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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ecology in November, 2008 - a compromise that nobody needs

Today:
  1. Renewables deal edges 'closer' despite French pressure
  2. EU eyes tax breaks to 'green' economic recovery
  3. Sustainable cities framework to be presented in 2010
  4. EU agrees 10% 'green fuel' target in renewables deal
The real news is in the last article and it really made me angry. I can't say more, actually. It's amazing how stupid and egoistic people can be.

Renewables deal edges 'closer' despite French pressure

28 November 2008

EU countries and the European Parliament are "tantalisingly close" to a compromise agreeement on legislation to promote renewable energy, but the French EU Presidency is stalling the negotiations, according to the European Parliament's rapporteur on the dossier, Green MEP Claude Turmes.

Turmes, who is responsible for guiding the proposal through Parliament, said while much progress had been made in 'trialogue' negotiations between the European Commission, Parliament and the French Presidency, Paris was "refusing to engage in meaningful negotiation" of the main outstanding issues.

These include a safeguard mechanism for the European transport sector and a revision clause for 2014, according to Turmes.

One of the most controversial French ideas is a proposal to review efforts torward the 20% target in 2014. The Parliament is vigorously opposed to this amid concerns that it would undermine investor certainty in the sector. MEPs are also worried that a proposal on flexibility, whereby member states could count investment in renewable energy production in other countries towards their own targets, would create a virtual market for greener energy certificates instead of encouraging physical cross-border trade.

Meanwhile, a consensus on biofuel sustainability criteria seemed to be emerging in talks on Wednesday (26 November), as MEPs and EU governments set out to incorporate the impact of indirect land-use changes into the new renewables directive.

But there was no agreement on when to factor these into the calculations. MEPs want to see indirect land-use change included immediately in the formula proposed for calculating biofuel emissions, while member states would rather wait for the Commission's quantification proposals in 2010, which would delay the introduction of the law substantially.source

My comment: Notice the funny tenses they are using. Which probably means that nothing is sure. I probably should simply state my position in the case - I think that EC should decide for the way that would lead to the most investment in the sector, especially now, when the crisis is making the oil so cheap that it's not worthy to invest into renewable. However, that won't go on forever and it's very important to keep the investments into the green resources, otherwise, we could get ourselves into very unpleasant situation.

EU eyes tax breaks to 'green' economic recovery

27 November 2008

Fiscal incentives backed by EU funds to promote cleaner vehicles and building efficiency are recommended as part of a 200-billion-euro economic recovery plan unveiled by the European Commission yesterday (26 November).

The planPdf external proposes three public-private partnerships (PPPs), the most ambitious of which is designed to achieve a 'breakthrough' in reducing CO2 emissions from the European car fleet.

The buildings and construction sector fall under the second PPP proposed in the plan, though the initiative is less ambitious in scope and limited to €1 billion.

The EIB will also boost annual investments for energy and climate change-related infrastructure by up to €6 billion, and a new '2020 fund for energy, climate change and infrastructure' is also envisaged by the plan, though details are not included.

A cross-sector PPP valued at €1.2 billion for the manufacturing industry, notably the ICT sector, is the last point outlined in the proposals.

"Targeted tax incentives" should complement nearly all the actions outlined, according to the Commission, which will propose reduced value added tax (VAT) for 'green' goods and services, especially those that contribute to greater energy efficiency in buildings. In addition, "member states should consider introducing a reduction of property tax for energy-performing buildings," the communication says.

The recovery plan will be scrutinised and potentially adopted by EU governments during the 11-12 December European summit in Brussels. source

My comment: Yeah, VAT reductions are notoriously hard to obtain, very correct observation. I only don't understand why Germany is so much against it. True, it's a big source of money for the government, but if it will help the industry to recover from the crisis (or to survive it), it's not so bad. After all, it's always possible to increase the taxes. But it's not that simple to keep alive an industry.

Sustainable cities framework to be presented in 2010

26 November 2008

EU ministers have agreed to develop a practical and inclusive reference framework for the implementation of EU's sustainable urban development goals regarding the environment, the economy and social issues.

Many European citie suffer from heavy congestion and pollution, high noise levels and social exclusion. As the source of almost three quarters of energy consumption, cities also have a major role to play in the fight against climate change.

The EU-27 urban development ministers met on 25 November to discuss how different policies can contribute to sustainable urban development and how horizontal work on the sectoral policies could be enhanced.

The framework would outline the general principles of a sustainable city: an integrated approach of all public policies and all levels based on interaction of environmental, economic and social sectors. A flexible, collective and open process would be put in place via a "questioning and analytical tool that could serve as a medium for debate and a joint search for converging pathways to progress". Thus conflicting approaches to sustainable urban development should not be an obstacle to developing more shared solutions, the ministers note.

According to the French EU Presidency, the final architecture and specifications of the reference framework would be jointly developed by a high-level group made up of representatives of member states, EU institutions, local authority networks, professional associations and the civil society and by a cities work group set up as part of URBACT II. source

My comment: I can't but think about some sci fic novels, that describe the cities of the future. It's scary and exciting in the same time. I have my doubts of the effectiveness of the scheme from the article, but that's not so improtant. As my supervisor says, "we'll get there with few iterations". And the idea is good, because most European cities really have much problems, my own is one of them. And those problems cannot be solved by thinking locally. There are too many conflicting interests in every country. While if it's done on European level, there is much better chance to actually do something good.

EU agrees 10% 'green fuel' target in renewables deal

5 December 2008

The EU has struck a deal to satisfy 10% of its transport fuel needs from renewable sources, including biofuels, hydrogen and green electricity, as part of ongoing negotiations on its energy and climate package. The move represents a step back from the original aim of sourcing 10% of the bloc's transport fuels from biofuels alone.

A compromise deal on the contribution of biofuels to the EU's overall renewable energy consumption target, which foresees sourcing 20% of the bloc's energy needs from renewables by 2020, was reached late in the night of 3 December during behind-closed-doors negotiations between representatives of the three main EU institutions.

The final compromise obliges the bloc to ensure that biofuels offer at least 35% carbon emission savings compared to fossil fuels when the law enters into force – a figure that would rise to 45% by 2013 and 50% by 2017. As of 2017, the target will be raised to 60%. Earlier, the Parliament had asked for an immediate 45% target to be established (EurActiv 12/09/08).

Sub-targets for first and second-generation biofuels, demanded by MEPs but stongly opposed by member states, were dropped. Instead, the overall 10% biofuels target now applies not only to biofuels, but also to all renewable energy used in transport, such as electric vehicles powered by renewable sources, which will now contribute to achieving the target.

Until the very end, the European Parliament and EU countries remained split over the so-called biofuels sustainability criteria, and in particular whether to include the impact of so-called 'indirect land use' in the formula to calculate biofuels' overall CO2 performance. Such indirect factors include increased CO2 emissions caused by deforestation and higher food prices as a result of shifting land from food to biofuel production.

In a compromise deal, a legally-binding reference to indirect land use was dropped. Instead, the European Commission was asked to come forward with proposals to limit indirect land use caused by the swtich to biofuel production.

The biofuels deal angered many environmental organisations who argued it came at the expense of the world's poor, biodiversity and efforts to fight climate change to prevail the specific interests of farmers and the biofuels industry. Without the indirect land use sustainability criteria, "the EU risks supporting massive production of biofuels, inside and outside Europe, that does not contribute at all to fighting climate change," the NGOs said. source

My comment: I agree completely with the environmental organisations in the case. This deal is a shame for the EU. What more I can say. It's good that they included other sources to the 10% which means that if additional compromise over the indirect land use is reached, member states will simply ignore biofuels and reach the target trough other means. But still, this indirect land use requirement should have been in the deal. It's desperately needed and I absolutely agree that this formulation will lead to abuse of the poorer nations, or of those who don't really care about their land. We're simply moving our damage to foreing soil. This isn't a climate deal, it's obvious profit.

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