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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Environment in Europe, 10.2008-the light bulbs affair

In today's edition:
  1. Brussels pushing for forests in global climate deal
  2. EU weighing compromises to clinch climate deal
  3. Parliament in search of compromise on pesticides
  4. NGOs hail EU ban on conventional light bulbs
Again, my comments got longer than the articles themselves, mostly on the last 2 articles. Read more on that in the comments and if you happen to agree with me, please write! The light-bulb affair is very very wrong. We have to do something on it.

Brussels pushing for forests in global climate deal

20 October 2008

The European Commission will push for an international commitment to end global forest cover loss by 2030 as part of a new 'forestry package' that proposes new rules to prevent illegal logging while testing the inclusion of forest credits in a global carbon market.

The package, presented by EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas in Brussels on 17 October, comes amid growing calls to include forest and deforestation issues in the global fight against climate change.

Selling timber and the land on which it is harvested remains a far more lucrative enterprise than keeping trees standing. Brussels hopes that a new global fund, known as the Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM), could provide developing countries the incentives necessary to undertake actions against deforestation.

Under the plans, the EU ETS would be a major source of funding for the GFCM, whereby 5% of auctioning revenues could provide up to €2.5 billion for the fund by 2020. Governments that sign up to a global climate change deal could also be allowed to use so-called deforestation credits towards their individual CO2 reduction commitments under a pilot scheme. Companies might then be allowed to use the system after 2020, subject to a review of the initial phase, the Commission said.

Based on announcements made on 17 October, the EU executive would then use this system as a basis to push for an international commitment to halt global forest cover loss by 2030, with a 50% reduction in tropical forest destruction by 2020.

Under the Commission's new proposal for a framework regulation on illegal logging, traders of forestry products will need to make "sufficient guarantees that the timber and timber products they sell have been harvested according to the relevant laws of the country of origin," according to a press statement.

UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas slammed the proposal on logging as "toothless and inadequate to stop the influx of illegally logged timber into the EU". But the MEP commended the Commission's "clarity of thought" in its communication on deforestation.

The pulp and paper industry did not react positively to the plans.

NGOs also criticised the plans.

The WWF also "denounces" the Commission's "lack of ambition" with respect to securing a global pledge to reduce deforestation, since Brussels is calling for a 50% reduction rather than a complete halting of deforestation by 2020. source My comment: I also think it's a bit toothless initiative and also not very realistic, since it's not a problem to obtain a certificate of origin in a poor country. But the good part is that the EU is starting to consider the problem as more and more important-what it really is, because deforestations is doubling the emissions problem.

EU weighing compromises to clinch climate deal

16 October 2008

Amid a worsening global economic slowdown, EU leaders say they will reach a deal on ambitious CO2 reduction laws before January 2009. But the rules could be significantly watered down in order to make concessions to reluctant member states.

"We will find an agreement" on the package, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told journalists yesterday (15 October) in Brussels following a dinner of the EU's 27 heads of state and government organised as part of the 15-16 October European summit.

The "environmental question is absolutely essential" and reaching a deal at EU level is an "historic responsibility", said Sarkozy. Paris has made reaching a deal on the package a top priority of its busy presidency.

But agreeing upon the large package over the next six weeks is likely to involve significant compromises and concessions in order to secure the support of member states concerned about imposing further costs on their industries and economies, particularly in the context of a recession.

A group of eight Eastern European member states – Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – want to receive greater recognition for efforts made to reduce CO2 emissions

"The vast majority of the EU-27's greenhouse gas emissions reductions have been achieved by less affluent member states at a very high social and economic cost and it should be recognised," the group said in a communiqué circulated during the summit. And any EU climate deal "should respect the differences of member states' economic potential," the group said.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has also repeatedly spoken out in opposition to the EU's climate plans on the grounds that they could further strangle his country's economy, whose traditional domestic manufacturing base has been hard hit by third-country competition.

While it remains unclear what kind of deal could be adopted to secure the support of these member states, the French EU Presidency has repeatedly mentioned the use of 'flexibility' as a means of forging consensus.

Financial transfers from wealthy to poor member states in exchange for emissions reductions could be used as a means for some of the richer EU-15 member states to 'buy' CO2 reductions while guaranteeing the 'solidarity' of former Soviet-bloc states.

Developed states already purchase emissions reductions credits in third countries through the existing Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanisms (JI/CDM) enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol, and most member states support a significant extension of this system as part of the climate package. MEPs and green groups are wary, however, that overuse of external credits could undermine EU domestic efforts while producing few verifiable emissions reductions abroad.

Meanwhile, exemptions from the EU ETS for certain industrial sectors are also likely to be part of any compromise. But the timeline for identifying sectors that could receive 100% free emissions allowances remains the subject of dispute between the Commission, Parliament and Council.source
My comment: A nice resume of the situation in the moment, in case anyone has forgotten it. No need of comments, but I also doubt a deal will be reached before the end of the year, especially if Italia continues with the weirdness.

Parliament in search of compromise on pesticides

16 October 2008

While views on the European Commission's proposed 'pesticides package' differ greatly, MEPs believe a "good compromise" is in sight provided that industry stops scaremongering about food price increases.

A debateexternal on the role of pesticides in sustainable agriculture on 14 October gave rise to a heated discussion on the most contentious points of the proposed legislation, namely:

  • Cut-off criteria for substances used in the production of pesticides (a market ban on substances that pose potentially severe risks to human health and the environment), and;
  • mutual recognition of authorised products within specified geographical zones.

A fierce exchange of views also took place over the reliability of recent studies, which argue that the cut-off criteria would lead to a serious decline in Europe's overall agricultural productivity and self-sufficiency as well as to higher food prices.

Danish Socialist MEP Dan Jørgensen said he was very positive about striking a "good compromise" on the pesticides package in due time. He said the Parliament's environment (ENVI) committee would present a compromise amendment on the mutual recognition of products in a couple of weeks' time. "We accept mutual recognition of products if member states can still conduct extra checks on the substances during some 180 days," he said, offering a glimpse of the planned compromise proposal.

As for the cut-off criteria, the Parliament's rapporteur on the new regulation on pesticides, German Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer, argued that they should stay as they are, calling on industry to stop provoking a "hypocritical and ridiculous debate" on their effect on food prices. She argued that recent industry-funded studies used "exaggerated" figures to create a climate of panic.

"The substitution principle means that there will be new products on the market to replace the banned ones," she underlined, calling for industry to "be honest, fair and sincere" and to analyse its figures sincereley so that "we can start discussing". She also asked industry to admit that their studies were "based on wrong criteria" and were presented to kill the cut-off criteria.

Elliot Cannell from PAN Europe (Pesticide Action Network International), argued that a zonal authorisation system could make the number of authorised pesticides double or triple in any given country, even though there would not be any data or scientific evidence proving their regional suitability. He also criticised a compromise between member states allowing for exceptional five-year authorisations of hazardous substances in case of serious risk to plant health.

According to European Commission official Wolfgang Reinert, the EU executive's impact assessment showed that the proposed rlegislation could lead to a ban of 22-27 carcino-, muta- and teratogenic substances, as well as endocrine disrupting ones. He also noted that the Council's current amendments propose regular approval of the substances if exposure is negligible and exceptional approval (for five years) if there are serious risks to plant health. He also said that most substances would anyhow continue to be available until around 2016.

Pieter de Pous of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said he regretted that the issues of soil and water quality and biodiversity, which are essential for true long-term security of food supply in the agricultural sector, were missing from the debates on pesticides as well as from those on the future of CAP and biofuels. source

My comment:I can't but agree with the German green MEP-it's absurd to claim that the food prices will rise just because of the pesticide ban. And if it is true, then we should ask ourselves what exactly are we eating if the pesticides are so essential for it. And compare it with what it takes for a plant to grow naturally-air, water, earth and sun. Nothing more and nothing less. Everything else is an improvement-but it cannot be essential.

If the food should be more expensive in order to be cleaner, I agree. And it's not more a question of life-style than public health care is. Giving the money for better food for a healthier life for me is better than giving them afterwards for medicaments. It's a matter of choice just as much as it is a matter of choice for me to pay for the heart surgery of a 100 kg person, because of obesity. I totally agree with the solidarity principle, I just argue the direction the money should go. Let's subsidise healthy food instead of pesticide food and we can then all live a better life.

NGOs hail EU ban on conventional light bulbs

14 October 2008

A decision by EU energy ministers to phase out the sale of all incandescent and poorly-performing light bulbs by 2010 was welcomed by environmental organisation WWF as a long-awaited first step towards improving energy efficiency in Europe.

Estimating that incandescent light bulbs consume up to five times as much energy as their newer, more efficient equivalents, the NGO predicts that their replacement should reduce domestic energy consumption for lighting by 60% and achieve yearly CO2 savings of 30 million tons in the EU.

The switchover to energy-efficient bulbs, agreed at a meeting in Luxembourg on 10 October, was first proposed at last year's spring EU summit as part of an ambitious EU climate and energy legislative package.

Support for the new bulbs has proved controversial in the past as they are considerably more expensive. Concerns have also been raised about their adverse health impacts, such as headaches and rashes.

However, advocates point out that more efficient lights will be cheaper in the long run as they use significantly less energy and last longer. Costs for European consumers should also be reduced following the lifting of current anti-dumping duties on energy-saving lamps imported from China, which WWF describes as a further "positive move towards energy savings within the EU".

But the NGO was disappointed that although energy ministers reiterated that improving energy efficiency was the "cornerstone" of the achievement of other climate and energy policy goals, they failed to commit to making last year's EU pledge to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020 binding. source

My comment:Now, I have a lot to say on that. For me this is just a dust in people's eyes and it's definitely a step in the wrong direction! Yeah, people will save up to 60% of the lighting energy. And how much is this in the total electricity bill? VERY VERY LITTLE! It's an absolute nonsense to ban the light bulbs and it looks more like a lobby act than anything else. So what we have, Philips is getting to sell on lower prices after the anti-dumping measures are off and the EU is quick to make sure that will be the only type of bulbs on the market?! Hello! When there are so many more important issues on the horizon-like energy efficiency of appliances and new buildings! And since when the EC can BAN a perfectly healthy and non-damaging product from my home! This is totally wrong and I can't believe they did it. True, it's so little that nobody cares about that, but for me, this is a very worrying sign.

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