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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Environment in Europe, 06.2008

In this edition:
  1. Commission hopes to revive blocked EU soil law
  2. Watered-down waste directive gets MEPs' green light
  3. Parliament vote wraps up EU water quality law
  4. Pesticides row heats up ahead of key ministers' meeting
Over-all, some good news like the try to revive a directive on soil and the one on quality of Water, and the Waste management and some bad (the rest). Most importantly we see again, that Monsanto and other biotech giants are again leading Europe by the nose. And no one can stop them. I wonder how much more can people take from them.

Commission hopes to revive blocked EU soil law

13 June 2008

Soils are crucial for storing CO2 and must be protected as part of the fight against climate change, according to the Commission, which wants to breathe new life into a proposed framework directive on soil protection that was rejected by a small group of member states last December.

"Convinced of the need to act at EU level to protect soil," the Commission is calling on the Council "to acknowledge the importance of soil for the sustainability of Europe as a whole, and to reconsider the need to protect this most precious resource through European legislation," according to a statement released yesterday (12 June) as part of a 'high level conference' focussed on soil and climate change.

The Commission proposed a framework directive on soils in September 2006 within a broad strategy on soil protection (EurActiv 22/09/06). In November 2007, Parliament voted largely in favour of the notion of public soil inventories, as well as the requirement that member states draw up soil remediation strategies seven years after the directive enters into force. Parliament also voted in favour of adding a list of potentially contaminated sites to the directive, re-inserting an annex that had been previously deleted by the ENVI Committee.

But environment ministers from the UK, Germany and France, backed by Sweden, Austria and Finland, argued that the law, if adopted, would interfere with domestic soil management measures.

"Bilateral discussions are under way with member states who opposed the draft legislation to try to overcome this impasse," the Commission's statement said.

While details of these negotiations have not been made public, the EU executive is apparently leveraging the EU's commitment to fighting climate change in order to produce a shift in member states' positions.

"Seventy billion tonnes of carbon is stored in our soils, and even small losses can have huge effects on our emissions of greenhouse gases," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said. source

My comment: Hmm. I mean, that is a good initiative. Why should they spoil it with such stupid argument. I mean, ok, you don't want to be a part of that, give your real arguments. You don't consider it important. Ok, your choice. But it's shameful to excuse yourself with such nonsense. As for the soil, it's obvious there should be EU-wide regulations on the soil.

Watered-down waste directive gets MEPs' green light

18 June 2008

MEPs agreed yesterday (17 June) to back new waste legislation despite the lack of binding goals for member states on waste prevention, while targets for re-use and recycling are included. NGOs and green groups immediately slammed the directive for not going far enough.

The legislation looks to streamline existing waste laws, incorporating directives on waste oils and hazardous waste into the revised Waste Framework Directive.

The directive stipulates that governments have to recycle 50% of household waste and 70% of construction waste by 2020. Rather than impose strictly binding obligations, the directive states that member states "shall take the necessary measures". The Commission nevertheless confirmed that if the targets are not met by EU countries by 2020, it would take them to court for non-compliance.

Another result of the compromise is the creation of a more comprehensive waste hierarchy which Parliament insisted would be a "priority order" as opposed to the Council's preferred "guiding principle". Therefore, the order of preference for waste processing should be: prevention, re-use, recycling and recovery with environmental disposal as a last option.

Parliamentarians had argued for the incineration of waste to be classed as disposal, rather than recovery as favoured by the Council. But the final compromise complied with the Council position, giving incineration a better position in the waste hierarchy.

A proposal added by Parliament on setting a target for recycling manufacturing and industrial waste was also rejected by the Council. source

My comment: I have to agree with the Greens on this one. It's very weak and disappointing. Particularly the lack of clear and recent objectives. Like such for 2012 or 2015. 2020 is way to far in time. And incineration isn't an option. It releases more garbage in the air than a normal storage. For me the recycling is absolutely best for inorganic waste. But who am I to know...Anyway, I still think that a bad law is better than no law at all. Hopefully soon enough we'll see an upgrade. And please notice how industries always get what they want.

Parliament vote wraps up EU water quality law

18 June 2008

The Parliament yesterday (17 June) voted by a large majority in support of new EU water quality rules based on a compromise agreement reached earlier with the Council. The vote signals the finalisation of the EU's Water Framework Directive, proposed in 2000.

EU water policies comprise a large body of legislation covering areas as diverse as flood management, bathing water quality, chemicals in water, clean drinking water, groundwater protection and urban waste water. The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted in 2000, was introduced to streamline the EU's large body of water legislation into one overarching strategy.

The main objective of the WFD is for all of the EU's waters to have attained 'good status' by 2015.Previously, Parliament and the Council had diverging positions concerning the number of priority pollutants and their concentration limits in surface waters, with the Council rejecting Parliament's calls for an extension of the list of substances.

Central to the agreement is a pledge by member states to "make progress towards compliance" on environmental quality standards (EQS) for 33 pollutants by 2018. The standards are based on maximum concentration levels and yearly average pollutant values that are harmonised throughout the EU.

Of the 33 substances affected, 13 are currently qualified as 'priority hazardous' and would need to be entirely phased out within 20 years, as suggested in the Commission's original text. The 13 substances include heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium.

MEPs in the environment committee had pushed for a significant expansion of the list. But the demand was dropped as part of the compromise with the Council, whereby the list could be expanded pending a Commission review in 2013, or two years after the law enters into force in 2011.

By 2009, member states will also be obliged to set up an inventory of emissions, discharges and losses of pollutants for river basins on their territory. The Commission will use this inventory to measure progress on the phasing out of priority hazardous substances, and will present a status report in 2018. source

My comment: I sincerely hope this one gets enforces as hard as it's necessary . Because water gets very scarce as a resource and quality and it MUST be protected. It would be hard enough with all the industries that would really prefer not to have to account for the sh*t they throw in the rivers and seas. But that's important. Just check out the list of the worst bathing places in Europe. They are no longer just few in the new members. There are beaches in Spain, Italy and so on. And we all can get in trouble if we swim there without knowing.

Pesticides row heats up ahead of key ministers' meeting

17 June 2008

As EU agriculture ministers prepare to debate the controversial file next week, Greenpeace has published a 'black list' of companies that manufacture and market "particularly dangerous pesticides" which the group believes should be banned. But pesticides manufacturers slammed the move as a 'PR stunt'.

"Pesticides manufactured by German chemical multinational Bayer pose the biggest threat to human health and the environment," Greenpeace said in a 16 June statement.

According to the group's new report, Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF and Dow Chemicals are next in line in the 'ranking', which categorises companies according to various indicators related to the toxicity levels of their pesticides portfolios. Nearly half of these companies' products should be blacklisted (kept off the EU market), according to the report.

However, the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) said the Greenpeace action "adds nothing constructive to a very important issue" and issued a statement defending the safety of its member companies' products.

In October 2006, the Commission put forward a new proposal for a regulation to tighten pesticide usage and authorisation rules in Europe. Parliament delivered its first reading of the proposal in October 2007, calling for the expansion of the scope of substances banned from use in EU pesticide production (EurActiv 24/10/07). The Commission in turn put forward a revised proposal on 11 March, in which it rejected most of the Parliament's proposals, putting the two institutions at odds (EurActiv 19/03/08).

The controversy surrounding pesticide use has been exacerbated further by concerns about rising food prices. Some farmers' organisations argue that taking too many substances off the market would lead to significant declines in crop yields (EurActiv 28/04/08). And in February, two of ECPA's member companies released a study which concludes that overly stringent EU rules on pesticides will lead to a decline in European agricultural self-sufficiency, resulting in ever-increasing food prices and job losses in the agri-food sector (EurActiv 05/02/08).

Member states, meanwhile, are divided, particularly on the issue of pesticide substance restrictions. source

My comment: That's horribly. Really. How come Monsanto can get whatever it wants from whatever country it feels like?! I don't want to be a conspiracy-junkie, but this is certainly suspicious and very not fair. And these studies that the price of food has something to do with the pesticides? Totally wrong! Europe doesn't grow that much food so that eventual ban could affect the prices of food. They are such liers. And just notice how the European Commission obviously always play for them. That's very very troubling.

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