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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Science and ecology in EU 04.08-or green disasters

In today's issue, you can see how the dream of Green Europe is dying. Not very definitively, but it's well heading that way. I'm quite ashamed of some of the articles below. I hate it when the lack of vision and responsibility wins. Because this is exactly what's happening. I don't hate industries or something, quite the opposite. But industries cannot be left without any regulations. They should be monitored, because the laws of competition are different from the laws of health and life. Ok, I'm very affected.
  • EU pushes for better knowledge transfer
  • Ministers to discuss role of forests in energy scramble
  • Ambitious' EU eco standards in the making
  • MEPs want tougher waste recycling targets
  • Cracks appear in EU maritime safety strategy
  • Green groups slam MEPs backing of chemical classification overhaul
  • UN meeting agrees on climate roadmap

EU pushes for better knowledge transfer

11 April 2008

The Commission is hoping that a non-binding Recommendation on intellectual property and knowledge transfer managment will make EU national systems more coherent and boost transnational academia-industry cooperation to turn more research into lucrative business results.

As a follow-up to its spring 2007 Communication on knowledge transfer, the Commission adopted, on 10 April 2008, a specific, non-binding RecommendationPdf external aimed at helping member states to adapt their national policies on the management of intellectual property (IP) and knowledge transfer (KT) activities.

The aim of the recommendation is to improve KT in particular at trans-national level, as several individual initiatives taken at national level lack coherence and hamper transnational knowledge transfer and wider exploitation of research results.

"European universities and research organisations are very good in producing new scientific knowledge but less good in converting knowledge in money," said Michel Claessens, the acting spokesman of Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik.

"This Recommendation is important as it makes the link between research and competitiveness," agreed Denis Dambois of the Commission's research directorate-general.

Dambois explained that in order to turn research into competitiveness and welfare, research results need to be translated into socio-economic benefits, useful products, new jobs and companies. "There are a number of knowledge transfer mechanisms that enable us to do so, but which are a bit underutilised in Europe," he added, listing R&D collaboration with industry, licensing from universities to industry and the creation of spin-off companies as examples. "In all these activities, the management of intellectual property is something very central and should be managed on a proper and professional way."

The main part of the Recommendation consists of a list of key principles for public authorities to help establish or adapt their IP and KT policies, including on funding aspects.

A "Code of Practice" annexed to the Recommendation gives universities and public research organisations "operational principles which they should rely on when developing or reviewing institutional policies". source

My comment: Ok, I agree Universities must stop shying off the industry. I'm glad at least that it's just a recommendation, not a requirement. And that he admits EU universities are great in creating knowledge. I only thought it's what they do, fight for knowledge, not for commercial activities. Anyway, I know the point is to stimulate universities to fight for public financing and not to rely on the government to pay them. But still, it's kind of weird they try to push so hard for the US system. If they manage the patent regulations for the whole EU to make them simple and not so time and money expensive, I'm sure we'll quickly catch up with USA. But to try to translate their system in EU-no, thanks!

Ministers to discuss role of forests in energy scramble

11 April 2008

Responding to climate change and energy concerns while conserving forests and biodiversity will be among the topics of discussion during an informal meeting of environment ministers this weekend in Slovenia.

"There are indications that in certain regions the increased use of wood for energy has already shifted management towards intensification of production, which may negatively impact biodiversity," says a background paper prepared by the Slovenian EU Presidency for the 11-14 April informal Council meeting.

The Commission is proposing a 10% increase in biofuels over the next 12 years as part of efforts to achieve a 20% share of renewable energy use by 2020. But there are growing concerns about the biodiversity and climate change impacts of more biofuels cultivation, both within the EU and in developing countries like Brazil and Indonesia, where the cultivation of biomass for biofuels production has boomed.

In the EU, the targets are "likely to create a greater market for forest biomass to meet increased demand for feedstock. The rate of utilisation of forests is therefore likely to rise," says the background paper.

The Slovenian Presidency argues that "bioenergy" can only be considered sustainable if it creates "no additional pressures on forest biodiversity, soil, water and other forest resources, including the greenhouse-gas sink potential of forests".

Member states are in discussions about the appropriate sustainability criteria that should be used to guide the EU's biofuels and biomass production drive. Many EU countries want to set stricter sustainability criteria (EurActiv 01/04/08), and there has been some speculation that the EU may revise its targets due to fears of intolerable hikes in food prices, mass deforestation and water shortages (EurActiv 14/03/08).

A Council working group has been established to discuss the issue in greater detail and is scheduled to submit a report to member states on 7 May. The debate is set to continue throughout the year, with the French EU Presidency seeking a deal on the renewables proposal before the end of 2008. source

My comment: Mmm, ok, great, are they telling me it's ok to cut the forests in order to meet the goals? Because that's absurd. And here, in Bulgaria, the forests are already decreasing very rapidly. I can't agree with that and I think there should be very strict limitations on the origin of wood, as well as the origin of biofuels.

Ambitious' EU eco standards in the making

10 April 2008

Current standards and labelling schemes for appliances and office equipment are insufficient in the light of the EU's climate change agenda and need to be expanded to a range of non energy-consuming products, according to draft Commission plans seen by EurActiv.

Brussels wants to expand the scope of the EU's Eco-Design Requirements for Energy-Using Products (EuP) Directive to include non energy-using products as a central part of a new action plan on SCP and SIP.

A "framework for the setting of eco-design should be available for all products which have a significant impact on the environment", according to a draft directive to revise the scope of the 2005 EuP Directive. The draft is dated 18 March, and has since been submitted for consultation to the different services (DGs) of the Commission.

The Commission has not yet specified which products would be affected by the new rules, and extending the scope of the existing directive "makes it necessary to introduce the definition of 'product'".

Nonetheless, windows, baths, showers and taps are cited in a separeate draft communication on the SCP and SIP action plans. The greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of windows, for example, could be reduced by one-third through better insulation standards, it says.

Brussels laments that existing rules for 'energy-using products only account for 35/40% of the environmental impacts of products', and that there is a lack of coordination between regulatory instruments and voluntary initiatives, as well as a disconnect between different national and regional schemes.

Along with new labels and standards, the Commission is set to propose fiscal incentives and more 'greener' public procurement rules in order to stimulate demand and uptake of cleaner products.

There are concerns in Brussels circles that the action plans will spark a contentious debate between industry sectors about the scope of a new definition for products that will be affected by the standards. And a repeated delay of the action plans, originally scheduled for December 2007, has given rise to speculation that the Commission has struggled to define a coherent strategy (EurActiv 21/02/08).
My comment: Nothing new in here. Lots of good intentions and lack of will to put them in action. I don't see why the industry should be against green labeling. Can't they see that will be actually good for them, because it will give them something to be ahead of their competitors? Yes, it will require some investments but so what, investments are constant in every business. If you want to be the best, you have to invest. Then, what's the difference?

MEPs want tougher waste recycling targets

9 April 2008

Recycling targets should be increased and incinerators subjected to efficiency criteria when burning waste for energy 'recovery' purposes, according to MEPs who voted on a controversial revision of EU recycling rules on 8 April.

By 2020, 50% of the EU's household waste and 70% of construction waste should be recycled, according to a majority of MEPs in the Parliament's Environment Committee. These targets should, according to MEPs, accompany member-state efforts to stabilise waste production by 2012 (based on 2009 levels).

The vote is part of the Parliament's second reading on the revision of the EU Waste Framework Directive, a controversial piece of legislation that is plagued by widely differing waste and recycling practices across the EU.

At EU level, member states and Parliament have locked horns on the level of recycling targets, the kind of hierarchy that should be used to determine waste handling and the classification system that should be used to distinguish waste incineration from recovery.

Countries like France which possess a large number of incinerators want their facilities to be classified as 'recovery' operations, since part of the incineration process produces energy. Importantly, such a classification would qualify such facilities for EU financial support under environmental state aid rules.

But a number of Green MEPs on the environment committee are sceptical after having previously proposed that incinerators should be classified as recovery operations only if their principal purpose is energy production.

In their 8 April vote, MEPs accepted, by a narrow margin, a Commission compromise on the matter. Incinerators would be classified as recovery operations only if they respect energy efficiency criteria established by Brussels. The criteria would need to be reviewed after two years, according to the vote.

MEPs also stuck to their insistence that a five-stage waste hierarchy should be strictly adhered to, with any departures justified on the basis of life-cycle 'thinking'. Imposing an obligation to conduct an actual life-cycle assessment or analysis was deemed too costly and bureaucratic by the committee, however. source

My comment: In the positions below the articles, one got the impression, companies are very scared of any new rule. I really don't understand it like this. Incinerators are essential for the level of garbage-production at the moment. Though for me, even more essential, besides they being clean and efficient, is to decrease that garbage-production. It's simply unbelievable how much plastic bags on accumulate for one week. This should be one of the main directions for Ecology in Europe.

Cracks appear in EU maritime safety strategy

7 April 2008

While international efforts to clean up shipping made significant progress last week with a compromise on cutting air pollution from ships, a meeting of European transport ministers today (7 April) could see EU ambitions to tackle maritime pollution scaled down.

The International Maritime Organisation's environmental committee agreed, on 4 April, to slash the maximum level of sulphur content in marine fuels from 4.5% to 0.5% by 2020.

The move, which should be confirmed by IMO governments in October, was long awaited by the EU. Indeed, the bloc has been pushing for a global deal on cutting harmful pollutants emitted by ships, including not only sulphur, but also nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other greenhouse gases. It has notably criticised progress within the UN agency for being too slow and says it will go it alone if things are not speeded up (EurActiv 17/04/07).

No agreement has yet been reached on tackling carbon dioxide, but the Commission nevertheless welcomed the "unbelievable" progress achieved on sulphur.

But the EU executive is likely to be less enthusiastic later today (7 April) once the bloc’s 27 transport ministers have discussed its proposals to tackle pollution at sea.

Indeed, the majority of member states look set to reject outright two draft texts containing new rules on flag state compliance and the civil liability of shipowners. The two proposals are part of a broader 'Erika III' package on maritime safety, named after the infamous single-hull tanker that sank off the coast of France in 1999, causing a catastrophic oil spill.

The Commission wants to make IMO rules on 'flag state obligations' – i.e. the duties of countries to ensure that ships flying their flag meet certain safety standards – mandatory for all member states, with the introduction of regular audits and assessments.

It also wants to make ship operators fully liable for damage to third parties and establish a compulsory insurance scheme to ensure they are financially able to compensate them in the event of accidents and pollution.

But, in both cases, at least 10-12 member states are arguing that too many additional costs would be generated for their administrations and that the issues would be better dealt with at IMO level. This would leave a much larger degree of discretion to member states.

With only a handful of countries, including France, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain, eager to back the Commission's plans, the Slovenian Presidency looks to have a tough job on its hands to achieve a compromise, even on a "softer" text. source

My comment: That is OUTRAGEOUS!!! I mean the second part, with the first, I completely agree. But how could they not want to back this regulation. I'm familiar with the ERIKA case and everyone who is, should be backing the proposition. Because the situation in which no one is responsible for the damage its ships are doing is kind of weird. Very comfy for the countries that could easily blame the owners and the owners will blame the staff and the staff will be dead, and of course, no one to blame. I can't believe I'm reading that!

Green groups slam MEPs backing of chemical classification overhaul

4 April 2008

Environmentalists heavily criticised Wednesday's (2 April) approval by Parliament's environment committee of a new law harmonising EU chemical classification practices with international standards. They say it will fail to protect consumers and workers from dangerous chemicals.

The draft law, which will revise EU rules on the classification, labelling and packing (CLP) of dangerous chemicals, was approved by the committee with only minor changes, despite demands from the Greens to extend chemical labelling rules to some lower-hazard substances.

Green and centre-left MEPs, who were outvoted by 48 to 10, also failed to include a passage calling for separate label requirements for persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic substances.

The environmental NGO ChemSec called the vote a "weak show", regretting that the main driving force appeared to be an "early deal rather than a convincing result".

Catherine Ganzleben from the European Environmental Bureau (EBB) also expressed frustration with the outcome, criticising MEPs' failure to set a high international standard for implementing of the UN's Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

On the contrary, Cefic, which represents the European chemical industry, welcomed MEPs endorsement of the new law. Cefic's Johan Breukelaar hailed the vote as a "step into the right direction".

The law must still be approved by Parliament's full assembly and by member states before coming into force. source

My comment: Yep, this post will definitely be unpleasant for my green soul. Anyone thinks this is fair? Because it's not! It's easy and shameful. I really can't say anything else, I'm stupefied by this lack of will and social responsibility.

UN meeting agrees on climate roadmap

9 April 2008

Gathered for the first major climate talks since the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last year, delegates from 162 countries agreed on a timetable for the conclusion of a global climate pact by December 2009.

The UN Bangkok Climate Change Talks ended on 4 April, with an agreement on an 18-month work plan for negotiations on long-term greenhouse gas emissions targets. The programme also addresses stronger mitigation measures, adaptation to the impacts of climate change, the development and use of new low-carbon technologies and financing mechanisms.

Delegates agreed that the use of emissions trading, as well as the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation, should continue after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 – a move welcomed by UN climate chief Yvo de Boer as an "important signal to businesses", who have been asking for clarity on this issue.

No other major breakthroughs were achieved. Instead, the meeting concluded with an agreement on holding seven more meetings until December 2009, when all 189 signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will gather in Copenhagen in the hope of thrashing out the final details of the post-2012 climate framework.

Three of these meetings will be held in 2008. The first of these takes place in Bonn, Germany in June, followed by Ghana in August and finally Poznan, Poland in December. source

My comment: Weak, simply weak...

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