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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ecology in Europe, June, 2008

In this edition:
  • Electronics makers want incentives to green product lines
  • Corruption a catalyst for global water crisis, says report
  • EU moves to combat illegal fishing, protect ecosystems
  • MEPs back stronger clean vehicle procurement plans
  • EU 'green transport' plans to ignore CO2
  • Gordon Brown urges British to stop wasting food
  • G8 backs 50% CO2 cut by 2050
  • EU tuning in to energy efficiency?
Again, they look like many articles, but actually, they are quite short. I hope you enjoy them!

Electronics makers want incentives to green product lines

27 June 2008

Europe's electronics and electrical engineering industries say they can make big contributions to cutting EU CO2 emissions, especially through energy efficiency improvements. But investment incentives and greater certainty on exemptions to emissions rules are needed, they say.

Electra is a commission-backed initiative designed to foster innovation in the electronics and electrical engineering industries in the context of EU efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Electra presented the results of a year of "intense" work yesterday during a conference in Brussels. "Fiscal and financial policies should be designed to attract investment and complemented by facilitating private investment, including through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)," the group concluded.

EU Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen, who attended the Electra event, declared the "birth of a new chapter" in the EU's industrial policy. It is necessary to "overcome old thinking" with respect to the perceived contradiction between modern technologies and environmental protection, Verheugen said.

The Commission will next week present new action plans on a Sustainable Industrial Policy and on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP). The SCP action plan will include a proposal to extend the EU's Eco-design Requirements for Energy-using Products Directive to "all energy-related products," Verheugen said. source

My comment: I agree with all that, the only thing I disagree is they try to involve the emission permits in the discussion which is convenient for them, but very damaging to the discussion itself. In reality, companies and industries should make investments in new technologies like it or not, so I don't see what this has to with permits.

Corruption a catalyst for global water crisis, says report

26 June 2008

Corruption in the water sector is the "root cause" of the current global water crisis and is undermining efforts to develop a global response to climate change and the food crisis, according to a report published yesterday (25 June) by Transparency International.

The reportexternal , compiled by over twenty experts, highlights the importance of good governance in the water sector. It notably reveals how corruption has had a knock-on effect on the consequences of climate change by thwarting resettlement programmes and hindering water-sharing pacts.

It is estimated that roughly 1.2 billion people across the world lack access to water, with over 2.6 billion without sanitation. But the NGO reckons that by 2025, this figure will rise, with over three billion people living in water-stressed countries. It further says corruption is "undermining the sustainability of water supplies" and could lead to political conflict.

Corruption is also aggravating the current global food crisis, where lack of irrigation is a major issue. The report estimates that corruption adds 25% to the cost of irrigation contracts in India, meaning higher water prices and lower yields for farmers and further exacerbating water shortages. Corruption is also rampant in China, according to the report, where environmental standards have dropped as a result. It is estimated that some 90% of aquifers in cities and 75% of urban rivers are polluted due to bribery.

The phenomenon affects both public and private water services and is apparent in both rich and poor countries. It is a particularly lucrative business in Western Europe, North America and Japan, where the awarding of contracts and infrastructure is a money-spinning business worth an estimated $210 billion annually, according to Transparency International.

Their report suggests a number of remedies to overcome corruption: strengthening independent regulatory oversight, ensuring fair competition for water contracts and implementing transparency and participation as guiding principles for water governance. It particularly highlights the notion of participation as "a mechanism for reducing undue influence and capture of the sector". source

My comment: I won't comment this one since it talks for itself. Corruption should be fought and we're the ones that should exterminate it!

EU moves to combat illegal fishing, protect ecosystems

26 June 2008

Fisheries ministers from the 27-member bloc have given their unanimous backing to Commission proposals to combat illegal fishing and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems, in a move welcomed by European environmental groups.

Ministers adopted the regulations on Tuesday (24 June) during a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, which took place in Luxembourg on 23-24 June.

A regulation on illegal fishing, which affects EU vessels outside of Community waters as well as foreign boats accessing European oceans, imposes sanctions on offenders proportionate to the value of the landed catch. It permits higher sanctions for repeated lawbreakers.

Ministers also decided to establish a common certification system with the aim of ensuring that IUU products do not enter the European market.

Green groups hailed the adoption of the single authorisation mechanism, with Greenpeace's Saskia Richartz declaring that "today's decision will help limit destructive fisheries and benefit all those that are sticking to the rules".

Meanwhile, the marine protection regulation will only allow fishing in protected areas where there is scientific proof that it does not cause damage to ecosystems, while vessels will require special permits to use bottom fishing gear.

The measures "will protect vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas not covered by regional fishery management organisations," explained Jarc, as well as regulate "the fishing activities of EU vessels in restricted areas of the high seas". source

My comment:A great news, no question! I'm not sure of their motivation, but still a good decision is good no matter of the motivation!

MEPs back stronger clean vehicle procurement plans

Published: Wednesday 25 June 2008

The European Parliament's Environment Committee yesterday (24 June) voted in favour of earlier implementation of plans making it mandatory for government authorities to ensure public transport fleets and other utility vehicles are clean and energy efficient.

MEPs want to make it compulsory for public authorities to consider not only the purchase price of buses, garbage lorries or delivery vans when acquiring them, but also their environmental impacts. The additional criteria would include life-cycle costs for fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and air pollution and would enter into force as early as January 2010.

This is two years earlier than what the Commission is proposing, but it is more in line with the general approach approved by member states last week, which would allow authorities two years to comply as of the directive's entry into force.

The Environment Committee also said the cost of CO2 should be calculated at a minimum of €30 per tonne, rather than at €20 as proposed by the Commission (EurActiv 20/12/07).

The aim is to kick-start a market in technologies that are currently not commercially viable, such as biofuels, hydrogen, natural gas or LPG, electric or hybrid vehicles.

The new plans would cover all new road vehicles, except – according to an amendment introduced by MEPs – second-hand vehicles, emergency vehicles and those used to provide "operational support" or maintain infrastructure.

The committee nevertheless said the criteria should be taken into account when public authorities purchase replacement parts or engines for retrofitting on older vehicles.

MEPs also called on the Commission to establish a scoreboard for benchmarking similar cities and comparing the environment-friendliness of their procurement practices.

The committee further asked the Commission to set up a "European Climate Protection Fund" to encourage the purchase of such vehicles.

The new plans, on the other hand, are expected to affect the purchases of roughly 110,000 passenger cars, 110,000 light commercial vehicles, 35,000 lorries and 17,000 buses.

According to Commission estimates, the inclusion of lifetime costs for fuel, CO2, NOx, non-methane hydrocarbons and particulate matter (PM) would push the price of a normal bus up from around €150,000 to €594,030 – meaning that it would become more interesting to pay a higher price up-front for a cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicle with lower fuel energy consumption and emissions. source

My comment: Great, let's hope that would pass also the EC because it obviously will help a little bit to the over-polluted cities in Europe.

EU 'green transport' plans to ignore CO2

7 July 2008

Despite the bloc's ambitious goal to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, Commission proposals due to be unveiled tomorrow (8 July) would effectively prohibit governments from including the cost of CO2 emitted by road transport in their toll tariffs.

The proposals will be part of a broad package on 'greening transport', which will include a general Communication on 'greening transport', a proposal for a review of the Eurovignette Directive and a 'Strategy for the internalisation of external costs' for each transport mode.

The review of the Eurovignette Directive aims to enable governments to charge truck drivers for the costs they impose in terms of congestion, noise and air pollution.

According to the latest draft obtained by EurActiv, such 'external cost' charges could come on top of those already levied in some countries to finance construction and maintenance work.

Member states would not be obliged to impose such taxes but could choose to do so for vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, on any part of their road network, as of January 2012. Charges would be capped at maximum levels and would have to vary according to the time of day, the distance travelled and vehicles' Euro emissions class type – which takes account of the amount of NOx and poisonous particulate matter emitted (see LinksDossier on Euro standards).

Tolls with barriers would no longer be permitted and the collection of charges would have to be based on an electronic system so as to avoid hindrances to the free flow of traffic, although there would be a transition period up till January 2014.

Charging trucks for the CO2 they emit would remain forbidden.

In what is likely to become the main contentious issue with national governments, the Commission is proposing that revenues generated by external cost charges be earmarked towards measures aimed at reducing road transport pollution at source, improving CO2 and energy performance of vehicles and developing alternative infrastructure for transport users, the communication states.

Governments would nevertheless remain free to allocate revenues raised through infrastructure charges as they choose. source

My comment: I think it's not a bad proposition, despite the title.

Gordon Brown urges British to stop wasting food

8 July 2008

As leaders of the world's richest countries gather at the G8 summit in Japan to discuss soaring food prices, a UK government report reveals that British families throw away a third of the food they buy, thus creating unnecessary demand which further increases prices and causes greenhouse gas emissions.

"With the average household throwing away food worth hundreds of pounds each year, there is a clear opportunity both to save money and to cut back on waste," argues UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, commenting on the results of a government studyexternal reviewing the main trends in the country's food production and consumption and their effects to the economy, society and environment.

According to the report, UK consumers throw away the equivalent of £10 billion (€12.5 billion) worth of food every year. That adds up to some £420 (€527) per family and £610 (€766) per family with children. According to the report, some seven million slices of bread, one million slices of ham, 4.4 million whole apples, 1.3m yoghurts and 440,000 home-made and ready-made meals every day.

Furthermore, according to the report, wasted food causes greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Eliminating the unnecessary waste would deliver greenhouse gas savings "equivalent to taking one in five cars off UK roads," the study concludes.source

My comment: I do agree throwing away food is the ultimate sin. I mean, so many people starving, so many people dreaming to buy something that is too expensive for them and you have people just wasting. That's bad.

G8 backs 50% CO2 cut by 2050

8 July 2008

G8 leaders on Tuesday (8 July) said they support the successful conclusion of international climate change talks in order to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050, but shied away from any specific or binding medium-term targets.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso hailed the statement as "a new, shared vision by the major economies on the climate challenge". "The EU's benchmark for success at this Summit has been achieved," he said

In advance of the talks, Barroso had expressed hope that G8 leaders would agree to "meaningful and ambitious long-term goals and mid-term targets" for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to pave the way for a new global climate change deal by December 2009, in Copenhagen (EurActiv 07/07/08).

But while the statement concedes that achieving the 50% or more reduction target will require "mid-term goals and national plans," no specifics are mentioned. And it highlights several times the importance of "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" between developed and developing states to reach any GHG reduction targets.

The language reflects the long-standing negotiation impasse between the US on the one hand and rapidly developing countries like China and India on the other.

While G8 leaders hailed the common statement as a breakthrough, environmental groups like the WWF slammed it as "pathetic". source

My comment: Pathetic is precisely the word. I mean "hailed". What the f*ck do you hail, you accomplished nothing, G8 is still in a deadlock. Then, what precisely did we achieve?! Abolutely nothing!

EU tuning in to energy efficiency?

7 July 2008

Energy efficiency was a central topic of discussion in Paris last week (3-5 July) among EU environment and energy ministers concerned about high oil prices. But to date, efforts to decrease the energy intensity of the EU economy remain lacklustre.

However, if the Commission's energy efficiency action plan, if delivered, the plan would also prevent 780 million tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere, or twice the amount the EU agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol (see also EurActiv's LinksDossier).

Energy efficiency should be the "cornerstone of public, energy and climate policies," according to a French EU Presidency press release that cited the conclusions of a working session held in parallel to the Council meeting.

"This is essential for reducing greenhouse gases and is one of the necessary mediums to long-term solutions to rising oil prices. The advantages of this choice are therefore three-fold: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, consumer savings, and on a strategic level, the easing of pressure on Europe's energy supply and in the medium-term, energy price tensions", according to the statement.

But despite these and similar declarations about the need for energy efficiency upgrades, the EU has not set any legally binding targets on energy efficiency. In contrast, legally binding targets for renewable energy uptake and CO2 reduction are currently being finalised as part of the EU's climate and energy package, proposed on 23 January (EurActiv LinksDossier).

Part of the problem is that, unlike regulating energy supply sources and emissions from large industrial installations, energy efficiency improvements are spread throughout the economy, involving a wide range of stakeholders, including a panoply of small firms.

In addition, energy efficiency improvements can require large up-front investment which only pays off after several years, and the issue of who provides funding and how best to implement it remains the subject of a complex and far-reaching debate.

The best solution, most experts agree, is an "integrated approach" that combines policy and fiscal incentives with technological advances, more favourable financing conditions and changes to consumer behaviour (see EurActiv's LinksDossier on energy efficiency funding).

What's more...

The Commission has once again delayed the release of its Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) action plan, which, together with an action plan on a Sustainable Industrial Policy (SIP), was originally scheduled for release in December 2007 (EurActiv LinksDossier).

It is unclear what the cause of the delay is, though stakeholder sources speculate that the Commission is divided internally on the extent to which energy-related products should be subject to 'eco-design' and labelling requirements, the main legislative part of the plans.

The plans are now expected "over the next couple of months," according to a 4 July speech by EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs before energy and environment ministers.

In the meantime, a special EU regulatory committee will vote on standards for standby devices and other energy-using products, part of the implementation of the EU's eco-design requirements for energy-using products (EuP) Directive. The Commission is also planning to put forward a revised action plan on energy efficiency by spring 2009.

Please also visit EurActiv France for further coverageexternal of this issue. source

My comment: I'm kind of sick to repeat that energy efficiency should be the first and most heavily developed tool to decrease both fossil fuel dependency and polluting emissions from all kinds. It's easy, it's practical, it economical and it's DOABLE! It's about time that the EC understands it!

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