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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Green Europe in May- several important steps forward

In this edition
  • EU on quest to end nuclear 'taboo'
  • Electricity firms top EU CO2-polluters list
  • Pesticides: EU remains divided on substances
  • EU agrees to outlaw 'green' crimes
  • Agreement reached on EU mercury export ban
  • MEPs reject watered-down airline emission targets
  • Restaurants' carbon footprint under scrutiny
7 articles, but I shortened them significantly, so don't worry. Just the most important- the Green crimes outlawing, the airplane's emissions targets and the pesticides discussions are kind of long, because I think it's important to know the facts and deal with them accordingly. My comments are below...

EU on quest to end nuclear 'taboo'

26 May 2008

The newly-created European Nuclear Energy Forum met for the second time on 22-23 May and Italy's new government announced it will end a two-decade old moratorium on new plant construction in what is widely perceived as a nuclear 'renaissance' in the EU.

The EU needs "an open debate, without taboos, without too many preconceived ideas, amongst all the relevant actors, on nuclear energy in Europe. A debate on the opportunities, but also the risks [...] a debate on the costs, but also on the benefits [...] a debate on the future of the industry," EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso told the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Prague on 22 May.

ENEF, which held its first meeting in November 2007, is a Commission-led stakeholder forum designed to debate the role of nuclear power in the EU's quest to decrease greenhouse gas emissions while weaning itself off over-dependence on imported oil and gas.

The Commission dropped its traditionally 'agnostic' stance on nuclear in the autumn of 2007, when it came out in explicit support of the technology as part of wider efforts to tackle climate change (EurActiv 03/10/07).

Nuclear remains a controversial topic in many EU countries, but a number of member states have indicated they will rely on the technology in their future energy mix.

Italy's 'U-turn' on nuclear was announced by the government of newly re-elected Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi on 22 May, with construction of new plants to begin as of 2013. The country's reactors were shut down in 1978 following a referendum.

Meanwhile France and the UK have pledged closer cooperation in the building of nuclear plants, following an earlier announcement by UK Energy Secretary John Hutton that new nuclear power stations would provide a "safe and affordable" way of securing the UK's future energy supply (EurActiv 11/01/08). source

My comment: I'm already said a word and two on nuclear plants. I just want to say that I hope that the worry of Greenpeace that ENEF is trying to push forward the lowest possible safety standards is wrong. Because that would be way to stupid...Technology should move us forward, not back.

Electricity firms top EU CO2-polluters list

21 May 2008

RWE, Enel and E.ON were the three biggest emitters of CO2 in 2005-2007, mainly due to heavy reliance on coal and lignite for power generation, according to Carbon Market Data, an independent market research firm.

The figures are based on reported emissions during the first phase (2005-2007) of the EU CO2 emissions trading scheme (EU ETS - see our Links Dossier), with the 2007 data provisional only at this stage.

German energy firm RWE is singled out by the study as the heaviest polluter as it relies heavily on coal and lignite for electricity production. Out of the 44.5 gigawatts (GW) of electricity RWE produced in 2007, 24.8 GW were fuelled with coal and lignite, according to the study.

By contrast, companies which were left with the highest surplus of CO2 pollution permits during that period were:

  • ArcelorMittal (18.5 million European Emissions Allowances - EUAs);
  • Eesti Energia (5.3 million EUAs), and;
  • Dalkia (4 million EUAs).

With emission permits distributed free of charge during the initial phase of the scheme, this represents a potential handsome additional source of revenue for the companies concerned. Carbon prices for the 2008-2012 period are currently hovering around 20-25 euros per tonne.

Energy-intensive industries, including steel, heavy chemicals and cement, have repeatedly called for special treatment under the EU ETS in order to shield them from rising power costs. Without such treatment, they warned they could be tempted to move their factories to other parts of the world, putting the jobs of thousands of Europeans at risk.

My comment: Surprise, surprise. And then, they don't want unbundling, they don't want paid CO2 permits, they don't want pollution limitations. Why? Because they can. And we can't or don't want to show them they cannot!

Pesticides: EU remains divided on substances

20 May 2008

The Slovenian EU Presidency has delayed a key vote on pesticides until June, following a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels yesterday (19 May) that revealed a divergence of views over which substances should be kept off the market.

The Slovenian Presidency has sent the file back to member-state experts in the Committee of Permanent Representations (Coreper) for further discussion.

At issue are so-called 'cut-off criteria' for substances used in the production of pesticides. In July 2006 the Commission proposed a market ban on a wide range of 'active' substances that pose potentially severe risks to humans and the environment, notably endocrine disruptors as well as carcinogenic and genotoxic substances (EurActiv 13/07/06). The Parliament voted to support the Commission's proposal in October 2007 (EurActiv 24/10/07).

But farmers groups and pesticide producers say the proposed bans would be detrimental to the EU's food supply. They say the proposed bans are based on "assumptions" rather than science .

Several member states share these reservations. A UK government study concluded that the Commission's proposals would lead to the prohibition of 15% of key pesticides used in the UK's food production, with the wheat sector the hardest hit, she said.

The UK, which is backed by Ireland, has also criticised the Commission for being too vague over how endocrine disruptors are defined in its proposal, says Elliott Canell of the Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe, who argues that a more precise definition would have little if any impact on UK farmers.

France, on the other hand, has surprised many observers by coming out in support of the Commission's plans.

The Commission, meanwhile, has made it clear that it intends to stick to its guns on the issue. The proposed cut-off criteria are "essential", EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said at the Council meeting.

Ministers are scheduled to vote on the file during the 23-24 June Agriculture Council. source

My comment: Just imagine what we're eating if they're account for 15% of the production. I can't believe this hasn't passed yet! Isn't it obvious the ban should come into action? If farmers want to use Uranium as a pesticide will someone wonder whether it's safe? I hope not!

EU agrees to outlaw 'green' crimes

22 May 2008

After eight years of negotiation, the European Parliament has reached an agreement with member states on legislation that will force national governments to apply criminal sanctions to those causing deliberate or negligent damage to the environment.

The Commission has been seeking to introduce legislation criminalising the worst offences against the environment for the past eight years. However, disagreements between the EU executive and national governments regarding the legal basis of the planned law and whether Brussels had the right to intervene in criminal matters disrupted the legislative process (see LinksDossier on Environmental Crime).

A ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), issued on 23 October 2007, finally cleared up the issue once and for all. While supporting the Commission's right to require criminal sanctions for environmental damage, it also said that it does not have the authority to fix the type and level of these penalties (EurActiv 24/10/07).

Parallel to these developments, France set a legal precedent in January 2008, when the Criminal Court of Paris condemned the world's fourth largest oil group Total SA and three other parties to fines of up to €375,000 for their role in the "ecological prejudice" caused by the sinking of the Erika oil tanker in 1999. The case represented the first time that a French court has handed down a conviction for environmental damage (EurActiv 17/01/08).

The agreement will infuriate British Conservatives who have been fighting tooth and nail against what they called an "intrusion" into national criminal law.

To appease opponents, the agreed directive makes clear that criminal sanctions can only be requested in case of "substantial damage", death or serious injury and limited to areas where the EU has competence, leaving national legislation intact in other areas.

According to the agreed text, the list of punishable crimes will include:

  • Unlawful discharge or emission of substances into the air, soil or water in a way likely to cause "death or serious injury to any person" or "substantial damage" to the environment;
  • the shipment of waste;
  • the killing, destruction, possession and trading of specimens of protected fauna or flora species, except when it concerns negligible quantities with little or no impact on the specimen's conservation status;
  • any conduct which causes the significant deterioration of habitats within protected sites, and;
  • the production, importation, exportation, placing on the market or use of ozone-depleting substances.

Any inciting or aiding and abetting of such conduct will equally be considered a criminal offence.

The Commission had originally hoped to impose sentences ranging from one to ten years' imprisonment or fines of €300,000 to €1,500,000, depending on the severity of the offence.

However, in the final compromise, which seeks to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling , the level of penalty is left to the discretion of member states. The directive simply asks that they be "effective, proportionate and dissuasive".

My comment: That is fundamental step and not only for environment. It's the first criminal law the EC makes common for all the member states. And even if the penalties are up to the country, it still is a major step forward. Which is logical, of course, sharing one continent, it's hard to limit the damage only to your country. Thus, if you pollute, you have to pay. And be in jail!

Agreement reached on EU mercury export ban

22 May 2008

In a move broadly acclaimed by health and environmental groups, the European Parliament voted yesterday to back a compromise deal to ban all mercury exports from the EU in 2011 and improve the safety of surplus storage.

Mercury contamination comes from a wide variety of sources, including waste recycling and industrial facilities involved in cleaning non-ferrous metals and natural gas. In the EU, the chlor-alkali industry remains the largest single user of mercury and has already committed to either close or convert its mercury plants by 2020 at the latest.

According to the Commission, the EU stopped all forms of mercury mining in 2001. However, it has continued to export considerable amounts of mercury – up to 25% of worldwide supply. This, it said, is adding to the global pool of mercury released into the biosphere, increasing the risks to human health and the environment.

In a second reading vote on Wednesday (21 May), the Parliament gave its formal seal of approval to a compromise deal reached previously with member state diplomats in the EU Council of Ministers.

The text, a regulation that will directly apply into the EU's 27 national legal systems, will now be forwarded to environment ministers for a final rubber-stamping at a meeting on 5 June.

The compromise includes adding two compounds – mercurous chloride and mercuric oxide – to the list of substances banned for export, according to a statement by the European Commission. It also brings forward the export ban and storage obligations to March 2011, a few months earlier than originally planned.

However, demands by the European Parliament to impose a ban on mercury imports were rejected as impractical. And calls to extend the scope of the export ban to mercury-containing products already prohibited in the EU were also dismissed.

On the storage aspect, it was agreed that mercury waste should be kept "in a way that is safe for human health and the environment" before eventually being disposed of. Such places include abandoned salt mines, deep underground hard rock formations or specific safe storage facilities above the ground.

But to the disappointment of environmental groups, permanent underground disposal of liquid mercury will still be a possibility. However, this can only be done if measures to transform the liquid mercury into a solid compound are explored first. The NGOs said they hoped that "provided that an environmentally safe solidification process is available soon, it will become mandatory requirement". source

My comment: I can't say I'm delighted by this, because the measures are not strict enough. But again- better than nothing. Though for me, 2020 is way to far in time. It should have been 2015.

MEPs reject watered-down airline emission targets

28 May 2008

MEPs have declared a de facto war against national governments by maintaining their demands for strict emission reduction targets for Europe's rapidly growing aviation sector, despite ministers' insistence on a more industry-friendly approach.

The proposal involves imposing a cap on CO2 emissions for all planes arriving or departing from EU airports, while allowing airlines to buy and sell 'pollution credits' on the EU 'carbon market'.

The report, backed by members of Parliament's environment committee in a second reading vote on 27 May, states that airlines operating in Europe should not be allowed to continue emitting the same levels of greenhouse gases as the period 2004-2006 after 2012 – as was proposed by the Council last April. Instead, it demands a 10% cut by 2011. Further reductions would be then implemented as of 2013, in a linear manner so as to achieve emission reductions of 20% in 2020 in comparison to 1990.

In further contrast to a compromise achieved among European ministers, MEPs insisted that at least 25% of available pollution permits be auctioned, rather than handed out for free (EurActiv 14/11/07). The aim is to make sure airlines do not make windfall profits by passing on non-existent costs to their passengers. The share of traded allowances would then be increased in 2013, when the revised EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which also covers industrial activities, enters into force.

Other elements of the report include:

  • an "efficiency clause", which states that airlines may only buy emission permits from other sectors or projects in developing countries if they first meet certain fuel efficiency standards;
  • earmarking of revenues generated from the auctioning of emission permits. MEPs decided that the extra cash is to be used for research on improving efficiency in the aviation sector, but also for investment into 'green' modes of transport, such as trains and buses, to reduce some of the burden on citizens.
  • a "multiplier" requirement, which states that the cost of all CO2 permits bought by airlines be multiplied by two unless the Commission develops legislation to address additional climate impacts caused by Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions from aircraft;
  • a clause enabling member states to maintain or introduce complementary measures, including taxes, to address the sector's total impact on climate change, and;
  • exemptions for humanitarian, emergency and military flights. Private business jets, including those used by members of the monarchy or government, would on the other hand be covered by the scheme.

German MEP Peter Liese (EPP-ED), who is in charge of the dossier, said he would try to reach an agreement with the Council over the coming weeks. source

My comment: YES! That's what I'm talking about!!! Yes!!!

Restaurants' carbon footprint under scrutiny

23 May 2008

The environmental cost of imported foodstuffs used in restaurants is much higher than previously thought, with cheaper meals carrying higher carbon footprints, according to a study by the University of Nottingham.

The study surveyed 40 restaurants in London to test knowledge of local goods as well as the environmental footprint of imported produce. The results revealed that the CO2 produced from restaurant meals based on imported ingredients from outside the EU is in fact "more than a hundred times higher than that of ingredients produced in Britain".

Significantly, non-EU imported ingredients carry more than a five kilogram carbon footprint, whereas produce coming from local communities carries just 51 grams.

With food transport creating around 35% of the UK's total emissions, improving the carbon footprint in this area is worth serious consideration. The study recommends a full government environmental audit of British restaurants. A recent study showed that Europeans' taste for cheap imported food had far-reaching environmental consequences in terms of transport pollution (EurActiv 11/12/07).

My comment: Kind of obvious! The moral, buy more expensive and more healthy food and say no to Mcdonalds and other junk-food factories. It's good for your health and for the Nature!

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