimulate people to produce green stuff. The problem is who and when will decide what is green and what not and whether this list will be static or dynamic.

EU signals possible retreat on biofuels

14 March 2008

An EU-wide target to boost the use of biofuels in European transport could be revised due to fears of intolerable hikes in food prices, mass deforestation and water shortages, it emerged from statements made after the Spring Summit.

In March 2007, EU leaders committed to raising the share of biofuels in transport from current levels of around 2% to 10% by 2020, following growing concerns over rising oil prices, energy security and climate change.

The goal was then translated into legal proposals, presented on 23 January 2008 by the Commission, as part of a broader Directive on renewable energiesexternal .

The draft directive introduces a range of "sustainability criteria" for biofuels to counter growing concerns about the risks related to their mass production, including deforestation, hikes in food prices and water shortages.

While no decision was taken at this year's summit, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said: "We're not excluding the possibility that we'll have to amend or revise our goals."

The target of raising the share of biofuels in transport from current levels of 2% to 10% by 2020 was agreed this time last year by EU leaders themselves. It was initially considered a good means of incentivising governments and industry to invest in biofuels, in order to reduce Europe's dependency on imported oil and contribute to the fight against climate change.

Yet a plethora of studies and impact assessments produced by various sources in the past year have raised the alarm, namely that increasing biofuel production to these levels based on current technologies – which mainly involve transforming food and feed crops into fuels – could have more negative consequences for the environment than positive ones.source

My comment: Well, I can't agree more. It's important to be able to face an error and fix it.

Green buildings: EU must get private sector involved, says report

21 March 2008

Financial barriers, including high initial cost barriers and an inadequacy of traditional financing instruments, are a key element preventing private actors from engaging further towards making the residential building sector more energy efficient, according to a study from the International Energy Agency (IEA) published on 20 March.

Existing buildings are responsible for over 40% of the world's total primary energy consumption and account for 24% of world CO2 emissions, according to IEA, which argues that "an impressive amount" of this energy could be saved by applying energy-efficient technologies and practices.

Despite the proven cost-effectiveness of energy-efficiency technologies, their potential remains untapped in the building sector "due to numerous market barriers", states the IEA, based on the results of case studies of the residential sector in France, Germany, the UK, Japan and the US.

The IEA considers energy efficiency as "by far" the most cost-effective way to tackle the three-fold challenge of increasing energy security, reducing costs and contributing to a cleaner environment. While the EU has committed to slashing its energy consumption by 20% by 2020 through improved energy efficiency, its energy-savings plans have so far received much less attention that its 'sister' goals of reducing CO2 and raising the share of renewable energies - also by 20% respectively, by the same date (EurActiv 30/01/08).

The Agency calls for the creation of a real market for energy efficiency, saying the current one is "weak and perceived as too risky". While it congratulates EU moves to create a unified market through standardisation and liberalisation, it warns that market transformation "will not take place without increased involvement from the private sector".

It therefore recommends the set-up of public-private partnerships to help overcome the cost barriers related to energy-efficient building projects and to increase certainty through risk-sharing instruments, thereby boosting large private sector involvement. source

My comment: I don't understand this, really. I mean, what better stimulus to improve the energy efficiency of your house than saving your own money. While this is quire expensive, I see many people doing it here. And we're not exactly rich. But they get credits and insulate. Maybe the problem is not that much administrative as informative as people don't realize they should do it not for some stupid EU initiative, but for themselves!

Green NGO demands nanotech legislation

13 March 2008

Consumers are unknowingly using hundreds of products containing potentially toxic nanomaterials, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth (FoE). The NGO is calling for a moratorium on the commercial release of any new food products until a specific legislative framework regulating nanomaterials as new substances is developed.

According to NanoforumPdf external , a European platform on nanotech, 'nanofood' stands for the use of nanotechnology techniques or tools during the cultivation, production, processing or packaging of the food. Even though some think that atomically modified molecular food could some day be created by using nanomachines, this is not the case today.

The aim of researchers is to use this technology to change food processing and enhance the safety and nutritional quality of food. Applications of nanotechnology in the food industry include smart packaging, on-demand preservatives and interactive foods, which would allow consumers to modify the nutritional value, taste and colour of food according to their needs.

Manufactured nanoparticles can already be found in food packaging and other food contact materials, such as storage containers, cutlery and chopping boards. Packaging materials based on nanotechnology can extend the shelf-life of food and drink and improve food safety, thanks to antimicrobial packaging. Future 'smart packaging materials' are expected to absorb oxygen and detect food pathogens and salmonella, as well as to alert consumers of spoiled food.

The environmental NGO argues that it has identified at least 104 food and agricultural products either containing untested and potentially hazardous manufactured nanomaterials, or manufactured using nanotechnology. These products are listed in a reportPdf external released on 11 March 2008. Friends of the Earth believes that the real number of products is much higher "given that many food manufacturers may be unwilling to advertise the nanomaterial content of their products".

The group is calling on European policymakers to adopt comprehensive and precautionary legislation to manage the risks raised by the use of nanotechnology and asks for a "moratorium on the further commercial release of food products, food packaging, food contact materials and agrochemicals that contain manufactured nanomaterials" until the new laws are in place.

The fear is that nanoparticles and materials used in, for example, food contact materials could eventually be transmitted to the actual food ingredients or inhaled and absorbed through the skin by consumers. The behaviour of these materials inside the body is not yet known, which makes the potential health effects impossible to predict. The Commission has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to deliver a general opinion on the potential risks of the use of nanotechnologies in the food sector.

"Europeans should not be exposed to potentially toxic materials in their food and food packaging until proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety. Policymakers must stop claiming that existing regulatory frameworks are adequate to deal with the emerging science of nanotechnology and address the gaps in current food safety legislation as soon as possible," said Helen Holder from Friends of the Earth Europe. source

My comment:Mmm, obviously it's not about nanoparticles in the food, but I agree new regulations must be created. Safe or not, they must be regulated. And that cannot happen with current laws. As simple as this.

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