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Friday, October 31, 2008

Climate in Europe in October,2008

In today's edition:
  1. Study highlights 'massive health savings' of stricter climate policies
  2. Report: Global CO2 emissions rising despite efforts
  3. Brussels readies for 'Super Tuesday' climate vote
  4. EU climate plans get the nod from MEPs
  5. Climate votes offer missing piece in Chinese coal puzzle
  6. MEPs push for efficiency in long-term EU energy strategy
Good news for the climate these days. At least from the direction of European Parliament. The Council is still too busy to take care of the business. I just want to mention the interesting shadow that appears in the 5th article. So, it looks like China has interest in CCS. Then, I can't but ask, why nobody tried to get it to our side. Because this is an expensive technology and if we HAVE to fund it (as you know I share the GreenPeace opinion on that-I rather go for green technologies than storage), we better get China to help us a little. Or a lot.

Study highlights 'massive health savings' of stricter climate policies

2 October 2008

The EU could save up to €25 billion every year by introducing more ambitious climate policies, according to a new study by health and environment NGOs.

Raising the EU's 2020 target for greenhouse gas emission cuts from 20 to 30% would increase health savings by as much as 48%, or €6.5 to 25 billion each year, according to the report, which was commissioned by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-E) and WWF. Moreover, the benefits would accrue year on year.

The estimates are based on economic evaluations of reduced loss of life and health resulting from better air quality. Savings to industry and governments are also taken into account in terms of fewer lost working days and reduced health service costs.

According to the study, the higher emissions reduction target would reduce lost years of life by 105,000 annually and lead to 2,800 fewer hospital admissions. These societal benefits would be accompanied by industry savings of two million work days saved every year.

"Until now the discussion on climate change has been all about costs to industry and the economy, while costs of climate pollution to the society have largely been neglected," said Delia Villagrasa, senior advisor to WWF.

The report also pointed out that stronger climate policies help protect forests, ecosystems and historical buildings, which adds to the quantified benefits. Moreover, European companies are expected to make considerable savings from implementing air pollution control measures.

"Action on climate change produces win-win-win scenarios. Tougher targets means a win for the planet, a win for European citizens' health and a win for industry in reducing air pollution control cost," stated Tomas Wyns, policy officer on the emissions trading scheme at CAN-E. source

My comment: Ok, that sounds great but I can provide a great contra-argument. Increased years of life doesn't necessarily mean healthy years. It may mean more years in retirement which will burden even more that current demographic crisis. Of course, this is ridiculous, but it's logical. Anyway, I'm glad WWF took that direction on climate issues, because there are much more benefits for everyone from stricter climate measures-improved technologies, better health, better environment for all of us. Once you start thinking this way, that is.

Report: Global CO2 emissions rising despite efforts

30 September 2008

Efforts to curb carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol have not done enough to stop emissions increasing in industrialised nations and the developing world alike, according to the Global Carbon Project.

Since 2000, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have grown four times more quickly than in previous decade, according to the latest figures released by the Global Carbon Project on 26 September. Ten billion tonnes of carbon were released in 2007, while the efficiency of natural carbon sinks has declined, leading to what could be the highest concentration for 20 million years, the 'Carbon Budget 2007' report says.

"This new update of the carbon budget shows the acceleration of both CO2 emissions and atmospheric accumulation are unprecedented, and most astonishing during a decade of intense international developments to address climate change," said Dr. Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project.

The report also shows a marked change in emissions patterns. Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992, the share of emissions from the developing world now constitutes over half of global emissions.

China assumed the mantle of largest CO2 emitter from the US in 2006, while India is shortly expected to overtake Russia and become the third largest emitter. From an historical perspective, however, developing countries - which account for 80% of the world's population - have only accounted for 20% of cumulative emissions since 1751. Although the increase has been quickest in the Third World, emissions from developed countries have continued to grow as well.source

My comment: Naughty and definitely not nice. But that's the reality. Less forests, more emission, what else could we expect? I fear thinking of the other gases, that we don't strictly monitor.

Brussels readies for 'Super Tuesday' climate vote

6 October 2008

MEPs will tomorrow (7 October) vote on key legislation designed to slash the EU's CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. But the vote comes amidst a worsening economic crisis, with several member states indicating that they want to put the brakes on any rapid adoption of the measures.

Three reports will be subject to votes by the Parliament's Environment (ENVI) Committee. The first and most controversial for heavy industry relates to the revision of the EU greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme (by Avril Doyle, an Irish EPP-ED group MEP). The second, prepared by Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi, will determine how much each EU country should take on of the bloc's "burden" to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.

The third and final report, prepared by UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies, establishes a legal framework for the geological storage of CO2 captured by coal-fired power plants during electricity generation.

Following the collapse or bail-out of several key banks in the US and in the EU, the 'usual' controversies surrounding the climate proposals have been eclipsed by concerns about grave economic recession, which overshadow Tuesday's vote and are casting doubt on whether Brussels will be able to push through its ambitious CO2 reduction programme (EurActiv 26/09/08).

The climate and energy package is in "deep trouble", The Economist reported on 4 October. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a "green champion" in March 2007, "now sounds like a lobbyist for German business," the weekly commented.

But many of Europe's industries say paying too much for emitting CO2 means they cannot stay competitive internationally and will be forced to move production and pollution outside the EU's borders, leading to a 'leakage' of carbon that would be environmentally counter-productive. To prevent such a scenario, they say, certain industrial sectors like aluminium and cement producers should be given up to 100% free emissions allowances.

The issue is the cause of an internal rift in the EP's largest political group, the Christian Democratic European People's Party (EPP-ED) party. Doyle, an EPP-ED member, is fighting to gain support in advance of the vote in the face of opposition from some MEPs, who say a stricter EU ETS would undermine European industries, according to ENDS Europe reports.

Competitiveness concerns are also at the heart of MEP Davies's report on carbon capture and storage (CCS). While the Davies report in itself has not been the focus of extreme controversy, the issue of how to pay for CCS has.

Davies has worked closely with Doyle in recent months to link CCS financing to the ETS proposal. The two rapporteurs have drafted an amendment that, if accepted by other MEPs and by the Council, would see the transfer of massive sums from a special ETS reserve fund to select CCS demonstration projects. source

My comment:Not horribly informative, since we all know that. I'm kind of bothered by the last paragraph since as you know, I'm not a great fan of CCS. But it's not going to pass in the Council anyway .

EU climate plans get the nod from MEPs

8 October 2008

The Parliament's environment committee yesterday (7 October) voted largely in favour of three separate reports on emissions trading, greenhouse gas reduction 'effort' sharing and CO2 capture and storage in a show of support for the EU's ambitious climate change policy.

Doyle triumphant

On the EU ETS proposal, the environment (ENVI) committee gave its backing to all but one of the compromise amendmentsPdf external introduced by Parliament's rapporteur, Irish Christian Democrat MEP Avril Doyle. The main elements of the Doyle report (adopted with 44 votes in favour, 20 against with one abstention) include:

  • The power sector should be obliged to obtain 100% of CO2 permits at auction after 2013;
  • Energy-intensive industries should be required to obtain 15% of emissions permits at auction in 2013, with a gradual phase-in towards 100% auctioning by 2020 (a 5% decrease compared to the Commission's initial proposal for a 20% auctioning requirement);
  • 500 million spare emissions allowances, normally reserved for new entrants into the EU ETS scheme, should be made available as an incentive/financing measure for large-scale commercial carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plants;
  • The threshold for installations affected by the EU ETS should be raised from 10,000 to 25,000 tonnes of annual CO2 emissions;
  • 100% of member states' auction revenues should be set aside or 'ring fenced' for climate-related purposes, whereby half of the money should be earmarked for developing countries;
  • Installations should be able to achieve at least 40% of their targets through the financing of emissions reductions projects in third countries under the Kyoto Protocol's Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanisms (JI/CDM), but stricter rules on the validity of CDM projects would need to be respected;
  • Up to 5% of emissions reductions could be obtained through the preservation of forests in developing countries under the condition that an international climate deal is in place.

Doyle was credited for having carried the file through to completion despite infighting and an attempted 'mutiny' within her own political group, the European People's Party (EPP). An 11th hour attempt by a group of EPP MEPs, led by Christian Democrat MEPs Karl-Heinz Florenz (Germany) and Eija-Rita Korhola (Finland), to change the order of voting on amendments to the report was rejected by the president of the ENVI committee on procedural grounds.

In what was widely considered a blow to several industry lobbies, the committee then voted down a set of consolidated amendmentsPdf external co-authored and tabled earlier by Florenz and Korhola, who had the backing of a number of EU energy-intensive industries concerned about exposure to competition from producers in third countries with less stringent CO2 reduction policies.

Three quarters of MEPs from the EPP-ED group ended up voting against the Doyle report as a result.

By voting in favour of Doyle's compromises, the committee endorsed the rapporteur's position that sectors eligible for 100% free emissions allowances should be identified only after the conclusion of international climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009. Doyle's report also sets stricter criteria on the use of benchmarks for determining which sectors could receive free emissions permits.

Going for 30

The committee also gave nearly unanimous backing to the Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi's report on the Commission's 'effort sharing' proposal concerning the distribution of CO2 reduction measures between member states in non EU ETS sectors such as transport, agriculture, home heating and waste management.

Hassi's report calls for an automatic increase of the EU's target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 from 20% to 30% in the event that an international climate change deal is reached in Copenhagen. Her report also paves the way for possible financial penalties on member states that fail to realise their commitments, and it limits by one third (compared to the Commission's initial proposal) the amount of external credits member states can obtain through the funding of emissions reductions projects in developing countries.

The 'Schwarzenegger amendment'

In their last major vote of the day, ENVI committee MEPs signed off a report on a legal framework for CCS, authored by UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies. MEPs backed an amendmentPdf external in the report that would require member states to set limits on the CO2 performance of power stations: after 2015, power plants' emissions cannot exceed 500 Kg of CO2 per kilowatt hour (Kwh).

The amendment, based on a similar measure introduced by California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is designed to oblige power companies to install CCS equipment in particular on their coal-fired power plants, which produced the highest amount of CO2 compared to other types of electricity-generating installations. source

My comment: Ok, that's awesome. Even if the Council is extremely unlikely to agree with it. But it's nice anyway. I'm proud of those MEPs. And I find the plan very good.

Climate votes offer missing piece in Chinese coal puzzle

8 October 2008

MEPs have voted in support of a multi-billion euro fund to drive the construction of CO2 capture and storage demonstration plants. Coal-dependent China is said to be waiting for Europe to move on the issue, but EU governments are yet to formally back the financing plan.

The Parliament's environment (ENVI) committee yesterday (7 October) supported two separate reports that contain landmark amendments related to the financing and commercial development of CCS technology (EurActiv 08/10/08).

MEPs endorsed an amendment, tabled by Irish Christian Democrat MEP Avril Doyle, that recommends the free allocation of up to 500 million CO2 emissions allowances to select CCS demonstration plants. The allowances are normally reserved for new entrants to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

Equivalent to approximately €10 billion at current carbon market prices, this allowance-based financing scheme was bolstered further when MEPs endorsed a separate amendment that would set a CO2 output limit on power generating facilities.

The amendment, tabled by UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies in his report on the Commission's proposal for a legal framework on the geological storage of CO2 in the EU, is meant to oblige power generators to invest in CCS technology to meet the CO2 limit requirements, notably for their coal-fired power stations.

For China, EU efforts to develop commercially viable technologies that can neutralise the CO2 output of coal-fired power stations are of great interest.

China accounted for 40% of the increase in global primary energy demand in 2007, and most of that demand was met with coal, according to BP's 2008 Statistical Review of world energy, released last week in Brussels.

Most analysts agree that world's most populous country's reliance on coal is unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future. Beijing has few alternatives for meeting the challenge of constantly rising domestic energy demand that results from continued high levels of annual GDP growth, says Fabian Zuleeg, senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

But the continued burning of coal is having a tremendous impact on the climate and on the environment, both within China and globally. Decreased run-off from Himalayan glaciers, coupled with higher water demand, has led to annual declines in water levels in key rivers like the Yangtze, which acts as the lifeblood of millions of Chinese.

Chinese leaders are taking the problem seriously and are "very willing" to reduce the CO2 impact of their economy, Doyle told journalists in Brussels yesterday. Beijing has also been pressing EU leaders to provide clearer answers on when and how the 10-12 CCS demonstration plants will be completed, she said.

Whether the Council will endorse the Doyle-Davies amendments on CCS as part of an eventual deal on the climate package before the end of the year remains to be seen. But EU countries should either back the Parliament on the issue or propose a realistic alternative. source

My comment: Interesting point of view. I just don't understand why if China is so interested in the technology it doesn't develop it itself. I know why, because it's a really tough one, but so what. It's not like lacking working force.

MEPs push for efficiency in long-term EU energy strategy

10 October 2008

Energy efficiency can increase the EU's energy independence and should take centre stage in the Commission's upcoming second strategic energy review, argue a group of MEPs in a letter to future EU presidencies.

The letterword , dated 9 October and signed by a cross-party group of five MEPs including Claude Turmes (Luxembourg, Greens) and Anders Wijkman (Sweden, Christian Democrats), is addressed to the energy and environment ministers of Spain, Belgium and Sweden: the countries that will chair the EU's rotating presidency between 2010 and 2012.

The MEPs want the ministers to "influence the drafting of EU Commission proposal on the second strategic energy review in order to make sure that energy efficiency is the key priority for the coming years".

Brussels is expected to publish the review in November.

But the Commission has already indicated that energy efficiency will be only one part, and not necessarily the top priority, of the strategy document.

The review will "focus on five key areas: infrastructure needs and the diversification of energy supplies, external energy relations, improved oil and gas stocks and crisis mechanisms, a new impetus on energy efficiency, and making better use of the EU's indigenous energy reserves," Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in a 9 October speech.

A leaked draftword of the plans, obtained by ENDS Europe, points to a mandate for energy savings measures in buildings that would require €8 billion in capital investment to implement. But the upgrades should in turn lead to annual savings of up to €25 billion, according to Commission estimates. source

My comment: Just check the numbers in the last paragraph. Aren't they enough to make a decision?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Science in Europe in October, 08

In today's edition:
  1. Ministers ask EU to guarantee access to space
  2. EU security research seeks respect of civil liberties
  3. Commission seeks end to EU-27 'research labyrinth'
  4. Europe hopes world will follow mercury ban
  5. Ministers back EU fisheries reform plans
Read the lst one to see how France messes the good ideas once again. What's wrong with those people?

Ministers ask EU to guarantee access to space

26 September 2008

In a resolution adopted this morning (26 September), European ministers responsible for space underlined the strategic importance of guaranteeing the continent's political and technological independence on space and unveiled their ambition to make Europe one of the world's leading space powers.

The joint resolutionPdf external , adopted by EU competitiveness ministers and representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA) in the European Space Council on 26 September, sets out the broad lines and priorities for European space policy in the years to come.

The four main priorities identified for future EU space activites are:

  • monitoring climate change
  • Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs
  • improving security
  • space exploration

But ministers also particularly urged the bloc to focus on the implementation of the EU's two flagship programmes for satellite radio navigation (Galileo) and global monitoring for environment and security (GMES).

While their resolution reiterates the fact that GMES and Galileo are civilian systems under civilian control, it nevertheless says synergies between civilian and defence space programmes must be improved.

It further stresses that the overall aim of Europe should be to become one of the world's main space powers. It also repeatedly inisists on the importance of guaranteeing Europe's strategic independence in this field, be it political or technological.

Meanwhile, the ministers recognised that Europe is currently dependent on overseas suppliers "for selected critical space technologies and components". Therefore, they called on the EU to design "mitigation strategies" and to take "practical steps" to put an end to this dependency.

A European Space Agency ministerial council on 25-26 November is expected to turn today's resolution into concrete programmes.source

My comment:Yeah, very informative :) Like we didn't know we're dependent over those "companies". I recently stumbled upon the site of one space company, it was very...plain. Obviously when you earn billions from space contracts, you prefer to keep it simply. Oh,well.

EU security research seeks respect of civil liberties

30 September 2008

Europe needs to strike the right balance between enhancing security and preserving civil liberties, stressed politicians on the occasion of the third European conference to showcase concrete applications of security research for citizens.

"We must enhance security but we must also avoid 'big brother is watching you' solutions," said Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen on 29 September, adding that the risk of terrorist attacks should not limit European citizens' freedoms.

He acknowledged, however, that striking the right balance "remains challenging in a Europe with such historical diversity," while "non-technological research work" was also necessary to achieve the equilibrium.

The European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIFexternal ), launched last year to support civil security policymaking with the appropriate technology and knowledge base, has also reached the same conclusion. Mid-term resultsPdf external after its first twelve months of activity, published this month, state that only "legitimate solutions enhance security while respecting fundamental rights and liberties".

Therefore, care must be taken "to ensure that our desire to enhance security does not itself erode those liberties which we seek to protect. A culture of fear would not improve European security," noted Gijs de Vries, chairman of the ESRIF.

Discussions at the European Security Research Conference (SRC)external , taking place on 29-30 September, are focusing on security of citizens, protection of sensitive infrastructure, crisis management and border security. The event brings together a range of public and private security stakeholders, which might join forces for an EU research project in the field.

For the first time, security research has become an integral part of EU research policy. It features as an independent thematic research area in the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7), for which some €1.4 billion has been earmarked for the period 2007-2013.source

My comment: Lol, I recently read an article about "security" in UK. It looks like Big Brother is Always Watching there. I certainly hope that other, more democratic societies won't except this life-style.And it's good to have those forum, to discuss the issue, especially if it's not only for the fun of talking and spending taxpayers money.

Commission seeks end to EU-27 'research labyrinth'

25 September 2008

The EU executive is calling on member states to take seriously its recent call for joint priority-setting and joint action on science and research policy and implement a coherent EU framework for scientific cooperation with non-EU countries if it is to remain a leading actor, particularly in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT).

"Our international partners are attracted by Europe as a model of regional integration, but they are faced with a multitude of governmental actors and research priorities when they want to engage in concrete cooperation," said Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik, presenting a Commission proposalPdf external for an EU framework for international scientific cooperation on 24 September.

According to Potočnik, the EU 27 need to get their act together and "transform Europe's research labyrinth into a European Research Area [ERA] open to the world, attracting the best brains and contributing to address global challenges".

Indeed, the absence of a common strategy at European level "has led to duplication of effort and often a waste of resources".

The overall aim of the proposal is to encourage EU countries to work together with the Commission to identify and agree on joint scientific cooperation activities with partners in important third countries. Brussels stressed key partners would be those with whom cooperation brings "clear added value for Europe in addressing key global challenges" and promoting both EU policy goals and global sustainable development.

The proposed strategic framework particularly highlights the need to strengthen cooperation with non-EU countries in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTexternal ), a sector in which Europe is already considered a strong exporter. source

My comment: Um, wasting of funds? I just talked to a friend who get a contract on European money for a ok, to put it mildly, idiotism. Or to put it harshly-a scientific fraud. Ok, maybe it's not a direct fraud, since they do the work that was approved as interesting. The point is that in physics, it's so hard to get funding for something that's not serious. And in psychology, it simply happens. And they're talking about wasted funding? Where is that funding? Something is very wrong in that system!

Europe hopes world will follow mercury ban

25 September 2008

EU Ministers in the Competitiveness Council yesterday (25 September) adopted a regulation banning all exports of mercury from the EU in 2011, wrapping up a key part of a European strategy to limit emissions of the toxic heavy metal into the environment.

"Let us hope that other countries will follow our example and support our goal of cutting the global supply of this dangerous substance," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, welcoming the Council's final rubber stamp on the regulation.

Following yesterday's adoption, all mercury exports from the EU will stop as off March 2011. The new legislation also requires that the remaining surplus of mercury needs to be put into safe storage as of the same date.

The Council's adoption follows a compromise deal struck between the three EU institutions earlier this Spring after debate on when the ban should enter in force and whether it should have also included imports (EurActiv 22/05/08).

Demands by the Parliament to impose a ban on mercury imports were rejected as impractical and importing mercury will therefore still be possible. Meanwhile the export ban enters in force earlier than initially proposed by the Commission (October 2011).

Mercury is a highly toxic substance and its contamination comes from a wide variety of sources, such as 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. source

My comment: Not bad. At least one date is stet earlier and not later than planned. And mercury is dangerous, so there's no question why it should be banned. I just don't understand why it's so easy for it, but for other dangerous substances, it's such a major problem. But anway, good work.

Ministers back EU fisheries reform plans

30 September 2008

EU fisheries ministers yesterday asked the Commission to "kick-start preparations immediately" for widespread reform of the Union's fisheries policy. Meanwhile environmental groups repeated calls for bloc's fleet to be reduced in size.

Earlier this month, Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg announced plans to "fully review" the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) because "it does not encourage responsible behaviour by either fishermen or politicians" in its current form (EurActiv 18/09/08). The reform, which will focus on resource conservation and fleet policy, is scheduled for completion by 2012.

Ministers this week broadly backedPdf external the commissioner's proposals, launching a debate that will also involve industry and other stakeholders and continue into 2009. They were meeting informally on the sidelines of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (29-30 September) at the request of the French EU Presidency.

Welcoming governments' support, Borg told ministers that "an economically, socially and environmentally healthy fishing industry depends on healthy fish stocks and on fishing fleets being in balance with their fishing opportunities". "Ecological sustainability is therefore fundamental," he explained.

But some EU governments do not want reform to go as far as the Commission is suggesting, with France in particular arguing that discussions should move away from overcapacity and focus on the modification of existing quotas rather than their abolition.

However, the Pew Environment Group arguesexternal that substantial reductions in the fishing capacity of the EU fleet are still "urgently needed". "The existing overcapacity of fishing vessels" and member states' "reluctance" to match fleet sizes to the fishing opportunities available is a "principal driver" of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which "inevitably leads to unprofitable fishing operations and greater incentives to bend or break the rules," said Uta Bellion, EU marine programme director at Pew.

Nevertheless, the NGO welcomed the adoption by ministers of a regulation to prevent IUU fishing in EU waters. "We commend the Council for taking this first step in tackling the scourge that is IUU fishing," said Bellion. But "given that 40%" of fishing in the bloc's waters is "estimated to be IUU", she expects the Commission to put forward proposals for an EU control and enforcement regulation, calling on the Council to support her demands.

Meanwhile, ministers calledPdf external on the Commission to "develop the ecosystem approach to management of the marine environment," backing a communication from EU executive on the matter. They also discussed the EU executive's proposed cod recovery plan, which they aim to adopt at their November Council meeting.

For its part, the Commission will produce a Green Paper early next year to trigger the public debate, while a summary of the consultation will be published at the beginning of 2010. This would allow the EU executive to table reform proposals by the end of that year with a view to their entry into force in 2012. source

My comment:Notice the title. Minister back report plans. Not reforms. But the very plan of reform! This is ridiculous and not working. Especially with the lack of support by major countries like France. But oh, well, it's a start.Even if it's a bad start.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ecology in September,2008-or the dirty games of France

In today's edition-many but short:
  1. EU climate goals under pressure as recession looms
  2. EU ups efficiency standards for lights, televisions
  3. Truckmakers seek to avert car-style CO2 caps
  4. France wants early list of sectors exposed to 'carbon leakage'
  5. Report: EU carbon market will not raise power prices
  6. Industry groups call for binding EU energy efficiency target
  7. France pushes for leniency on car CO2 caps
  8. MEPs hail ‘defeat’ of car industry lobby on CO2
  9. Parliament deplores national resistance to sea-safety rules
I know they look many, but they are really short. The most important conclusion is that France is playing a very bad game with Germany and is finding a back-door to pass a regulation on car emissions that the Parliament voted down. That's a very dangerous game and it undermines the whole idea of having a Parliament. True, good things sooner or later get done, but why it should happen in the hard way?! I believe that with time and crisis people will prefer smaller cars that are more efficient and generally cheaper, but that will happen too slowly. The EU should have been an example-even the USA makes new regulations on the environment, why Europe can't done ONE single thing as a Union and should always cede into the hands of the Industry? That's so pathetic! On the bright side, this could lead to better regulations probably covering the other polluters in the cars. Hopefully!

EU climate goals under pressure as recession looms

26 September 2008

Poland has joined Germany in calling for industry exemptions to EU climate rules as a recession in Europe’s major economies is casting doubts on whether Brussels will be able to push through its ambitious CO2 reduction programme.

EU Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen yesterday (25 September) gave specific assurances to Poland that 100% free CO2 permit allocation “should be possible” for the country’s energy intensive industries.

Verheugen, speaking at a conference on the Competitiveness Council, repeated the Commission’s position that exemptions should not be formalised before an international climate change deal is reached in December 2009, and insisted that pushing industries out of Europe is not the aim of the EU climate package.

But Brussels’ resolve on the issue may be softening. A non-paper circulated by the Commission cites the aluminium, steel and cement sectors as "likely to be strongly affected [and] would therefore be amongst the substances likely to benefit from partial to totally free allocations" (EurActiv 22/09/08).

The growing financial crisis may also make it increasingly difficult for the Commission to justify higher operating costs for industries.

Member states are getting nervous about asking their industries to pay more for CO2 pollution, says Christian Egenhofer, a senior researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.

Poland’s leaders in particular have been crying foul, arguing that their country’s coal dependent economy, which is still struggling to catch up with Western European economies that were allowed to emit CO2 with impunity for decades, could be severely undermined by the climate and energy package. The country's miners yesterday (25 September) marched on Brussels in direct protest of the EU's climate plans.

Polish concerns are mirrored by the three other members of the 'Visegrad Group' - Hungary, the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic - which have banded together with several of the EU's new member states to call for a revision of their national targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions (EurActiv 02/06/08). A slight delay in the adoption of the EU's climate package to March 2009 may also be necessary to ensure fairness, according to a joint statement by the Visegrad group. This is in contrast to the agenda set by the French EU Presidency, which is pushing for an adoption of the package by December 2008.

The demands of the Visegrad countries were given indirect backing at the beginning of the week (22 September) by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, meanwhile, argues that an economic slowdown should not stall the EU’s climate efforts. source

My comment: Carbon leakage is a nonsense, but I'm not at all surprised by the 3 countries that lead the protest. The are abusing the situation but even worst is that the other member-states allow that. Too bad. The just found another excuse.

EU ups efficiency standards for lights, televisions

29 September 2008

EU member states have endorsed two Commission proposals aimed at slashing the electricity consumption of electronic goods as part of the bloc's efforts to reduce energy wastage.

The regulations, approved on 26 September by a special committee of national experts (regulatory committee), will apply to office, industrial and street lighting products as well as 'set-top' boxes that convert digital TV signals into analogue signals.

If approved by the Parliament later in the year, the Commission predicts that the two measures will lead to significant energy savings. The electricity consumption of lighting equipment should be reduced by 15%, leading to savings equivalent to the annual electricity use of Romania. TV boxes, meanwhile, would use nearly three times less power by 2014, the Commission said in a statement.

The regulations are part of the implementing measures set out in the 2005 Framework Directive on Eco-design requirements for Energy-using Products (EuP), which stipulates that energy-efficiency improvements should be adopted on a product-by-product basis by a special committee of national technical experts. source

My comment: Finally. I'm glad at least this is going as scheduled. And I'm sure the Parliament will approve it, because it's good. I'm only not so sure whether it will have as quick effect as they predict, since the crisis probably will slow the trade with appliances (as everything esle).

Truckmakers seek to avert car-style CO2 caps

25 September 2008

As MEPs prepare to vote on a legislative proposal imposing caps on the CO2 emissions of new cars, the automotive industry is warning against introducing similar measures for vans and minibuses, which the Commission is planning to propose by the end of the year.

The Commission announced it would be presenting legislation on reducing the CO2 emissions of new vans and minibuses as part of a new package on 'greening transportPdf external ' presented in July.

But manufacturers are keen to show Brussels that legislation would be unnecessary by setting themselves an own-initiative target of reducing their fuel consumption (which is in direct relation to CO2 emissions levels) by 20% by 2020. "Our message is that the world can't go without trucks, vans and buses, but that we can go without emissions," said Renschler.

But he went on to stress that the new Commission initiative on vans contradicts a Brussels pledge to discuss future regulations with the industry "in a fair and cooperative manner" and that it would likely be "counter-productive".

Yet it is the automotive sector's very failure to live up to previous voluntary commitments on emissions from private passenger cars that led the Commission, in a February 2007 strategy paper, to propose binding legislation on CO2 emissions from transport in the first place.

Indeed, draft legislation on cars, presented in December 2007, asks auto manufacturers to deliver CO2 cuts of roughly 20% (from current levels of 160 grammes of C02/km to 130gr/km) by 2012.

For vans, the February 2007 strategy paper already sets "the objective of reaching 175 g/km CO2 by 2012 and 160 g/km CO2 by 2015". With current CO2 emissions for vans standing at around 200gr/km, this would represent a 20% cut by as early as 2015.

Nevertheless, the EU executive's plans for cars already look as though they could be watered down, with a key vote in the European Parliament Environment Committee set to take place today (25 September). source

My comment: It's nice producers are showing some initiative, but without commitment to do it, it won't matter. And I sincerely hope EC will vote some limits on the emission, not only of CO2, but also for all the pollutants since we'll have the great pleasure to live near motorway.

France wants early list of sectors exposed to 'carbon leakage'

25 September 2008

The French EU Presidency is stepping up calls for an early identification of sectors that could qualify for exemptions to the EU's carbon market.

A 23 September French EU Presidency working documentword , seen by EurActiv, asks EU member states to agree to put pressure on the Commission to release, by June 2009, a list of industries that could receive free CO2 emissions allowances to protect them from competition by producers operating in countries where pollution is cheaper.

France's position, which is backed by Germany, reflects the concerns of industries who say that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), due to be re-launched with stricter emissions reductions criteria as of 2013, will significantly drive up manufacturing costs. Rising costs would in turn expose the EU to 'carbon leakage', since manufacturers of energy-intensive goods like aluminium and cement would be forced to relocate their operations and emissions outside the EU's borders in order to remain internationally competitive.

The Commission is aware of these concerns and has started setting out a list of criteria for determining which sectors and sub-sectors could qualify for exemptions to the EU ETS (EurActiv 22/09/08).

But Brussels does not want to preclude the outcome of international climate talks, scheduled to wrap up in Copenhagen in December 2009, and has indicated it would publish such a list at the earliest in 2010, with specific measures to guard against carbon leakage to be proposed by 2011.

The French EU Presidency wants the Commission to put forward safeguard measures in 2010, so that Council and Parliament could make the measures law by December of that year.

Parliament, meanwhile, is also calling on the Commission to identify sectors at risk as soon as possible. But many MEPs agree that identifying sectors before December 2009 would undermine the EU's negotiating mandate and credibility in Copenhagen. source

My comment: How typical of mr. Sarkozy. France make the climate change their priority and in mean time, try to screw the international process. How nice of him! I disapprove it and I think it's very very stupid of him to do it. True, it's his style, but still...

Report: EU carbon market will not raise power prices

24 September 2008

Warnings that electricity prices may increase dramatically under new EU carbon market rules if EU power companies are obliged to obtain all of their CO2 emissions permits at auction from 2013 are not true, says a new report commissioned by green group WWF.

"The auctioning of allowances in the [EU Emissions Trading Scheme] market in 2013 and beyond is unlikely to have a material impact on power prices," says the report, prepared by New Carbon Finance, a carbon-market consultancy based in the UK.

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the cornerstone of EU efforts to tackle climate change. New rules proposed by the Commission for the period 2013 to 2020 call for 100% auctioning of emissions permits for the EU power sector, after power companies were accused of reaping windfall profits during the first round (2005 to 2007) of the EU ETS, when numerous permits were handed out for free but were nonetheless factored into electricity prices as purchased.

New Carbon Finance argues that since power generators factor in the price of emissions allowances into their operating costs whether obtained for free or purchased at auction, a shift to full auctioning will have little impact on prices. This is particularly true in an environment of increased electricity market liberalisation, according to the report, which examines current and future power market trends in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The proposal to revise the EU ETS is currently the topic of heated debate both within the Parliament and between EU member states. Countries like Poland, which rely on CO2 intensive coal-fired power plants for electricity production, are calling for a continuation of free allowances amid fears that auctioning would double or even triple power prices.

The Commission itself has admitted that the scheme is likely to raise power prices by up to 15%. source

My comment:See? What more can I say?! I agree with that report. People try to find all kind of excuses either to avoid action on making the industry more green, or if it inavoidable-to have even better excuse to raise the prices and earn more.

Industry groups call for binding EU energy efficiency target

24 September 2008

The Commission should propose a binding target o f achieving 20% greater energy efficiency by 2020 as part of EU efforts to maintain the security of its energy supplies , urges a coalition of leading European associations in the energy-efficiency sector.

"Energy efficiency is not an alternative to energy security; it is a vital component in achieving it," argues the Energy Efficiency Industrial Forum in a September position paperPdf . It warns that EU energy imports are predicted to rise from 50% of overall consumption to 70% within the next two decades, making its economy increasingly vulnerable to the strategies of its suppliers.

The Forum recommends that the Commission adopt a mandatory measurable savings target for energy efficiency of 20% of primary energy by 2020. This would come on top of the binding 20% targets for CO2 reduction and renewable energy use proposed in its 23 January climate and energy package. The call for binding measures is widely shared by green groups.

The companies also urge the Commission to establish "co-ordinated Investment and Incentives Initiative for improving energy efficiency across all sectors" and to make a strong commitment to full and timely implementation of existing and future legislation for the sector.

EU member states have also been criticised for being severely behind in implementing energy efficiency legislation, particularly in the buildings sector (EurActiv 07/12/07). source

My comment:Pricesely my point. And it just prooves that smart people still can differ good from bad. Good.

France pushes for leniency on car CO2 caps

1 October 2008

The French Presidency is upping the pressure on EU governments to water down controversial proposals requiring car manufacturers to curb the CO2 emissions of new vehicles by 18% by 2012, according to a document seen by EurActiv.

In February 2007, the Commission proposed binding legislation that would compel vehicle manufacturers to cut the average emissions of new cars from current levels of around 160 grammes of CO2 per kilometre to 130g/km by 2012 by improving vehicle technology. A further 10g/km reduction is expected to come from improvements in other areas, including tyres, fuels and eco-driving.

The new legislation would replace a 1998 voluntary agreement external Pdf external signed with the EU's Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which committed carmakers to achieving a target of 140g/km by 2008.

Cars account for roughly 12% of all EU carbon dioxide emissions (the main greenhouse gas) and the legislation comes amid EU efforts to combat global warming by achieving a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

"The French are speeding up the process to reach a deal among member states before the plenary vote in Parliament," Greenpeace transport campaigner Franziska Achterberg told EurActiv, explaining that after last week's vote in the environment committee, Parliament had become "a risky candidate".

Indeed, last week, MEPs in the committee took many by surprise by voting down an "industry-friendly" compromise proposal between the EPP-ED and Socialist groups that would have diluted the Commission's original plans by awarding carmakers a three-year phase-in period, rather than enforcing a strict 2012 deadline (EurActiv 26/09/08).

The phase-in – which would allow carmakers to dispense 40% of their fleet from the 130g/km target in 2012, 30% in 2013 and 20% in 2014, with full compliance only required as of 2015 – was originally proposed by Parliament's industry committee (EurActiv 02/09/08), but is now also being defended in the French draft.

The move will come as a huge relief to carmakers, which have been pushing for the EU to hold off its CO2 policy until 2015, saying it needs "lead-time" to make the "hugely complicated and capital intensive" adjustments to vehicles and engines required to meet the target. The development of new cars takes up to five years, while those that will be on the market in 2012 have already left the drawing board, the industry points out.

France is also seeking reduced fines for offenders that only slightly exceed their targets and wants to hand out extra credits to carmakers if they use innovative ways to produce cleaner cars or if they sell electric and other very low-emission vehicles. It argues that this will act as an incentive to bring these products to market.

France seems open to the long-term goal of 95g/km by 2020 that Parliament's environment committee and many governments have been pushing for.

The French compromise proposal, which largely reflects a backdoor deal reached between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last June (EurActiv 10/06/08), is likely to be put to national representatives next Wednesday (8 October) and would serve as the basis for negotiations between environment ministers later this month.

Greenpeace further highlights the absurdity of calling for "planning security" now, when "EU environment ministers initially called for a target of 120g CO2/km by 2012 as far back as 1994". Average EU car emissions currently stand at 158g/km, and Greenpeace says the loopholes in the French compromise draft would in fact allow manufacturers to maintain emissions at "a staggering 161g CO2/km" as late as 2012. source

My comment: Continuing the previous comment on France-I'm not surprised, but it's sad to see a good idea being ruined by idiots and lobbyist. It's absolute nonsens to continue pushing the final date further and further ahead. In the end, we'll have a 10g/km limit for the year 2300. It's an absurd! We should act now.

MEPs hail ‘defeat’ of car industry lobby on CO2

26 September 2008

Against expectations and despite strong pressure from industry, the Parliament’s Environment Committee yesterday (25 September) voted down a compromise proposal that would have diluted EU ambitions to cut cars’ average CO2 emissions.

In a last-minute turnaround, MEPs threw out a compromise achieved last week between the Italian Socialist rapporteur Guido Sacconi and members of Parliament’s Industry Committee that would have given carmakers an extra three years' breathing space to implement carbon dioxide emission reductions.

The recommendation for a compromise came after the Industry Committee voted, on 1 September, to water down Sacconi’s original report, proposing a ‘phase-in’ of the new CO2 rules so that carmakers would only be required to ensure that 60% of their fleet meets the target by 2012, with 70% compliance by 2013, 80% by 2014 and 100% by 2015.

This “industry-friendly EPP-ED and PSE deal” – as termed by leftist MEP Jens Holm – was nevertheless rejected by the Environment Committee, which has the lead on the issue. Instead, it insisted on maintaining Sacconi’s initial recommendation to set an even tougher longer-term target of 95gr/km by 2020.

MEPs also rejected an amendment that would have put a €50 cap on the fines imposed on carmakers for breaching their CO2 limits, backing the Commission proposal to start penalties off at €20 per excess gramme in 2012, raising them to €95 as of 2015. Any revenues would be invested in technological innovations to reduce vehicle emissions.

The Environment Committee also threw out an Industry Committee proposal to allow manufacturers to count certain cars – for example those emitting less than 50g/km or running on alternative fuels – as 'one-and-a-half cars', as well as zero-emissions cars as three cars, thereby bringing their overall average down. It nevertheless supported the idea of handing out special credits for eco-innovations, such as energy-efficient lights, which are currently not included in the normal test cycle. “The credit associated with a technology shall be no higher than 75% of the real-world CO2 reduction,” the text nevertheless stresses.

Those in favour of tough legislation on CO2 to support the EU’s climate change fighting ambitions hailed the vote.

But they could yet face disappointment, as the text must still be approved by the plenary in October or November. source

My comment:Yeah, we already saw that France found a way out of the Parliament vote, so don't worry, the industry will find its way.

Parliament deplores national resistance to sea-safety rules

25 September 2008

A package of legislative measures aimed at protecting Europe from maritime accidents and pollution looks likely to face a special 'last chance' conciliation procedure as the European Parliament yesterday (24 September) refused to give in to national governments' attempts to water down the new rules.

Parliament's main demands include:

  • Making strict International Maritime Organisation (IMO) rules on flag-state obligations compulsory for all member states to ensure that all ships sailing under an EU flag comply with international safety standards. But governments have simply thrown out this proposal, arguing it would generate too many additional costs for their administrations. They insist the issue should continue to be dealt with at IMO level, leaving them a much larger degree of discretion.
  • Strengthened provisions on the liability of ship operators and compensation for damage to third parties in the event of accidents – a move member states are blocking (EurActiv 08/06/08).
  • Tougher ship inspection regimes in ports, including the right to permanently ban substandard ships, while the Council wants bans to be temporary.
  • The designation of an independent authority in each country with sole responsibility for reacting to accidents at sea and the capacity to impose decisions about where ships should be taken in for salvage and repair operations (so-called 'places of refuge'). Member states are particularly opposed to this as they fear it would expose their coastlines and ports to unwelcome financial and environmental risk. They want to retain the capacity to refuse to assist vessels that lack sufficient financial guarantees.

Belgian Liberal MEP Dirk Sterckx, who is parliamentary coordinator of the whole package, stressed: "We need this system if we want to avoid a disaster like Prestige or Erika" oil tankers, which sunk off the French coast spilling tens of thousands of oil into the sea (EurActiv 17/01/08).

He further expressed regret that the EPP-ED group had succeeded in "sinking" a clause that would have extended the safety measures to inland navigation. "It is a pity that the EPP Group did not share this view and considered that travellers on a river or lake do not deserve the same safety as those travelling by sea," he said. source

My comment: A good proposal, let's how far it will go. For me, it's a complete nonsense how member-states are trying to block that regulation since it will put much more security and order into sea transport.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The bad times show their faces-or more on gas and oil

In today's edition:
  1. EU and Russia in scramble for Nigerian gas
  2. EU energy chief backs Arctic drilling
  3. UK wants more offsets in EU climate regime
After the good science news, there come some not so good energy news. It's so true that you see how much someone is worthy only in times of trouble...And with those articles, you'll understand how much the European resolve for working on the climate change. Very little.

EU and Russia in scramble for Nigerian gas

18 September 2008

The European Commission stepped up its quest to diversify the EU's energy supplies on Wednesday (17 September), offering financial and political support for a €15 billion trans-Saharan pipeline to carry natural gas from Nigeria to European markets.

The move comes after Gazprom, the Russia energy giant, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in Moscow last week to co-operate on gas exploration, production and transportation, according to press reports.

The simultaneous moves by Brussels and Moscow illustrate the scramble for natural resources as continued growth in the global economy fuels ever-increasing demand for energy.

Nigeria "could be an important partner in EU's diversification efforts," said Ferran Tarradellas, spokesperson for EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, who was in Nigeria last week.

"They have shown great interest in the project," Tarradellas told EurActiv, especially because the pipeline would help Nigeria deliver gas to its domestic market via a 1,050 km stretch running across its territory. Sonatrach, the Algerian state-owned energy group, is also understood to strongly support the pipeline.

However, Tarradellas said it was "too early" to make any formal budgetary commitments at this stage, adding that the European Commission had "means to finance feasibility studies" but not entire projects. The European Investment Bank could help finance construction but money would have to come mainly from the private sector, he explained. European oil companies, including Shell, Total, and ENI, "have made significant investments in Nigeria and are likely to invest more," he added.

The planned 4,300 km pipeline would stretch across Nigeria, Niger and Algeria, where gas would be shipped to Spain and Italy via the Medgazexternal and Galsiexternal pipelines currently being developed or under construction. Its capacity would range from 20 billion cubic metres of gas per year (bcm/y) in 2015 and scaled up to 30bcm/y in 2030, according to a first project outlinePdf . According to the plan, construction would start in 2011, with the first gas expected to be delivered in 2015.

Tarradellas rejected suggestions that Gazprom's participation would create problems for the EU. "ExxonMobil is in Nigeria too and that does not pose us any problems," he said, adding that Gazprom was also seeking to diversify its supplies. "If Gazprom makes investments, they are free to do it, I don't see why this should pose us a problem." "Gas is a commodity that needs to be regulated by market rules." source

My comment: Haha. I wonder when EU and Gazprom will finally understand they love each other and you know, marry. Sure, it's not so simple nor so romantic, but business is business. And it's getting kind of ridiculous. Nigeria. People get shot there. People get kidnapped. And on all this, there you go two monsters more. What happened with human rights?

EU energy chief backs Arctic drilling

22 September 2008

Despite environmentalists' warnings against drilling for oil and gas in such a fragile ecosystem, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said guaranteeing Europe's energy security justified further exploration of the North Pole.

On 9 September 2008, EU Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Joe Borg announced that Brussels was preparing proposals to safeguard the Arctic, a region on the front line of global warming and increasingly at the centre of sovereignty conflicts (EurActiv 11/09/08).

The move comes as climate change is causing Arctic ice to melt, endangering many species of the region's flora and fauna, but, at the same time, making the resource-rich area more navigable and opening up new trading possibilities.

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states of the USA, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland) have a 200 nautical mile economic zone around their coasts.

"You even need to go into hostile environments […] You can't say 'this is a sanctuary' because it will not work […] Otherwise, where will we get energy from?," he said, speaking at a debate organised by Friends of Europeexternal on Friday (19 September).

The commissioner nevertheless stressed the need to take "all environmental precautions". "You need clear-cut rules, clear environmental impact assessments and very responsible implementation," he said.

"I believe the Commission should help the countries that actually have these resources under their jurisdiction to develop the technologies or to use the technologies in an appropriate way," he added, saying the Commission should in no way fight for a ban on the use of Arctic resources.

But WWF Director Stephan Singer insisted that no amount of environmental and safety legislation would ever be sufficient to prevent oil companies' drilling activities from endangering the whole Arctic ecosystem.

He accused governments and energy companies of creating a "perverse situation" by choosing to drill "a very fragile ecosystem that is already basically dying" rather than working on reducing dependency on "inefficient oil and gas" and investing more in renewable energies.

"We need to get rid of our oil dependency overall […] We cannot wait until the last drop," he stressed.

But Piebalgs nevertheless conceded that the Arctic "will not provide the magical solution we are looking for" in terms of global energy security and will "hardly" reduce the EU's dependency on Russian energy "looking at the borderlines Russia has with the Arctic".

Piebalgs further said that he was "not at ease with developments in the Arctic," referring to increasingly conflicting ownership claims following Russia's flag-planting at the North Pole last summer. "Countries that are bordering the Arctic should be extremely serious about not making conflictual announcements, because whatever solution is found, it should be between all the countries bordering it."

The five states bordering the Arctic – Russia, Canada, the USA, Norway and Denmark - have promised to resolve the issue at the United Nations, and have until May 2009 to register their positions. A number of non-governmental organisations and academics have been calling for an Arctic Treaty similar to the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959, which establishes the lack of national sovereignty over the continent so as to promote peace and scientific research. source

My comment: Fucking hypocrites. What more can I say?! First, we want to help the climate change and whatever and next thing you hear is how we should drill the North Pole. Oh, well. I like the sentence "Where will we take the energy from?". It's very representative of the opinion of the EC. Why should we use renewables when we can drill for oil! Oh, hell, what's wrong with them? Let's hope that at least while they fight each other for a piece of the cake, they will make a rules to protect at least part of the not-yet-dead arctic species.

UK wants more offsets in EU climate regime

18 September 2008

The British government is calling for a 20% increase in the number of CO2 reductions EU countries can claim through investment in "clean" development projects in developing countries, but critics say this could stall green investment in Europe.

The CDM "provides member states with a cost-effective means to meet their obligations and is an important flexibility mechanism," says a UK 'non-paper' leaked to the press on 17 September.

Downing Street suggests expanding the scheme to allow EU countries to offset up to 50% of their CO2 emissions reduction obligations - 20% more the current approximate limit of 30% - on the grounds that this would not undermine climate change efforts at EU or global level.

"Environmentally it does not matter where emissions reductions take place," says the non-paper.

Green groups disagree. Funds invested in clean development projects in third countries are funds that are not invested to drive a structural transformation towards low-carbon energy systems within Europe, argues Sanjeev Kumar, EU ETS coordinator for WWF in Brussels.

Serious doubts have also been raised about the actual CO2 reductions that can be achieved through projects funded under the CDM (EurActiv 27/05/08).

The UK non-paper is only one of several contributions currently being floated around in debates between EU countries on how to take forward the climate and energy package. Diplomats and experts from each of the 27 member states are meeting in Brussels this week (17 and 18 September) in the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) to discuss the various positions on the package.

While Coreper may resolve numerous technical and non-sensitive issues in advance of any formal meetings between ministers, 'hot topics' like the level of CDM credits permissible in the EU's climate policy are likely to remain the subject of political negotiations between EU environment ministers, who meet in Luxembourg on 20 October.

Meanwhile, MEP Avril Doyle, responsible for shepherding the EU ETS proposal through Parliament, wants to expand but tighten the CDM system through greater use of so-called Gold Standardexternal projects. "Almost half" of the CO2 abatement effort between 2013 and 2020 could be achieved through CDM, says her report, which will be voted upon by the Parliament's Environment (ENVI) Committee in early October (EurActiv 18/06/08). source
My comment: I don't like the investment in third countries for the same reasons as the Greens and for one more practical-third countries, usially not so industrialized will have less regulation and more corrupted system of measurement of the emissions. And also the lower level of technology will mean instead of developping green technologies, we'll invest in existing ones. Bad.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The battle for Europe-Microsoft vs. Google

Now, that's fun. Google and Microsoft fight over Europe. It's not exactly bad. Although I personally hate M$ and use Linux for more than a year now and I'm extremely happy with my choice, I don't mind Microsoft spending money in Europe. What the articles fails to tell you is that M$ loose in Europe not only on search but also on operating system markets. Europe uses Linux in unknown numbers but probably close to Mac in USA. Anyway, let's greet the giant even if we don't like it, because "it" will spend money here and not in the USA.
The tax exemption is not so good news for me, because I don't want the European institutions to sign some stupid deal with Microsoft since, well, it's not worthy and I don't want my money to go for that jerks. But let's see how this marriage will go.

Microsoft Unveils Plan for 3 Labs in Europe

Published: October 2, 2008

PARIS — Microsoft said Thursday that it would set up research centers in Britain, France and Germany to improve its Internet search technology, describing the move as a vote of confidence in the European economy and in the company’s ability to close the gap with Google.

The chief executive, Steven A. Ballmer, said at a news conference that the three “centers of excellence” — near Paris, in London and in Munich — would employ several hundred people.

He declined to say how much the company would invest. But Microsoft, which has fought pitched battles with European regulators over its Windows operating system, said it was making a major financial commitment at a time when many companies were nervous about spending.

Microsoft has been pushing to improve its ability to run Internet searches and to attract the advertising revenue that comes with them, after its failed bid to acquire Yahoo. Instead, Yahoo struck a deal with the market leader, Google, to share some search capabilities. “We are the challenger, not the leader, in search,” Mr. Ballmer said. “But search is in its infancy, and there is so much room for innovation.”

Google accounts for nearly 80 percent of Internet searches in Europe, according to the research company comScore; its share is slightly more than 60 percent in the United States.

Microsoft has barely 1 percent of the European search market, according to comScore, and in some countries it even trails local search engines.

In addition to working on improvements to Microsoft’s existing search technology, Mr. Ballmer said, the European centers would focus on new types of searches, including queries from mobile devices and searches involving pictures and video.

Yahoo, which has also struggled with the search market in Europe, is stepping up its efforts to compete as well. Last month the company announced a research and development complex in Grenoble, France.

Google, which has a large engineering center in Zurich and a substantial presence in several European countries, is also trying to improve search in Europe. Still, its dominance is not universal. In countries like Russia and the Czech Republic, it has trailed local players.

Meanwhile, European governments are supporting separate efforts to develop search technology, including a project in France called Quaero, and one in Germany called Theseus.

Spending on Internet search ads will generate $28.3 billion worldwide this year, 57 percent of the total spending on Internet advertising, according to eMarketer, a research company.

Microsoft’s investment in France, Germany and Britain will receive tax breaks, Ms. Lagarde, French finance minister, said, as France and other European governments move to strengthen the technology sector under a plan drawn up at a meeting in Lisbon eight years ago. source

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Some good news for European science

In today's edition:
  1. EU innovation institute to be open to world
  2. Study calls for universities to be safeguarded
  3. EU moves to spur investment in future Internet networks
Good news, finally. The articles are speaking for themselves, so I won't comment them separately. I just want to highlight the second article as particularly following my own opinion as a scientist and an university worker. Science cannot and should not be business-oriented. And I'm glad people finally are starting to understand about the scale of the change, governments are trying to force us into. It's not about money, it's about limiting our freedom to research. It's about making us just like USA. True, USA is still having award-winning scientists, but the main reason for this is that US universities gain a great amount of money from fees and from private investors. And they don't do it only by business-oriented researches. They get those money, because the business is stimulated by taxes or by education to support science. While the case in Europe is not the same. There are very few really famous universities that people just die to support. But the others, they are doomed. Is this what we want for Europe? All small universities to go bankrupt? I hope not. And that's precisely why I like that article.
As for the third-it's a good news, although it looks like the finger of EC is messing the natural process of investing in the optical fibres. But that's not so bad, I like the urge to invest in technology. This is good. As for the first article, it's just an announcement to justify the money the EIT will take. Although with 60 people staff, I'm not sure what exactly it will do.

EU innovation institute to be open to world

22 September 2008

The innovation communities of the EU's Institute of Technology and Innovation (EIT) may well include non-European actors, revealed Bálint Magyar, a member of the recently inaugurated governing board of the EIT, in an interview with EurActiv Hungary.

Universities, researchers and businesses from outside Europe "are not out of the game," said Bálint Magyar, a former minister of education and current member of the Hungarian Parliament, as he revealed operational details of the EIT, the EU's pet project for boosting research and innovation in its 27 member states, in the interview.

But he added that the main focus of the future Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) would be in Europe and their actors would "have to be European".

KICs are the main operational blocs of the EIT and are expected to integrate the EU's fragmented research, education and innovation efforts. They are set to bring together departments of universities, companies and research institutes to perform education and innovation activities in inter-disciplinary strategic areas.

Climate change, renewable energy and the next generation of information and communication technologies (ICT) have featured among the planned focus areas for KICs. But Magyar noted that the three provisional thematic priorities could be modified according to needs.

As for the structure of the new EU institute, Magyar revealed that it will employ 60 people, the number considered "optimal" by the Commission.

He also noted that no fixed physical location had yet been designated for the institute in its host city, Budapest. A decision on where this "3,000 m2" building will be located would be taken later, he said, adding that it needed to stay somewhere else "for a transitional period".

Magyar also said that the governing board was currently determining the criteria for the first tenders, to be published and evaluated in 2009. The winners of these EIT tenders will start implementing their projects in 2010, providing the institute's first tangible results. source

Study calls for universities to be safeguarded

22 September 2008

The EU's higher education reform agenda and the growing tendency to consider universities as mere producers of public and private goods is undermining their fundamental educational role, a group of European universities has warned .

A paperexternal from the League of European Research Universities published on 18 September calls on universities to clearly articulate what they stand for and to uphold their freedom and autonomy. Similarly, it urges governments to recognise these as crucial values of universities.

"It is in their creative, free-thinking mode that universities are such a vital resource for the future," summed up Geoffrey Boulton, co-author of the paper.

The call comes as governments have started to invest heavily in universities to steer them towards outcomes which respond to short-term policy priorities. The paper highlights the EU's modernisation agenda for universities and the creation of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology as prime examples of this development.

Governments have come to regard universities as crucial national assets due to the success of the 'Western university' as a breeding ground for creative individuals as well as new knowledge and ideas. Globalisation has further added to the pressure to treat universities as producers of public and private goods, leading to misconceptions about the potential role of universities in society, argues the paper.

However, universities should not be seen as drivers of innovation, which is a process of business engagement with markets. Rather, they help create an environment encouraging innovation, the paper contends, adding that this potential can only be realised through universities' commitment to education in the deepest sense.

The paper follows two other recent studies on the changing role of universities. In a similar vein, a European Science Foundation report warned about the danger of mission overload for universities under pressure to raise their economic competitiveness and to live up to new societal responsibilities.

In contrast, a joint university-industry report argued that the role of higher education institutions was changing from a supply-driven to a demand-driven system, and identified 'trust-based relationships' between research and business as the key to turning more research results into marketable goods and services. source

EU moves to spur investment in future Internet networks

19 September 2008

The Commission yesterday (18 September) put forward a set of proposals aimed at accelerating the transition towards a new generation of high-speed, high-definition Internet services streamed through optical fibre networks. But its plans to stimulate competition in the sector immediately came under fire.

Optical fibres are considered to be the future of communication networks, or so-called Next Generation Access Networks (NGANs). The idea is that they would replace the current copper networks that were originally laid down for telephone calls only but are now being over-stretched by a range of new data-hungry services offered through the Internet, such as High Definition television.

Optical fibres allow faster and wider transmission of data and are therefore slowly being deployed across the EU.

But for the moment, they only cover a marginal share of national markets. According to figures provided by the consulting firm Idate, there are around a million subscribers in Europe in 2008, compared to three million in the US and several million in the most developed Asian countries like Japan and South Korea.

But investment in Europe is also currently low. To upgrade EU networks, at least €300 billion of investment will be necessary, according to estimates by consulting firm McKinsey.

Following strong pressure from the industry (EurActiv 04/07/08) coupled recently with calls from the European Parliament (EurActiv 25/04/08), the Commission yesterday (18 September) finally unveiled proposalsPdf external to spur investment in Next Generation Access Networks (NGANs) over the next few years.

It is expected that roughly €20 billion will be invested to replace copper lines over the next three years.

But Brussels fears the new infrastructure will be dominated by a limited number of big players and, to boost competition in the sector, it wants to allow small operators to have access to the networks owned by dominant actors. In return, competitors interested in using the networks would pay a premium to investors, thereby rewarding them for the risks they take.

Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding had originally announced in June that this risk premium would be set at 15% (EurActiv 26/06/08). But following criticism from the main telecoms operators, the figure was left out of the Commission's proposal. Instead, the document says that rates of return should be calculated on the basis of the average cost of capital for telecom operators, between 8% and 12% in recent years. But an official from the Comission's competition service indicated that "the premium should be higher than 12%".

On top of the risk premium, the Commission is proposing a pricing methodology for calculating the fees that will have to be paid for the new services. But this suggestion has angered a range of critics. The European Regulators Group (ERG), which brings together national telecom authorities, immediately labelled the pricing proposal "overly prescriptive", stating that it "risks hurting the sector". The main operators opposed the suggestion as well, while new entrants welcomed it but asked for the premium to be kept as low as possible.

Brussels is also pushing for more infrastructure competition in a direct plea to small companies to deploy their own networks. But smaller actors insist that direct access to incumbents' fibre networks is essential and infrastructure competition would simply drive many of them out of the market. According to a studyPdf external published this week by ECTA (the European Competitive Telecommunications Association), which groups smaller operators, NGANs represent big business for incumbent operators, which "currently control 80-90% of all fixed telecom access lines". In such conditions, guaranteeing access to smaller operators is a must, it argues.

Incumbent operators, on the other hand, are angered by the Commission's plans to force them to share their new networks with their rivals. According to the main industry lobby ETNO (the European Telecommunications Networks Operators Association), multiple access obligations will act as a hurdle to the financial and technical stability of the networks. The organisation yesterday warnedexternal that investment in the telecoms sector already slowed significantly in 2007, falling from 2.3% in 2006 to 1.7%, according to figures provided by Idate. ETNO Director Michael Bartholomew blames this drop on "regulatory pressure" from Brussels.

The Commission proposals have been put to public consultation. The process will last until mid-November. The EU executive has promised to adopt a formal recommendation in 2009.source


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