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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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