Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Energy liberalisation in EU-again bad news,again thanks to France and Germany

Bad news for Europe:
  • Paris and Berlin win EU energy liberalisation deal
  • EU cracks down on French and German gas giants

Paris and Berlin win EU energy liberalisation deal

9 June 2008

EU energy ministers bowed to pressure from France and Germany at a meeting on Friday, agreeing on a "general approach" to opening gas and electricity markets that prevents integrated firms such as EDF and E.ON from selling off their transmission grids.

While details of the deal still need to be hammered out, the broad outlineword of the agreement is based on a 'third way' compromise proposal elaborated jointly by the Commission and the outgoing Slovenian EU Presidency in May (EurActiv 16/05/08).

It would allow former state monopolies such as EDF or GDF in France and E.ON or RWE in Germany to retain ownership of their gas and electricity grids. However, they would have to leave their management to an independent transmission operator (ITO) with "effective decision-making rights" over day-to day activities such as network operation and maintenance.

The alternative model should be subjected to a review by the Commission two years after entry into force of the directive, according to the agreement.

Ministers also discussed the role and powers of a new EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) to oversee the functioning of energy markets, notably with respect to cross-border cooperation between transmission system operators (TSOs). The agency should be independent from the Commission and member states, but its powers should not supersede those of national regulators.

This is contrary to the wishes of a majority of MEPs in Parliament's Industry (ITRE) Committee, who on 28 May voted favour of strong regulatory powers for ACER (EurActiv 29/05/08).

The full Parliament will have its say on the Council's agreement during plenary votes later this month and in July. A slight majority of ITRE Committee MEPs consider ownership unbundling as the preferred option and remain sceptical of the ITO model (EurActiv 07/05/08).

source

My comment: Great. Again screwed. I don't know how long Europe will tolerate the ignorant behaviour of France and Germany. I mean, the EU are no longer mostly France and Germany. Interestingly enough, after all those years, France and Germany definitely work together. Together against Europe. That's so so sad and upsetting.

EU cracks down on French and German gas giants

12 June 2008

The European Commission said on Thursday it is stepping up an investigation against E.ON and Gaz de France, saying it suspects the two energy utilities of illegally sharing the German and French markets in natural gas.

In a statement on 12 June, the Commission confirmed the investigation relates to "a suspected agreement and/or concerted practice between E.ON and GDF, according to which they would not sell gas in the other party's home market".

"The Commission's preliminary view is that this market-sharing agreement is in violation of EC Treaty rules banning restrictive business practices and cartels," the EU executive said. The investigation is open-ended.

The cartel allegations relate in particular to supplies of natural gas via the MEGAL pipeline, which is jointly owned by E.ON and GDF and transports Russian gas to France and Germany. The probe was opened in July last year following surprise office raids carried out in 2006 (EurActiv 30/07/07). The procedure is now being stepped up with the sending of a formal "letter of objections".

In a statement, Gaz de France said the investigation "concerns events that occurred several years ago before the complete deregulation of the European energy market," adding that these "have now been superseded". Gaz de France will respond during the summer or in September, said Armelle Dillar, a spokeswoman for the company.

E.ON Ruhrgas said it "rejects" the charges, pointing out that the agreements with GDF "were terminated by the companies in 2004 for the sake of clarity".

The probe comes as Brussels seeks to foster more competition onto EU energy markets in an effort to diversify supplies, encourage investment in new infrastructure and ultimately force prices down.

Launching a wave of antitrust investigations into the energy sector in February 2006, Neelie Kroes, the EU competition commissioner, said antitrust actions go hand in hand with regulatory measures to ensure more liquidity on EU energy markets.

"Competition enforcement is just one partner […] It dances not alone, but in step with regulation. Andris Piebalgs and I myself are fully committed to just that," Kroes said at the time (EurActiv 17/02/06). source

My comment: Yeah, they are strong enough to control France and Germany's governments, they will be very likely to be brought to court by anyone. Anyway, it's better than nothing. But I really fear this ultimate power of monopolists and it's effect over the European politics. It's simply not what I want to see in Europe. Europe should be stronger!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Energy in EU, June, 2008- some really bad news for car industry in EU

In this edition:
  • G8 energy chiefs worried by oil prices, eye nuclear
  • EU mulls mandatory CO2 ads for cars
  • Including aircraft operators in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme
  • EU pledges tax breaks to counter oil price rise
  • Member states in push to revise renewables plans
  • Merkel and Sarkozy 'breakthrough' on car emissions
Mostly bad news. Unfortunately. My comment are below. I'm especially sad over the last one. As the GreenPeace representative said-if the car industry say "Jump", Germany and France say "How high". Very very true, because it turns out that all the requirements of the car-producers are fullfilled. And the consumers and the planet are majorly screwed.

G8 energy chiefs worried by oil prices, eye nuclear

9 June 2008

Energy ministers from the Group of Eight (G8), plus China, India and South Korea, expressed concerns on Sunday (8 June) about the impact of soaring crude oil prices on the world economy, calling for better energy efficiency and more nuclear power.

"Current high oil prices are unprecedented and against the interest of either consuming or producing countries. They pose a heavy burden – particularly on resource-scarce developing countries," the group of countries said in a joint statement, released after the ministers' meeting in Hokkaido, Japan.

Over the past four years, crude oil prices have more than tripled, from $40 per barrel in 2004 to nearly $140 at the close of markets Friday (6 June). The meteoric price rise has caused public protests and riots in developed and developing economies alike.

Meanwihle the International Energy Agency (IEA) is calling for a major boost in clean technologies to address the world's soaring demand for energy. Nuclear, along with carbon capture and storage (CCS), renewable energies and energy efficiency, "all must play a much more important role," the IEA said in a 6 June press statement. source

My comment: Stating merely the obvious :)

EU mulls mandatory CO2 ads for cars

3 June 2008

Much to the displeasure of media corporations, car advertisers could be forced to include "tobacco-style" warnings relating to the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of new vehicles in all their promotional campaigns as the Commission looks to revise rules on car labelling.

The EU executive launched a two-month consultationexternal yesterday (2 June) to sound out public opinion on whether additional data should be made available to consumers in order for them to make a more informed choice when buying a new car.

Carmakers have often argued that the current low demand for environmentally friendly cars is due to the lack of consumer awareness of the impact they have on the global climate as drivers. While they are willing to pay more for factors such as comfort and speed, they are not yet ready to fork out the extra cash to reduce their carbon footprints.

Current legislation already requires distributors to inform their customers of fuel consumption and CO2 emission data at all points of sale and in printed promotional literature, such as posters and newspaper and magazine ads. But the Commission is investigating whether similar requirements should also be set for television, radio and internet advertising. An A ("best") to G ("worst") ranking scheme could also be introduced.

Last year, the European Parliament backed a report by Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, which called for the use of tobacco-style environmental warnings whereby a minimum of 20% of any car advertising, marketing or promotional space would have to be dedicated to this type of information (EurActiv 25/10/07).

But media corporations have reacted with fury to this kind of proposal, which could cause a serious blow to one of their most lucrative sources of revenue. The automobile sector represents roughly 9% of TV and 15% of radio advertising revenues across the EU, although in some countries, the figures are much higher.

Last week, the Commission also launched a joint campaign entitled "Save more than fuelexternal ", in collaboration with oil companies. The aim of the awareness campaign is to provide consumers at petrol and service stations with simple tips on how to save fuel and emit less CO2 when driving. source

My comment: I don't know in what way the requirement for 20% of the space to be information of the economy class of the car represents limitation on free speech and medias, but anyway to sum up- ME LIKES! :) I think this is an important information, especially with the current prices of fuel, so why not?

Including aircraft operators in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme

9 June 2008

Issues such as whether or not to include outside operators in the future aviation arm of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) as well as how to determine the emissions cap itself could prove stumbling blocks in the expansion plans, says a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The European Commission has proposed an enlargement of the ETS to include aircraft operators from 2011, but debates over its implementation are likely to continue, says the report.

Many operators are still not ready for the expected launch of the system in 2011 as they are waiting for binding rules. But the report urges them to prepare early to give them an advantage in the long term.

Operators are mainly concerned with tax and accounting issues and whether or not the ETS will ensure a level playing field for operators based within and outside Europe, says the report. It states that most operators would favour a global emissions trading scheme to avoid unfair competition.

Many operators are already voluntarily looking to reduce emissions, as fuel is a major cost for air traffic, says the report. As air traffic is the only global passenger transportation network, destabilising the industry's stability would have an adverse effect on the European economy, argue PwC.

The Commission proposal favours integrating the aviation industry into the current ETS, rather creating a separate framework, notes the report. Therefore, operators will be able to buy allowances from other emission sectors but will not be able to sell these to the other sectors. Trading within their own sector will be permitted.

The remaining issues that need to be agreed upon are whether caps on emissions are determined nationally or at EU level, how many of the allowances are auctioned and whether or not to include other greenhouse gases, says the report.

PwC conclude that the most contentious issue will be whether or not to include international flights and non-EU operators in the ETS for the aviation industry. EU operators have argued that including non-European operators would be essential in the interests of competitiveness. source

My comment: Yup, I'm totally for including all operators into the scheme, because otherwise, it's absolutely useless.

EU pledges tax breaks to counter oil price rise

12 June 2008

The European Commission said on Wednesday (11 June) that it will propose tax breaks and other incentives to ease the short and long-term effects of fuel price rises on the poorest sectors of the EU population.

The measures will be unveiled in detail in the coming days so that EU heads of state and government can debate them at a summit in Brussels on 19-20 June, the Commission said. The proposals will include:

  • A revision of the energy taxation directive and the 'Eurovignette' directive, which allows EU countries to charge road users (to be presented this year);
  • a report on the use of tax incentives, including reduced VAT rates to encourage energy savings (in the autumn), and;
  • proposals on the transparency of commercial oil stocks (by the end of the year).

In the short term, the Commission said it will allow EU countries to provide "targeted support" to poorer households provided that the measures are "temporary, non-distorting and do not inhibit longer term adjustment to higher prices".

Commission spokesperson Johannes Laitenberger also suggested that the Commission could consider taxing the "windfall profits" that energy firms pocketed by charging their customers for the cost of CO2 pollution permits that they initially received free of charge.

Over the past weeks, Brussels has been anxious to discourage EU countries from taking hasty measures to alleviate fuel price rises in the hardest-hit sectors of the economy.

The central part of the Commission's response is therefore long term. "The major policy response must be to make the EU more efficient in the use of energy, and less dependent on fossil fuels," the EU executive said in a statement.

According to the EU executive, the response to rising oil prices "should be based on the assumption that prices are likely to remain high in the medium to long term". source

My comment:Absolutely! The price are going to stay high and that's absolutely obvious. The demand is still growing and the production is increasing very very slowly. It's simply impossible to lower the price by decreasing the locale taxes. The best way to deal with the situation is to invest in efficiency (short-term) and in alternative source of energy (long-term).

Member states in push to revise renewables plans

y 10 June 2008

Germany, the UK and Poland are proposing new flexibility mechanisms to help reach EU renewable energy targets, while Italy is demanding a new method be used to calculate countries' renewables potential. Rome is also pushing for a reduction of the EU's 10% biofuels target.

"The current [renewables] package may not deliver the best value for money," say Germany, the UK and Poland in a joint statement released during the Energy Council of 6 June. The Commission is basing the targets on economic strength rather than on the basis of countries' potential "to deliver cost-efficient renewables," the statement continues.

While the three member states are not calling for a new method to calculate their individual renewable energy targets, they are nonetheless demanding more 'flexibility'.

Included in their proposal is a mechanism that would allow EU countries to collaborate towards achieving their individual goals via joint projects. Two member states could also combine their targets, and countries that reach their targets early should be able to transfer surplus renewable energy to states that are falling behind, according to the statement.

Significantly, the three member states' proposals do not include any mention of trading in renewable energy certificates.

The Commission's proposal on renewable certificates trading "is not flying anymore", he said. France and Spain are also likely to support non-trading flexibility mechanisms, Schäfer said.

Italy, meanwhile, is calling for a revision of the criteria used to calculate national targets, which are currently based national GDP. Rome wants to add an emissions criterion to the calculation method, whereby states that pollute less would also have lower targets.

Austria, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Malta are backing Rome's proposal.

Italy is also urging the EU to "speak a realistic language" with respect to biofuels in the context of sky-rocketing food prices.

While the EU remains locked in a heated debate over whether or not the biofuels targets should be kept, it is less likely that member states will agree to a rethink on renewable energy target calculation, according to Schäfer.source

My comment: I think those suggestion are sensible. And maybe that flexibility will be a better incentive for countries to be effective. But one should be cautions and set up a minimum of emissions for every country, so that some countries won't turn to HELL and some - to paradise. As for Italy-very sensible ideas, it's really odd not to have a current emissions criteria. Though that changes the focus of the proposal from shared responsibility, to not-shared. Because it's obvious that some countries will always emit less than others, while still relaying on their production. So, probably there should be a Green tax put on the consumer. This way, the Green production will always be stimulated.

Merkel and Sarkozy 'breakthrough' on car emissions

10 June 2008

Meeting for their annual bilateral summit on 9 June, the German Chancellor and French President finally smoothed over a heated dispute regarding European Commission plans to cap CO2 emissions from new cars. But green groups say the deal is a sham.

In a joint statementPdf external , the two leaders gave their backing to EU plans to cut emissions of CO2 from new vehicles from current levels of around 160g/km to an average of 120g/km by 2012.

While remaining vague over the details, Merkel and Sarkozy said they had agreed that targets be based on vehicles' weight, as proposed by the Commission. This is key to the auto industry as it will enable heavier, more polluting vehicles, such as the SUVs and luxury models produced by German carmakers, to emit more, so long as manufacturers balance this production with smaller, less-polluting models. /NOOOOOOOOOOOOO/

Merkel and Sarkozy went a step further, backing a "substantial" phasing-in period for proposed limits in order to take into consideration "the technological capacities of the car manufacturing industry".

They also called for more flexibility on penalties for offenders. These "should be adapted for small deviations of carmakers from their target," they said.

They added that carmakers should be given breathing space if they are trying to introduce cleaner technology.

Merkel hailed the deal as an "important breakthrough" which showed that Germany and France can work together to resolve major differences and will pave the way towards a deal at EU level.

But green groups slammed the agreement. "The car industry says jump and France and Germany say 'how high?'" said Greenpeace campaigner Franziska Achterberg. She said the deal was a route to "climate disaster", notably with the proposed flexibility mechanisms for the introduction of green technologies. "With all the small print they have introduced the target would no longer be 120g CO2/km by 2012, but a whopping 138g by some unspecified date."

During the meeting, Sarkozy also attempted to win over his German counterpart on a proposal to cap soaring oil prices by lowering EU fuel taxes ahead of a key European Summit on 19-20 June. But Merkel merely responded by saying: "I think conditions in every country are very specific."

source

My comment:That is absolute tragedy! The dependence over the weight is an absurd and I think this deal is really shameful for both countries. I really preferred not to have read this article.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Social Europe-or few cases in which the EU rules!

In this edition:
  1. Commission backs pan-EU pension schemes for researchers
  2. EU must foster Black Sea cooperation, say ministers
  3. Study calls for more accountability of EU corporations
  4. EU vets reject plans to lift US poultry ban
All of those articles are about key decisions by the EU and my comments are bigger than usually. I recomment particularly the 3d and the 4th articles since they are very IMPORTANT! I called this post "Social Europe" because it really represents my vision of Europe-EU that cares about the health and well-being of its citizens.

Commission backs pan-EU pension schemes for researchers

28 May 2008

After EU leaders agreed at the Spring Summit to step up efforts to improve working conditions for researchers, the Commission has presented upgraded plans to boost researchers' mobility, including pan-EU pension schemes targeted at researchers.

In the March 2008 Spring Summit, leaders of the 27-nation bloc committedPdf external to creating a "fifth freedom", standing for the "free movement of knowledge". This would, according to the summit conclusions, be done by removing barriers to the cross-border mobility of researchers, students, scientists and academic staff and by providing researchers with "better career structures".

In 2005, the Commission adopted a RecommendationPdf external on the European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for their recruitment to provide researchers with long-term career prospects by creating more favourable conditions for their mobility in support of EU competitiveness (see EurActiv 08/09/05).

Despite repeated political commitments and numerous Commission initiatives, progress at national level to improve the mobility of researchers remains slow and the take-up of the voluntary Researchers Charter has been limited.

Improving employment and career prospects for researchers is part of the EU's strategy to fight the 'brain drain' to the US.

According to them, the mobility of researchers is considered so crucial to the EU's economic growth and competitiveness that the Commission finds it justified to start with them.

The EU executive's new policy documentPdf external urges member states to join together in a partnership for better careers and more mobility for researchers. This communication is one of five policy initiatives constituting the follow-up to the 2007 review of the European Research Area (ERA).

Presenting the Commission's proposals on 27 May, Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik said he expected "rapid, measurable progress" by the end of 2010 on the four priority points of action, which are already part of the 2005 RecommendationPdf external on the Researchers Charter:

  • Open recruitment by national research institutions of all EU researchers;
  • improved social security and transferability of supplementary pension rights, eventually including pan-EU pension schemes targeted at researchers;
  • better employment and working conditions linked to contractual terms, salaries and opportunities for career development;
  • improved training, including entrepreneurial aspects linked to intellectual property management, project funding bidding, and setting up a company.

A proposal for a directive covering the supplementary pension rights' portability is currently under negotiation (see EurActiv 24/01/2008), but is unlikely to address the 'transferability' of such rights. Therefore, the Commission Communication on researchers mobility states it would be "desirable in the medium term to explore the feasibility of measures to ease transfer of supplementary pension rights for highly-mobile workers, including researchers."

In addition, the communication argues that pension providers should be encouraged to open up "pan-EU pension schemes targeted to researchers" and companies should be encouraged to use pension providers in other EU member states. source

My comment: There are few things I like about this news. Obviously, research is really crucial field for every country, especially in the current situation of the market with vanishing resources and increasing demand. I like that Europe has made it its priority to create that 5th Freedom. But I do agree the implementation is sucky-especially after the whole week of writing a project for a scientific grant- trust me, you've never seen so much bureaucracy.

What I like even more is the idea of Pan-European pension, especially since many scientists in my Faculty spend around 10 years of their lives in various places abroad. That's quite much and if the loose those years or have to switch their home-country, in which cases it can get ugly. But i have one question- pensions in different countries are different. How would you set the pan-European level of payments and will make sure no one would be screwed? Because European countries are on quite different standard of living. Tricky, huh? And of course, which is the last pan-European thing involving money that EC implemented?

EU must foster Black Sea cooperation, say ministers

28 May 2008

The EU needs to "make sense" of the multitude of existing initiatives covering the Black Sea region in order to guarantee peace and energy security, said participants attending the 'Fostering democracy and development in the Black sea region' conference in Brussels on May 26.

The Black Sea region is increasingly viewed as one of the keys to reliable oil and gas deliveries to the European and global market.

The Black Sea Economic Cooperation was established in 1992 after a Turkish initiative, with the participation of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. (huh, since when Serbia and Montenegro has something to do with the Black sea???)

In 2001 Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia established Blackseafor, an organisation specialised in search and rescue operations, minesweeping, environmental protection and the organisation of goodwill visits.

The Black Sea Forum was established in Bucharest in 2006 after a Romanian initiative, with the participation of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine.

Lastly, the 'Black Sea synergy' is a EU initiative launched in 2007.

EU must help the heterogeneous countries along the Black Sea coasts to find ways to guarantee and strengthen peace, without leaving aside issues such as human rights and fundamental freedoms, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht stated. De Gucht hosted the event, organised by CEVIPOL – Centre d'étude de la vie politique (ULB) and the Embassy of Bulgaria.

Strategic thinking about the future of the Black Sea is shaped by security concerns, especially energy security, several participants stressed.

With the Black Sea becoming adjacent to the EU with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the EU can now involve the latter as well as candidate country Turkey and the countries covered by the European neighbourhood Policy (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova) in addressing its problems. source

My comment: In the Positions to that article, somebody said that he didn't understand why Western EU countries should be interested in the Black Sea. Well, for those who share his opitnion I'll put it clearly. Currently there are many gas/oil projects that indend to supply resources to central Europe and even Italia-like South Stream, Nabucco, Burgas-Alexandopulis and so on. That resources go into EUROPE! EUROPA! EU! So, if there's not oil/gas in Germany and Italia and Poland, just think of the many industries that would be in deep sh*...well, trouble. When one is part of an Union, one shouldn't think only of him/herself. And the Black Sea region is only getting more and more important. Thus...be smart, people. Be smart and follow your best interests.

Study calls for more accountability of EU corporations

30 May 2008

Corporations should be held liable in Europe for human rights abuses and environmental damage incurred outside the EU, according to a new legal study presented by a civil society network in the European Parliament on 29 May.

The study, unveiled by the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), recommends a set of policy proposals aimed at making companies based in Europe legally responsible for abuses committed by subsidiaries or subcontractors abroad.

In today's globalised world, it is developing countries that all too often carry the burden of these ill-treatments as they hope to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) by relaxing social norms.

What the ECCJ hopes to push through is 'foreign direct liability' - the notion that parent companies in Europe not only get the economic benefits of operations abroad but also have a legal responsibility for the negative effects they can cause to people and the environment.

Furthermore, under the proposals favoured by the ECCJ, large companies would take on increased corporate social accountability by reporting on all social and environmental risks relating to their activities.

Extra-territorial prosecution is already allowed in the EU under the Brussels Convention, but the ECCJ wants the law to be extended to corporations and executive directors.

The proposals would be advantageous, according to economist Noreena Hertz of Cambridge University: "Currently there is no legal framework in place for corporations," she said. "This would give them one." She dismissed the myth of corporations being anti-regulation, instead arguing this would give them a head-start on the global laws envisaged to cover the issue.

Commenting on the issue, a representative of BusinessEurope told EurActiv that EU companies with operations abroad are expected to respect the law of the host country, and in countries where human rights standards were lacking, companies set higher standards to compensate.

Howitt hopes the proposals will put added pressure on the Commission to include action on the issue in its renewed Social Agenda due to be published on 25 June. source

My comment: I sincerely hope this proposal would be made a LAW! It's the best way to stop Carbon leakege and any other type of leakeges from Europe and to guarantee that we won't develop on the backs of third world slavery. So please please make it a law.

EU vets reject plans to lift US poultry ban

4 June 2008

National experts from the EU's member states have thrown out Commission plans to lift a ban on imports of chicken treated with chemicals, reviving trade tensions between the EU and the US ahead of a major summit next week (10 June).

A vote in the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on 2 June saw 26 national experts reject the proposal to allow the use of four currently banned anti-microbal substances for the decontamination of poultry carcasses.

Only the UK abstained from voting. The others were not convinced by the Commission's arguments that the chemicals have been cleared by the European Food Safety Agency; that the carcasses would be rinsed with potable water after treatment, thereby removing any possible residues on the final product; or that consumers would be fully informed via clear labelling.

The vote comes as a blow to EU Enterprise Commissioner Günter Verheugen, who last month promised his American counterparts that he would find an agreement in favour of lifting the 11-year ban on US poultry, which is generally treated with these processes, before an EU-US Summit on 10 June.

The issue is seen as a major test case for the new "Transatlantic Economic Council" (TEC) process, which aims to remove remaining regulatory obstacles hampering trade and investment between the two economic giants.

Members of the European Parliament welcomed the decision. "Member states made this decision in tune with the opinion of European consumers, who don't want to bow to American commercial pressure and sacrifice their food production standards and rules," said Monica Frassoni, co-president of the Greens/EFA Group.

The dossier will now be handed over to European agriculture ministers, who are expected to confirm their experts' position within the next three months. source

My comment: That's cool! Really cool! I mean, we can't just put in danger our lives in order to compromise with US regulations or desires and I'm utterly happy some people are finally understanding it. Trade doesn't mean everything is ok if there are buyers for it. It means responsibility, quality products and prices correspoding to the demand and so on.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Science in Europe in June, 08-or what's wrong with Poland?

In this edition, few very cool scientific projects that are going to change scientific Europe. Or at least, influence it, if we take into account the speed of European bureaucracy :)
  • EU 'biobank' to help boost drug discovery
  • EU hopes for Community patent under French Presidency
  • Decision on EIT seat postponed
  • Retailers told to help consumers eat 'green'
In any case, my comments are below and I suggest you read the first article as it's very interesting.

EU 'biobank' to help boost drug discovery

30 May 2008

The pan-EU biobanking initiative hopes to solve a number of ethical and legal issues connected with the storage of DNA and other human samples in order to boost new drug discovery, personalised medicines and therapies.

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRIexternal ) published, in October 2006, its first road map for new European research infrastructures. It identified 35 large-scale infrastructure projects, which a sufficient number of member states were ready to support (see EurActiv 19/10/06).

The pan-European Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRIexternal ) is one of the projects identified by the EU as a future large-scale European research infrastructure. A seminar held on 28 May in the European Parliament took stock of the progress made so far and discussed future challenges for completing BBMRI.

Biobanks are collections of biological material, such as DNA, tissue, cells, blood or other bodily fluids. They also include the medical, environmental and lifestyle data linked with each sample.

Such a major infrastructure could allow the identification of disease genes and help understand relationships between genes, the environment, lifestyle and diseases. Crucially, it could also allow people to realise their potential to develop specific diseases, opening the door to personalised prevention programmes and treatments.

Biobanks are considered as a key resource in the study of the molecular basis of disease subtypes, the identification of new targets for therapy and speeding up drug discovery and development. They are also expected to help develop more precise diagnostic tools and study the environmental and genetic factors causing disease.

Currently, over 50 partnersPdf external and around 150 associated partnersPdf external are taking part in the BBMRI project.

Pharmaceutical or other medical companies, who also have their own collections of samples, are also waiting for the infrastructure to be put in place in order to guarantee access to large collections of well-characterised samples, a pre-requisite for the speedy development of new drugs and personalised medicine.

However, before establishing a true pan-European biobank, major ethical and legal questions need to be overcome and a legal framework needs to be found. The privacy and confidentiality of the donors, the use of genetic technologies, commercialisation of genetic products and intellectual property rights are also issues to be dealt with before the final structure can start working. source

My comment: Precisely my point-we have problem with storing out data in electronic variant, what's left for storing our DNA. Of course, in Europe the problem of health insurances is not so vital, but still, there are other types of insurances. Will they let you have a life insurance if they know you're likely to have cancer? I disagree that your employer should know your health condition if it's not directly related to your work, so I'm not sure how public that data-base should be, or how personal. For me, the most important thing is that it will be anonymous. That's fairly enough to ensure everything is fine.


EU hopes for Community patent under French Presidency

30 May 2008

Talks on setting up a European patent system made good progress at the meeting of EU industry ministers yesterday (29 May), but sensitive translation arrangements remain the main obstacle, the Slovenian EU Presidency said after the meeting.

Although work at technical level has not been completed yet, several proposals are on the table now, Slovenian Economy Minister Andrej Vijzak said.

The main stumbling block in the negotiations on a Community patent and a related litigation system, which have been going on for over a decade now, is the issue of translation arrangements.

The Slovenian Presidency has proposed two options. One foresees a 'flexible patent', which would allow the owner to decide in which country the claim would be protected, while the second option calls for translation into all official EU languages by an automated computer system. The latter is the one favoured by a majority of member states.

The main difference between the options is that that in the latter, translation had no legal status, contrary to the first one.

Regarding the Community patent, the Presidency particularly highlighted the cost aspect, saying that a cost-effective patent system had particular benefits to SMEs.

In parallel to the patent talks, ministers also took note of the progress of the 'Better Regulation' initiative (see EurActiv Links Dossier), agreeing that further cutting red tape was vital to Europe's competitiveness. In 2007, the bloc had agreed to cut the administrative burden by 25% by 2012. source

My comment: On this, I have a lot to say. Patents are extremely important for the development of the R&D sphere. In order for a scientist to be motivated to work on industry-oriented stuff, he or she must be sure there is a law that would protect her or his intellectual rights.
And in Europe that's hard-no one is counseling you about your rights and options, nobody cares what exactly you're doing and even worst-very few lawyers actually know what could be done in order for all the sides to profit. And that's a major problem.
Now, my view is such. For me, translating every application on 27 languages is costly and unnecessary. For me the applications should be submitted on the natural language of the applicant and on English or French. The idea is that he or she should make the translation so that the translation is correct. From that point, the application should be considered and a commission should be appointed. The applications should be translated only to the working language of that commission. And if the patent is granted, it could be translated on the rest 25 languages on tax-payers money. If not, it can stay in those languages that were already used. Simple and cheap.

Decision on EIT seat postponed

2 June 2008

Following Poland's veto of the otherwise unanimously-backed Budapest as the seat for the European Innovation and Technology Institute (EIT), the final decision will now be taken by research ministers at an Intergovernmental Conference on 18 June.

It had been expected that a unanimous agreement on the seat of the EIT would be reached by ministers during an informal dinner on 29 May and formally adopted at an Intergovernmental Conference the following day. However, Poland refused to back the candidacy of Budapest, Hungary, as the host of the new high-tech innovation institute, despite approval from the 26 other member states.

According to Council sources, the real reason behind the veto is that Polish minister did not have the mandate to "accept the failure" and is in fact more linked to Poland's internal politics than anything else. Indeed, the mayor and city of Wroclaw are very influential vis-à-vis the government and the city had been lobbying long and hard to host the EIT.

Wroclaw also thought that getting to host the EIT would compensate for the fact that the city recently lost the race to host the 2012 International Exhibition (EXPO 2012external ), which will take place in South Korea, a Council source told EurActiv.

Research ministers have agreed to return to Brussels on 18 June to take the final decision during an Intergovernmental Conference. The Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology Mojca Kucler Dolinar insisted that "there is consensus on selection criteria" of the seat.

The future host of the EIT seat will namely be one of the new member states "which doesn't have already a site or an EU agency," she specified. Only one of the five candidates, Budapest, fits these conditions. Poland already hosts Frontexexternal , the EU border security agency, and the three others, Sant Cugat del Valles near Barcelona, Vienna-Bratislava and Jena (Germany) are not new member states.source

My comment: Again, why I hate Poland? Oh, yeah, because it's the most egoistic and lost country in Europe...Yeah...

Retailers told to help consumers eat 'green'

5 June 2008

As the UK government prepares the first ever standard on the carbon footprint of food products, consumers and policymakers are calling on retailers to help citizens make more sustainable food choices.

The production, packaging and transport of food can be very energy intensive, resulting in carbon emissions and thus contributing to global warming.

According to a Commission report on environmental impact of products (EIPROPdf external ), published in 2006, food and drink are responsible for between 20 and 30% of the environmental impact of consumption and much of this is said to be due to meat and dairy products.

Results of a recent Japanese studyexternal on the 'life-cycle' of a standard beef cow, including feed production and transport, animal management and the biological activity of the animal, showed that eating one kilogram of beef produces more greenhouse gas emissions than driving for three hours while leaving the lights on at home.

The European Commission's annual Green Week event dedicated a session to sustainable eating on 4 June. The aim was to highlight how consumers, policymakers, retailers and civil society can contribute to a better environment by adopting sustainable food consumption habits.

The session particularly highlighted UK-based research and initiatives on the subject. Bronwen Jones from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK is currently involved in developing a way to measure different food products' carbon content.

The first standard should be ready this autumn and could potentially lead the way towards a consumer label indicating the carbon footprint of each product. This includes transport emissions or the energy and water needed to produce the products.

Positions:

Bronwen Jones of Defra's Food Chain Programme. Said that Defra research has shown that "benefits of locally produced food are widely over-claimed" and that the main cost of transporting food results from "road accidents and congestion".

Therefore, she argued, tomatoes imported to the UK from Spain can be lower carbon than tomatoes produced in Britain, because tomatoe production at northern latitudes is more energy intensive. However, "it is not that clear-cut if we take into account the water use and stress," she acknowledged.

But she added that "you should not assume that the closer a produce comes from, the more sustainable it is," saying the real waste story related to food is the food wasted. "We throw away about a third of the food we buy," she said, describing throwing away meat and dairy products as "the ultimate sin".


source

My comment:That's more an interesting sidenote. It was hight time to see some initiative on this end. I hope it's successful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

International news important for EU

Today I present you few articles I won't comment since they are reports over known problems. They are all international reports, but have impact to the politics in EU. Enjoy!
  1. IEA calls for energy technology 'revolution'
  2. Climate change: 'Clean development' projects under fire
  3. UN conference agrees action on biodiversity loss
  4. US eyes REACH-style law for chemicals

IEA calls for energy technology 'revolution'

6 June 2008

As current levels of carbon emissions approach "unsustainable levels", the International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a report urging governments to implement a "global energy technology revolution" to reverse existing trends.

The report, entitled "Energy Technology Perspectives 2008" and released on 6 June, indicates that if countries continue with their existing policies, global carbon emissions will rise by 130% whilst oil demand will increase by 70% by 2050.

If these predictions are correct, the report suggests major oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia would need to raise oil production levels five-fold by 2050. This would be difficult seeing as Saudi Arabia recently refused to increase oil production despite two personal appeals by President Bush.

It proposes radical changes to the way the world is using its energy supplies, including a "virtual decarbonisation of the power sector". While the IEA is in favour of much-debated carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, it stresses that no single form of energy or technology is capable of providing a final solution. Instead, it highlights a mix of alternatives including renewables, nuclear energy, carbon-free transport and improved energy efficiency.

The developed world's economy is set to grow four-fold by 2050, while developing countries such as India and China are looking at a ten-fold increase. This naturally brings more use of energy with it, which will create unsustainable pressure on natural resources, said Tanaka, calling for "urgent and necessary" action, with whichever remedial option is chosen.

The IEA itself views tougher regulations on energy efficiency of buildings, appliances and vehicles as an essential part of its goal of reducing 50% of emissions by 2050. It says this represents an especially cost-effective policy option which could have an immediate impact. source

Climate change: 'Clean development' projects under fire

27 May 2008

New evidence has emerged that up to two thirds of projects financed under the auspices of the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) should not be credited for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Evidence is accumulating that [the CDM] is increasing greenhouse gas emissions behind the guise of promoting sustainable development," says US NGO International Rivers, which monitors global CDM projects.

The NGO argues that most CDM projects do not fulfill the criteria of 'additionality', which stipulates that projects in the developing world need to be built specifically in order to offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in developed states before they can qualify for financial support.

"Chemical, coal and oil corporations and the developers of destructive dams" are recieving billions through the CDM, "in many cases for projects they would have built anyway," says International Rivers.

The claim that many projects do not respect the additionality criteria is reflected in an April 2008 studyPdf external authored by two Stanford University professors. "Much of the current CDM market does not reflect actual reductions in emissions, and that trend is poised to get worse," the study says.

EU member states and companies can obtain GHG emissions offset credits through the CDM. EU policymakers are debating the extent to which the mechanism should be used in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for the period beyond 2012, amid concerns that allowing energy-intensive industries to purchase a large number of CDM allowances would undermine the EU ETS (EurActiv 29/06/07).

Meanwhile, a global 'carbon market' worth over €40 billion has developed, with strong growth forecasts based on the expectation that the CDM, the EU ETS and a future US carbon market will lead to a boom in emission credits trading (EurActiv 19/02/08).

Michael Wara and David Victor, the authors of the Stanford study, argue that "it is possible to fix the CDM" through "much stronger regulatory oversight and much improved verification systems". source


UN conference agrees action on biodiversity loss

2 June 2008

Over 190 countries agreed on measures to halt biodiversity loss by 2010 at a UN conference that came to an end in Bonn on 30 May. But environmental groups criticised the lack of political will on display and questioned the direction the conference was going.

Participants at the two-week meeting, held under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), called for a better network and expansion of existing protected areas to halt biodiversity loss. Germany, the host of the conference, launched its 'Life Web' initiative – which includes an initial fund of 500 million euro up to 2012 and 500 million a year after that to finance protected areas around the world.

According to the CBD, the world is losing plants and species at 100 to 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction, leading to a smaller pool of genetic resources.

The measures approved at the conference to tackle this issue included an agreement on a process to establish rules for the fair sharing of genetic resources. So far only voluntary guidelines exist. The agreement would deal with sensitive issues including the sovereign rights of states over natural resources and the protection of the rights of indigenous and local communities over their traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.

Countries believed biofuels could have "positive contributions", but warned that the sustainable production of biofuels depended on methods of production and agricultural techniques used.

Environment Commissioner Dimas was happy with the positive outcome of the conference saying countries had "reached a milestone in protecting our biodiversity by finally putting our commitments into concrete actions".

But environmental groups slammed the conclusions of the conference, saying it did not go far enough and blamed industry for having too big a say. The Global Forest Coalition (GFC) blamed a group of five countries (Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Japan) for allowing industry to have "alarming influence" on decisions in the CBD.

Sandy Gauntlett, the chairman of the Pacific Indigenous Peoples Coalition, noted that industry is "playing an increasingly larger role in commodifying the planet's environmental resources". In fact, a member of the Brazilian delegation was from ArborGen, a major R&D company specialising in genetically engineered trees.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon incorporated the 2010 biodiversity target into the Millennium Development Goals in 2007 and announced that 2010 will be the International Year for Biodiversity. The next CBD conference will be held in Nagoya, Japan in 2010. source

US eyes REACH-style law for chemicals

3 June 2008

Despite heavy criticism from its industry, the US appears to be moving closer to adopting rules similar to the EU's controversial REACH chemicals regulation. The move comes as the new European chemicals agency opens in Helsinki (3 June) amid doubts over its ability to deal with thousands of new chemicals registration requests.

Following the entry into force of new rules on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) last June, European firms that make or import more than one tonne of chemical substances per year have up till 1 November 2008 to pre-register chemicals.

After that, they will have until November 2010 for the final registration and market authorisation of substances that are imported or produced in amounts of 1,000 tonnes and until May 2018 for volumes between 1-100 tonnes.

REACH currently covers some 30,000 chemicals and the new European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) expects to receive over 180,000 dossiers, with companies expected to give fuller accounts of their chemicals over the next 15 years.

When REACH was still in its infancy, it was hotly disputed by industry as being too costly and overly-burdensome. It was particularly criticised by Europe's main trading partners for serving as a potential barrier to trade. A US House of Representatives reportPdf external from 2004 showed how the Bush Administration in particular put a lot of pressure on the EU to weaken its chemicals legislation.

However, a move towards similar legislation is now being made in the US Senate, although industry continues to heavily oppose such efforts.

The closest law to REACH in the US is the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) from 1976, implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It looks to restrict or ban toxic chemicals if they are found to be hazardous.

The main difference between the TSCA and REACH is that the American version puts the burden on government to prove a toxic chemical is a risk. Under REACH, it is industry itself that must prove its chemicals are safe. This European system is finding increasing support in the US Senate.

A representative of the US Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA) advised the Senate to "thoughtfully reconsider whether it is necessary or wise to adopt a monolithic new regulatory regime for chemical regulation like the EU's REACH".

This debate mirrors the early days of the REACH legislation when industry representatives complained of the possible effects it would bring, including reduced investment and innovation possibilities related to increased costs.source


Monday, July 21, 2008

The Power of Europe

An article, that is not significant of the power of Europe for the moment, but that has the potential. It's about the cluster bombs ban. I hope the situation with the land mines repeat and the change of position of England will lead to the international ban of those horrible weapons. Just notice the position of USA- "those bombs proves useful"!!! Disgusting, can I say more?

Britain Joins a Draft Treaty on Cluster Munitions

May 29, 2008

LONDON — The draft of a treaty to ban cluster munitions was adopted by a group of 111 nations on Wednesday in Dublin after Britain dropped its longstanding opposition to any limitations on the weapons.

The sudden shift by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is under pressure to combat his Labor Party’s declining political fortunes, created fresh pressures on the United States, which had counted Britain as one of its staunchest allies in opposing the ban.

The treaty, hammered out in two weeks of talks in Dublin, had been under negotiation since February 2007. The nations accepting the treaty are scheduled to gather again in Oslo in early December to sign the pact, which would ban the use, production and sale of cluster munitions.

The draft treaty would still leave most of the world’s stockpile of cluster weapons untouched, as the United States has been joined in its outright opposition to the ban, and in its boycott of the Dublin conference, by a group of military powers that includes China, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan and Brazil.

Weapons experts estimate that the United States, China and Russia each have at least a billion cluster munitions, counting the individual “bomblets” that are carried by each weapon, dwarfing the stockpiles of states that have accepted the treaty.

But supporters of the treaty said that its impact would be felt even by those nations that refused to sign, much as those countries that have rejected the 1997 Ottawa treaty on land mines, including the United States, have refrained from using mines since that treaty was adopted.

“We have a strong treaty,” said Simon Conway, a former British soldier who is a co-chairman of the Anti-Cluster Campaign.

Cluster munitions is the term used for weapons fired from aircraft and artillery that contain dozens, or even hundreds, of bomblets that can remain active long after the weapon is fired, posing deadly risks to civilians. Used by the United States and Britain in Iraq during the invasion of 2003, and by Israel in its incursion into Lebanon in 2006, the weapons have been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Human rights groups estimate that one in four of the casualties have been children playing with the unexploded bomblets.

The draft treaty sets an eight-year deadline for signatory nations to destroy most of their stockpiles of cluster weapons, along with other provisions that delegates said would ultimately eliminate all but a small fraction of cluster munitions in nations that sign the treaty. It also obliges nations that adopt it to provide “technical, financial or material assistance” for clearing up cluster munitions “remnants” that remain on the territory of other states.

The proposed treaty would not ban a new lightweight generation of so-called smart cluster munitions, each carrying fewer than 10 bomblets and designed to self-destruct within a short period after impact, if they have not detonated against a target.

These currently account for only a small part of the American inventory of cluster munitions, but the Bush administration has argued that a shift to these new weapons, which pose a much lower risk to civilians, makes a ban of the kind called for in the treaty unnecessary.

In Washington on Wednesday, a Bush administration spokesman said that, while sharing the “humanitarian concerns of those in Dublin,” the White House remained opposed to the draft treaty. “Cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility,” said the spokesman, Tom Casey of the State Department, “and their elimination from U.S. stockpiles would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk.”

Supporters said that in addition to stigmatizing the use of traditional cluster munitions, the treaty would hasten the transition to the new generation of “smart” weapons that self-destruct. And they pointed to Britain’s support of the ban, after years of resistance, as a watershed moment that would stand alongside the treaty that banned land mines.

The land mine pact has been shunned by a relatively small group of military powers, including the United States, but advocates of the cluster munitions treaty said that the decision by Britain — a major American ally, one of the most important military powers in NATO, and a member of the United Nations Security Council — could create fresh pressures on the United States, particularly after Mr. Bush leaves office next January.

Negotiators in Dublin also resolved a dispute over a section of the treaty that deals with the responsibilities, and potential legal liabilities, of signatory states that cooperate in battlefield situations with nations that have not joined the ban — something the United States had lobbied for energetically.

In a concession to Britain, Australia and other American military allies, the draft treaty contains a permissive provision stating that the troops of signatory nations “may engage in military cooperation and operations with states not party to this convention that might engage” in the use of cluster munitions.

It seemed likely that the treaty would also skirt another potential snarl, allowing the United States to continue to maintain the stockpiles of cluster munitions that it has at bases in countries that plan to join the ban, including Britain and Germany.

source

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hard time for Green Europe

Prepare for some unpleasant news. They come together and they are quite much.
  1. Uncertainty over CO2 capture in 'fossil future'
  2. EU under pressure over CO2 effort sharing
  3. Governments seek to water down waste targets
  4. Parliament and Council set to clash over CO2 effort sharing
  5. Deal on EU climate package by year's end?
  6. EU deal on biofuels remains distant
The articles are in chronological order, starting from the oldest.
The over-all comment is that along with energy unbundling environmental politics of the EU is also very tough issue for the Union that could lead to unpleasant results. The major quarrel: the old vs. new members and their obligation of reduction of the CO2 emission. Again some countries have underestimated the new members and that could prove very wrong or at least annoying. I'm not sure how much can be changed in the moment, but for sure, this is an important moment that could be noticed and understood. The EU cannot be monopolized anymore.
For more, read the articles and my comments below them.

Uncertainty over CO2 capture in 'fossil future'

30 May 2008

With hundreds of new coal-fired power plants planned within and outside Europe in the coming decades, pressure is growing on the EU to commercialise and export carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to prevent a massive rise in global CO2 emissions. But difficult financing issues remain unresolved.

The Commission backs CCS as an essential part of its CO2 reduction efforts, and put forward a communication on a legal framework for storing CO2 as part of its climate and energy package. Also EU member states pledged to have 10-12 CCS demonstration plants up and running by 2015.

But the technology is expensive and decreases the average efficiency of power plants by up to 20%. The public is sceptical about the safety of geological storage sites, particularly 'in their own backyard'.

EU policymakers and key stakeholders met several times this week (26-30 May) to discuss CCS, including at a 27 May meeting.

Davies(UK MEP), who wants all existing fossil fuel power plants to be retrofitted with CO2 capture and storage technology by 2025, is calling for a moratorium on new plant construction after 2015 unless the facilities are able to prevent 90% of their CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere (EurActiv 07/05/08).

But this week's apparent surge in interest in CCS did not produce any signs of a breakthrough on key financing issues. Instead, the discussions revealed a range of diverging views .

Justifying CCS

Germany is planning 20 new fossil plants in the coming decades. And China alone is expected to install 800 gigawatts of new electrical power capacity in the next eight years, and will rely on coal for 90% of that effort, according the International Energy Agency (IEA), which points out that 800 gigawatts is equivalent to all of the power capacity installed in the EU since 1945.

In this context, there is a growing chorus of support for CCS as the only option to prevent disastrous climate change fallout as a result of what is being called a global 'flight to coal'.

Europe leading the way?

Many observers claim Europe should be the leader in developing and commercialising CCS, so that the technology can then be exported to developing states like China and India.

But EU member states have made little progress towards realising their March 2007 pledge to build 10-12 CCS demonstration projects by 2015, with most progress coming from non-EU member Norway, which already has one CCS plant up and running and is constructing a further two.source

My comment:I don't like fossil plants or CCS and I really think this is a wrong direction for the EU to go. I kind of support the position of Greenpeace that those money should better go for renewable. Especially for a continent like Europe that is so rich on resources. The CCS for me is just postponing of the problem with potentially dangerous result.

EU under pressure over CO2 effort sharing

2 June 2008

A group of Eastern European countries, led by Hungary, have asked for a revision of their national targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

On 9 March 2007 the European Council agreed on an action plan to put in place a European energy policy by the year 2009. On greenhouse gas reduction, the following decisions were taken:

  • A binding target to reduce EU emissions by 20% by 2020, regardless of progress made in international negotiations for a post-Kyoto agreement, and;
  • a binding 30% target should other industrialised nations including the US take similar steps.

Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia are questioning the reference year 2005 chosen by the Commission to calculate how each of the 27 EU member states will contribute to the EU's promised 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

The 20% target, which has to be met by 2020, is to be achieved compared to 1990 levels, the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol.

But the group of seven stresses that, by choosing 2005 as the reference year for the basis of its calculations, the Commission is favouring the richer older members of the EU over the Eastern newcomers.

Instead, they argue that the cuts they achieved since 1990 as a result of post-communist de-industrialisation should be better reflected in their national targets. They point out that, by 2005, Eastern states had already cut their emissions by 7.9%, and argue that the 2005 reference date is unfair.

Under the Commission's proposed methodology, the biggest burden would fall on Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania. Instead, the proposal of the seven would put the burden on countries such as Luxembourg, Spain, Italy and Austria.

As an alternative, the seven propose a uniform 18% reduction of emissions for all member countries. The result almost exactly matches the goal proposed by the Commission – kt CO2 4.387.429 for all the 27 EU countries.

Experts from Eastern European countries told EurActiv they did not actually believe that a radical change of the Commission proposal is possible at this stage, but they sincerely hoped unfair treatment would become obvious and substantial corrections could be made.
(see the table here) source

My comment: No comment, really, since this is a lost battle. But for the sake of environment, I hope the think over the 1990's target, since these levels are lower than the 2005's ones.

Governments seek to water down waste targets

4 June 2008

The Parliament and Council are locked in a battle over waste targets, after a trialogue meeting on 2 June in conjunction with the Commission produced no agreement on percentage targets for household and demolition waste.

The meeting came after a majority of MEPs in Parliament's Environment Committee backed stricter waste and recycling targets for the revised Waste Framework Directive (WFD) than those suggested by the Commission in a vote in April (EurActiv 09/04/08).

By 2020, 50% of the EU's household waste and 70% of construction waste should be recycled, according to them. These targets should accompany member states' efforts to stabilise waste production by 2012 based on 2009 levels, they say.

However, the Council rejected the committee's proposals and is instead insisting that 45% of household waste and 65% of construction waste be recycled. It cites "recycling imbalances" between member states as a key justification for its lower level of ambition.

Agreement was nevertheless reached on a number of topics, including a policy to encourage waste prevention goals, a definition of "by-products" and inclusion of an additional article on bio-waste.

ACR+, an organisation that represents regional authorities involved in recycling, believes MEPs "should stand firm" on their proposed targets. According to one of their studies, European cities and regions are more than capable of achieving recycling rates of up to 80% of waste . source

My comment:I can't believe they are actually fighting over 5%. But I hope the higher percentage wins since it really is entirely doable. Once people get used to recycle, it won't be a problem to reach the target.

Parliament and Council set to clash over CO2 effort sharing

4 June 2008

Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi, Parliament's rapporteur on a Commission proposal that oulines how EU countries should share the "effort" of cutting their CO2 emissions, wants to up the EU's target by 10%. But the Commission warns of strong resistance from member states.

The EU should go for a 30% reduction target "that will be reviewed down to -20% if there is no international agreement," according to a document distributed by Hassi to fellow MEPs.

A 30% initial target is in direct contrast to the Commission's plans, presented on 23 January, which are entirely based on member states reducing their CO2 emissions 20% by 2020. The target could only be upped to 30% over the same period when UN-led negotiations produce a global CO2 reduction deal, according to the EU executive's proposals.

Another contentious issue relates to the use of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The MEP wants to limit member states' use of emissions reductions credits obtained through these types of investments in developing country projects, amidst growing concerns that such schemes do not contribute significantly to global CO2 reductions.

Under the Commission's proposals, member states would continue to be entitled to meet part of their targets by financing CDM projects, assuming a global climate change deal is reached by 2010. But the use of such credits would be limited to 3% of member states' total emissions in 2005.

Hassi wants to reduce this figure to 1%, and wants to change the principle behind the use of CDM credits so that third country projects are used primarily in addition to, rather than as a replacement of, domestic efforts. source

My comment:That's not going to happen, so I'm not going to comment it. I just want to call for more global thinking- clean technologies should be everywhere, not just in Europe.

Deal on EU climate package by year's end?

3 June 2008

The incoming French EU Presidency is confident that it will be able to shepherd a deal on the EU's climate and energy package through to adoption before the end of the year. But the 'weight' of the legislative agenda is unprecedented, and member states' views diverge on a number of key points.

France, which will take over the EU's six-month rotating presidency from Slovenia on 1 July, is preparing what some are calling the "heaviest" presidency in EU history (EurActiv 02/06/08).

Climate and energy policy will make up the major part of the presidency's work. Paris' ministers and diplomats will need to broker compromises between 27 EU member states on a number of key dossiers:

  • A review of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for the period beyond 2012;
  • Sharing between member states the 'effort' of reducing EU CO2 emissions by 20% (possibly 30%) by 2020 in sectors not covered by the EU ETS;
  • A new framework for the promotion and trade of renewable energies, including biofuels;
  • A mechanism to finance 12 carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plants by 2015, as well as a legal framework for CO2 storage.

Although not directly part of the climate and energy package, the presidency will also be required to tackle controversial proposals on reducing vehicle CO2 emissions and on further liberalising the EU's gas and electricity markets.

The "general political will" is there, and there is a "strong incentive for all member states" to come to Copenhagen (December, 2009, UN conference on post-Kyoto protocol) with a solid deal in their hands, the source said.

In addition to political will, France's own diplomats may also be motivated by sheer obligation, with the EU's international reputation on climate change resting to some extent on the shoulders of the presidency.

But despite the confidence and apparent goodwill of EU leaders, a number of key files in the package remain contentious.

East versus West?

Some of the EU's newer members, for example, are questioning the reference year 2005 chosen by the Commission to calculate how each of the 27 EU member states will contribute to the EU's promised 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (EurActiv 02/06/08).

Seven EU member states, including Hungary, Latvia, Malta and Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic, are already taking the Commission to court on the grounds that the EU ETS emissions caps being mandated by the EU will unduly harm their industries.

The delocalisation debate

The EU's energy intensive industries have also indicated strong apprehension over Brussels' climate and energy agenda.

Tightening the 'screws' on the EU's carbon market too much, particularly in the absence of an international deal on CO2 reductions, will push many factories outside EU borders where their CO2 emissions will be 'leaked' rather than capped, according to a growing chorus of industry voices that is pushing for exemptions to mandatory CO2 permit auctioning after 2012 (EurActiv 16/05/08).

Renewables, biofuels and coal

In addition to high-level political debates on CO2 effort sharing and on the role of heavy industry in the EU's carbon market, France will also need to finalise the EU's commitment to boosting the level of biofuels in its transport mix, with the EU sharply divided on sustainability issues (EurActiv LinksDossier).

There are also concerns that the member states will fail to commit the necessary funds to get 12 CCS demonstration plants up and running by 2015, raising the spectre of run-away CO2 emissions from an extensive investment in new coal-fired power plants (EurActiv 30/05/08).

Promoting renewable energies may prove to the 'easiest' file for the French, although member states' views diverge significantly over the modalities of virtual trading in renewable energy certificates. source

My comment:Nice summary, but nothing new here. I put it just for completeness.

EU deal on biofuels remains distant

4 June 2008

Environment ministers from the EU's 27 member states are unlikely to reach an agreement on core criteria for the sustainability of biofuels, according to a document circulated by the Slovenian Presidency

The Slovenian Presidency has been pushing for a compromise around a two-stage target to ensure that the EU's goal of achieving a 10% biofuel share in transport fuels by 2020 does not provoke major negative environmental side-effects, such as deforestation, food price hikes and water shortages.

Under this approach, only biofuels delivering life-cycle CO2 savings of at least 35% compared to fossil fuels would count towards the 10% target. This figure would then be scaled up to 50% as of 2015 (EurActiv 01/04/08).

But, despite the establishment of a dedicated working group on the subject and three months of intense discussions, member states remain divided as to the timing and the size of the final savings that should apply, with some countries demanding final cuts of as much as 60% and others much less.

There are also big differences of opinion as to how and by which authorities the respect of these principles should be ensured, according to diplomatic sources.

What's more, the extent to which the EU should apply social and environmental sustainability conditions to third countries is also disputed. Some countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands, fear this could be interpreted as constituting illegal trade barriers by Europe's major trading partners, leading to litigation within the World Trade Organisation.

NGOs are accusing biofuels for being at the source of around 30% of food price increases, pointing out that "the Commission's conservative estimate that the EU 10% target will lead to a 3-6% price increase in cereals could result in up to 100 million extra people in hunger by 2020". source

My comment:As you know, I mostly hope that the sustainability requirement will stay, because it's extremely important. As for the biofuels stealing the food from our plates-that's really not serious, the problem is the increase of demand that isn't backed by increase in production of food. And that some people find it better to keep it this way and get rich. The biofuels are just a nice source of extra-money for the same people.

 

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