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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A new development on climate in Europe

In this edition:
  • EU ministers fine-tune plans to cut plane emissions
  • Major emitters pledge further climate talks
  • EU leaders slam White House climate plan
  • Water scarcity concerns growing
  • Strong EU team tests the 'climate' in China
  • EU considers truck pollution charges
  • Labels to help consumers choose 'greener' products
  • Farmers defend pesticides in face of rising food prices
This is one of the important posts. Third this month. I hope some of my comments ring a bell for you and make you think about our food and what we're ready to sacrifice in order to keep avoid moving up in the future. Please, open your eyes and use it on purpose.

EU ministers fine-tune plans to cut plane emissions

21 April 2008

European ministers have formally adopted changes to a Commission plan to include the aviation sector in the EU's carbon cap-and-trade scheme, paving the way for three months of tough negotiations with Parliament.

The common position, adopted by ministers on 18 April, confirms a political agreement reached by the Council last December, allowing the dossier to be passed back to the European Parliament for second reading.

In its first reading vote, Parliament had demanded that all airlines flying to and from EU territory be included in the bloc's emission trading scheme as early as 2011. It also said the sector should be made to reduce its CO2 emissions by 10% compared to average 2004-2006 levels and that 25% of all pollution permits should be auctioned, rather than handed out for free (EurActiv 14/11/07).

The Council, on the other hand, wants to give airlines until 2012 to comply with the scheme and says the sector should be allowed to keep emission levels steady at the 2004-2006 average. It further insisted on giving out 90% of the pollution credits for free so as not to put too much pressure on airlines' competitiveness.

Parliament's rapporteur on the issue, German MEP Peter Liese (EPP-ED), now has three to four months to achieve a consensus on the basis of the Council's common position. A first vote on his revised report will be held in Parliament's environment committee in just over a month, on 27 May. The full House should then take a vote on 7 July.

But Parliament is unlikely to give in to the Council easily. In an earlier interview with EurActiv, Liese had already stressed the importance of having "a substantial amount of auctioning" in order to avoid airlines making so-called "windfall profits" by passing on the non-existent costs of permits to their passengers. He further believes that a bigger proportion of auctioning is the only way to ensure that new competitors can enter the market. source

My comment: Again, I don't see what's the use of those permits if they are 90% for free. This is ridiculous. I agree with the plan of the Parliament and fully support it. Airlines are likely to pass the price on customers anyway, better be for a reason.

Major emitters pledge further climate talks

21 April 2008

The world's leading emitters of greenhouse gases last week debated emissions reduction levels and the massive sums required to boost 'greener' development during a two-day meeting that produced no clear commitments or agreements.

Delegates from the United States, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia and South Africa gathered for a 'Major Emitters Meeting' in Paris on 17 and 18 April to discuss climate change.

"We achieved a consensus on the need for long-term and medium-term goals for reducing greenhouse-house gases," Jean-Pierre Jouyet, France's secretary of state for European affairs.
"But we have not got quantified targets at this stage and we regret this," he said.

Views diverged in particular between the EU and the US in terms of the level of GHG reduction commitments required to avert major climate change related calamities such as rising sea levels, desertification and extreme weather events.

At least €127 billion in annual investments would be required to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, according to a report presented by the South African delegation. The figures presented in the report inspired 'intense' discussions among delegates, according to press reports.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also pointed to the threat of population displacements and violent conflicts caused by competition over dwindling resources, aggravated by crop failures related to global warming.

The 16 countries, which account for 80% of the world's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, announced they will hold further meetings in May and June, though no specific dates were announced.

A first meeting of the 16 nations was organised in September 2007 by US President George Bush, part of US efforts to garner support for a global climate change deal that focuses on clean technology uptake rather than binding GHG emission reductions.

The US is hoping to secure a global climate change deal as an alternative to UN-led negotiations, launched in Bali in December 2007, on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol that Washington never ratified.

The EU however supports the expansion of an international carbon market under the umbrella of a global commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 25% to 40% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. source

My comment: Well, meeting on tax-payers backs is fine. I just hope something good gets out of all of this. Actually I think maybe this is a sign that the circle is closing around the emitters. Hopefully soon enough, we'll read numbers along with the promises.

EU leaders slam White House climate plan

18 April 2008
Outgoing US President George Bush's plans to cap CO2 emissions by 2025 have attracted scorn in Europe, where the proposed measures are seen as insufficient and overdue. But the US is also critical of 'rhetorical' CO2 commitments and favours clean tech development.

Better vehicle fuel efficiency standards, support for second-generation biofuels, efficiency criteria for appliances, renewable energy uptake and 'greener' building codes are all part of the US strategy, Bush said.

"These objectives are backed by a combination of new market-based regulations, new government incentives, and new funding for technology research," he added.

But the plans were widely criticised, notably by European delegates, during a 17-18 April meeting of major emitters in Paris. The meeting is being attended by delegates from the US, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Japan, China, Canada, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Australia, Indonesia and South Africa.

"The president has made a disappointing speech that does not match up to the global challenge," said Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's Environment Minister.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also reacted critically, saying the plans "will not contribute to the effective tackling of climate change".

And Andrej Kranjc, environment secretary for Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, expressed his "disappointment" with the 2025 target, which is widely seen as 'too little, too late' compared with the EU's commitment to slash GHG emissions by 20% by 2020.

The Bush administration is opposed to EU-style emissions reductions commitments. "Sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realised and every chance of hurting [the US] economy" should be avoided, Bush said.

Despite the generally negative reception of Washington's 2025 targets, the US has also received praise for outpacing the EU in terms of spending levels in clean technology research and development. source

My comment: I somewhat agree with USA that EU's claims are only on words, but that could change with time. While USA lacking claims are not going to change. For the moment, they are so busy avoiding any commitment that they miss the real point of all this- to keep the Planet habitable.

Check this link, it's for one rather interesting interview about how to measure our impact on Earth. Basically it comes to that-how many potatoes we eat, how much place it takes to grow them, how much oil to transport them and so on. It's rather annoying to think about it, but if we try to be realistic-we have to think about those things, we have to take into account how much things cost for real, not in terms of money, but in terms of products. Which is important if we are facing a scarcity of resources.

Water scarcity concerns growing

18 April 2008

Speedy solutions are needed to combat water shortages, according to experts and politicians who debated the issue at a conference hosted by the European Water Forum in the European Parliament on 16 April.

Water crept up the EU's political agenda last summer, following the serious droughts that swept across Europe. The events forced the Commission to react, publishing a communication on water scarcity and drought, which proposes higher water prices to deter overuse (EurActiv 19/07/07).

"The EU is looking at addressing the issue through water pricing policies," confirmed Commission official Andrea Tilche, pointing also to a Commission project called AQUAMONEY, which brings together sixteen research institutions to determine correct water pricing policies.

But Tilche added that the maintenance and operation of water resources in Europe will continue to be paid for by consumers.

Water shortages are becoming more common in Europe, with the Catalan region in Spain the latest area to be affected by decreasing reservoir levels. Catalonia has started importing water from as far afield as Southern France.

MEP and chairwoman of the conference Cristina Gutierrez-Cortines observed that recycling of water should be used more widely. Spain currently leads Europe in this area, with 12% of water being recycled. Countries like Israel recycle 75% of their water.

Tilche agreed, adding that harvesting rainfall, de-salination and the use of drainage water should be seriously considered as alternatives for reducing water stress.

The conference also focused particularly on water scarcity in the Middle East, due to the acute shortage of water in the region. The participants agreed on key areas, notably conservation technologies and various water stress mitigation options, that should be supported in the region.

In his concluding remarks, Bernard Zamaron, who was a personal friend of EU founder Robert Schuman, suggested a form of the European Coal and Steel Community could be formed in the Middle East - replacing 'coal and steel' with 'water' and 'European' with 'Middle Eastern'.

My comment:Hm, the last paragraph is rather fun. But as for the others, water really could be a problem. In both directions. Because regions usually experience not only a drought but floods followed by a drought. Which is even worst. Maybe the water should be simply captured and then used. This way at least one wouldn't have to import water. But that's not good for the Middle East obviously.

Strong EU team tests the 'climate' in China

22 April 2008

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will lead an impressive group of nine commissioners on a highly emblematic visit to China on 23 and 24 April. It is the EU executive's largest delegation to land on foreign soil for a bilateral visit.

Officially the main focus of the visit is opening a dialogue with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and the Chinese government that will focus on the challenges of climate change and sustainable development. A meeting with President Hu Jintao is also on the agenda. Barroso is accompanied by Commissioners S. Dimas, A. Piebalgs, J. Potočnik, B. Ferrero-Waldner, P. Mandelson, L. Michel, V. Špidla, M. Kuneva and L. Kovács.

On track to become the biggest economy in the world, China is already the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and the Commission is intent on getting Beijing to contribute to fighting climate change by committing to globally binding emission reduction targets (EurActiv 04/12/07).

But Barroso and his team also face the difficult task of trying to improve the overall climate of EU-China relations at a time when important pressure groups on the Old Continent, including in the European Parliament, are calling for a boycott of this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing - or at least of their opening ceremony. Following China's repression of Tibetan protesters, the European Parliament also has plans to invite the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, to one of its plenary sessions.

Barroso however has declared himself against the boycott of the opening ceremonies, which could give him some leverage with his Chinese counterparts. He plans to use this leverage to talk about the Olympics and show the contradiction between the "greatest festivals of youth in the world" and repression and human rights violations.

Barroso and Prime Minister Wen will also launch an EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Mechanism. Proposed by the Chinese authorities and approved at the EU-China Beijing summit in November 2007, this mechanism will provide a new tool for dealing with the problems confronting European companies trying to establish themselves in China, especially in the fields of investment, market access and protection of intellectual property rights. source

My comment: Yeah, again politics sell their asses for the money. Because obviously the power-team isn't there to talk about the Climate. What has to do Meglena Kuneva, that is a customer's care commissar to do with Climate? Nothing. I think it's more a question of common markets than anything else. Whatever. Shame for Tibet.

EU considers truck pollution charges

23 April 2008

EU countries would be allowed to charge heavy road users for the costs they incur on society, including congestion, air pollution and noise – something prohibited by EU law up till now – according to an early draft of a Commission proposal to revise its 'Eurovignette Directive'.

The draft document seen by EurActiv suggests that toll prices on roads could be raised to include medical care for health problems relating to air and noise pollution, but also related productivity losses and welfare costs – for example due to sleep disturbance. Time loss, increased fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance costs caused by congestion, as well as crop losses and damages to the ecosystem caused by pollution could also be taxed. Costs related to traffic accidents, on the other hand, would be excluded.

Such 'external cost' charges could come on top of those already levied in some countries to finance construction and maintenance work. They would be determined by an independent authority, based on formulae set out in the directive. A key aspect is that they would have to vary according to the type of road they are levied on, the time at which they are collected – be it rush hour or nighttime, for example – and the vehicle's 'Euro' emissions class (which covers NOx and particulate matter - see LinksDossier on Euro 5 standards for cars).

According to the draft, all European roads could be covered by these types of schemes, rather than just the Trans-European Transport Network as is currently the case. The collection of charges would have to be based on an electronic system.

Similarly to the existing directive, only vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, rather than individual cars, would be covered by the new 'external cost' charge, except for charges relating to congestion.

While the aim of the future legislation is simply to make it possible for countries to impose tolls and charges for transport-related environmental and social costs, the draft signals that the Commission will review the situation in 2013 to determine whether the possibility should become an obligation.

The current ban on including external costs in road tolls has had implications for other transport sectors, most notably rail, where Community legislation prevents any internalisation of external costs "as long as it is not the case in road transport".

The revision of the Eurovignette Directive therefore represents an important step in reducing the whole transport sector's impact on the environment and human health. source

My comment: It looks like this is just another way to justify the increase in tolls and the politics of France to make auto transport undesirable option for people. I don't mind, but I think such things should be said in direct manner, not covering them behind other stuff. Because sleep disturbances and so on are really important, obviously, I wouldn't object them. I just object the lack of honesty.

Labels to help consumers choose 'greener' products

28 April 2008

An existing EU labelling scheme for energy-using products should be expanded to cover all manufactured goods, says the latest draft of an upcoming Commission action plan on sustainable consumption and production (SCP), scheduled for official publication on 14 May.

Under the draft action planword , the 2005 Eco-design Directive, which currently covers energy-using products (EuPs), would be expanded to include non energy-using items like clothing and footwear, furniture, cleaning products, windows, doors, insulation materials, irrigation equipment, concrete products and plasterboard.

While not all products will be required to physically bear a label, they will nonetheless by scrutinised on the basis of a life-cycle assessment of their 'eco performance', including energy and resource use.

Products that do not meet the minimum criteria set out in the revised directive would be kept off the EU market.

'Best performing' products, on the other hand, would be encouraged, including through preferential public procurement rules that are established based on a common benchmark for a given product group. The Commission argues that common EU-wide benchmark is necessary to harmonise criteria for 'green' public procurement across member states and to avoid distortions in the internal market.

As for fiscal incentive mechanisms like tax breaks for green goods, these "will be analysed further and the Commission will assess the need for further initiatives at Community level regarding fiscal or financial incentives," according to the draft.

The EU's voluntary eco-label scheme will also be expanded according to the draft proposal, with the process for obtaining an eco-label to be "streamlined and simplified".

Under current rules, eco-labels are awarded to new products based on a committee procedure, with member state experts voting on a Commission proposal to grant the label to certain products.

The regime came under scrutiny last week (24 April), when the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) accused the Commission of trying to undermine and weaken the legitimacy of the eco-label after it tried to grant the label to 'problematic substances' such as flame retardants and biocides. source

My comment: Again, the last paragraph seems to be the most important. So the Commission tried to make biocides eco-friendly! I can't believe that. Lobbysm is fine by me. But there should be control, it simply cannot go everywhere. And it will go as far as we let it. But I love the idea of the labels, i hope it gets to work. This was consumers can support green products and thus stimulate the business to produce the. But that will work only as long as the labels are randomly distributed.

Farmers defend pesticides in face of rising food prices

28 April 2008

Agricultural scientists have called for a wide array of pesticides to be maintained, saying fewer of them will lead to more resistant pests. The move follows a vote by the European Parliament last year to ban more chemical substances in the products.

In October last year, the European Parliament voted to extend a proposed list of substances to be banned from use in EU pesticide production (EurActiv 24/10/07).

The proposed list includes substances that cause cancer, disrupt the endocrine system of humans or are harmful to reproductive health. It was expanded by Parliament to include those that are potentially toxic to the immune system (immunotoxic) or the nervous system (neurotoxic).

It must now be sent for approval to a meeting of EU farm ministers in May.

But agricultural experts, meeting on 22 April 2008, adopted a "Declaration of Ljubljanaword external " expressing concern over the amendments, saying they could significantly impact upon crop yields.

Farmers, together with seed and crop protection associations, warned that the criteria proposed by Parliament would unjustifiably prohibit the use of several active substances "based on hazard measurements of the ingredients instead of risk assessment".

What's more, some scientists fear that reducing the diversity of pesticides available could make pests more resistant, resulting in lower yields and higher food prices.

"In order to safeguard the production of food at affordable prices, it is essential to provide farmers with access to sufficient diversity of crop protection solutions. This is essential to prevent or delay the development of resistant pests, and to maintain the efficacy of remaining crop protection products," said Dr Ian Denholm, a UK scientist.

This would not only make European crops uncompetitive but it would also threaten sustainable farming in Europe, they argue.

But Elliott Cannell, Europe co-ordinator at the Pesticides Action Network, an environmental group, said such claims are based on "bad science and misinformation". Reacting to a similar study earlier this year, he called such calls "professional scaremongering" (EurActiv 05/02/08). source

My comment: Again, we have a dangerous form of lobbism. While obviously people will always try to decrease the amount of chemistry in their food, and farmers will always try to get the most out of their crops, a balance must be found. And if a substance is found to be dangerous to human health, it shouldn't be allowed in the food. I am really worried by that trend to justify any kind of sh*t in the food by the prices and by the competitiveness of crops. That's absurd. There is a border which we shouldn't cross. And the health is that border. No one has the right to put other people in danger, especially without their knowledge. And farmers shouldn't be excluded from that. The food will get expensive, well, then let's grow more food. More real food. Not food that is modified and unclean for use.

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