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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

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