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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Environment, November, 2008

In today's edition:
  1. Pesticides: Tough negotiations ahead as MEPs back bans
  2. EU urged to tackle climate change-related water stress
  3. Brussels eyes natural reserves in raw materials scramble
  4. EU mulls sustainable Baltic Sea strategy
Please, pay attention to the first article-it is the most important in this post. Also the 3d one. I expressed my idignation already in the comments.

Pesticides: Tough negotiations ahead as MEPs back bans

6 November 2008

The European Parliament's environment committee approved a ban on pesticides that are toxic to human health, setting the stage for a showdown with EU member states which favour a more lenient approach.

Adopting their position on Wednesday (5 November), MEPs were also left open for the second reading in January, the possibility for member states to reject pesticides authorisation granted by other EU countries and allow the continued usage of toxic substances when they are proven essential for crop survival.

Voting on a report on the sustainable use of pesticides, MEPs introduced a compromise amendment stating that national action plans for reducing the volume of pesticides used should include quantitative targets. A minimum 50% reduction target is proposed for "active substances of very high concern" and those classified as "toxic or very toxic".

The committee's report on the authorisation process restates MEPs' support for hazard-based criteria for deciding approval of the most dangerous substance and recommends additional cut-off criteria for immunotoxic and neurotoxic substances, if the risk is proven significant for at least one in a million citizens. Four-year authorisations of hazardous substances would however still be allowed, in case bans pose serious risks to plant health.

The report also:

  • Rejects the idea of zonal mutual recognition of products. (which mean that instead of dividing the EU on zones, each member state will decide within 180 day whether to allow or ban a substance)
  • Asks for better protection of bees. Pesticides producers would need to prove that a substance does not present acute or chronic risk to bees before a product is authorised.
  • Proposes the establishment of an "electronic field pass" which would oblige farmers to inform retailers of the pesticides they use.

While both the environment committee and the Council support a ban on the most dangerous substances, the committee's recommendation on the authorisation process differs greatly from the common positionPdf external reached by the Council on the zonal mutual recognition of products.source

My comment: Yeah, I didn't shorten that one, because it gives only facts of the work of MEPs. I personally am quite disappointed by the softness of the Parliament, but I guess it's hard to deal with a Commission made by one of the most powerful countrise in the world. And the part about bees sounds ridiculous- after they decided that a pesticide may be used even after it's proven to be toxic, if the plants are endangered. HELLO! Who's more important, human or plant's life? At least they gave some power in the hands of member-state to decide what to autorize and what to reject, although, for me countries should have the saying only what to reject. Because in the current situation, it's very likely that poor countries like Bulgaria and so on (more or less Eastern countries) will continue to use toxic pesticides.

EU urged to tackle climate change-related water stress

6 November 2008

The EU came under pressure yesterday (5 November) to raise the profile of water in international efforts to adapt to climate change as Europe wakes up to the reality of more frequent drought and water scarcity caused by a warming planet.

Speaking at a water summit co-organised by the 'Friends of Europe' think tank and the European Water Partnership in Brussels, Ger Bergkamp of the World Water Council said the EU should ensure that water features more prominently on the agenda of the United Nations climate conference due to take place in Copenhagen next year.

Much work had already been done but the EU was "almost absent" from the international discussion, Bergkamp warned.

The "paradigm shift" towards more awareness of the role played by water policies in climate change adaptation must be connected to the bigger global picture, the participants agreed, with a Chinese government representative calling on Europe to lead the world in promoting global cooperation to save water resources.

The Commission is currently working on initiatives to enhance the bloc's ability to adapt to climate change trough better land management for example or incentives to save water.

The EU already has a large body of legislation on water policies, united in the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in 2000. While the WFD treats water as a "service of general interest," it does not recognise access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a basic human right, as demanded by many businesses, NGOs and institutions, including the Commission's environment directorate-general.source

My comment: Water is often discussed here, I won't do it again. I just would like people to watch the news more carefully to convince themselves that water scarcity really is a global problem, and the we should act if we want to keep our happy long shower intact.
Also on the subject, here is what WWF and some more have to say (I completely agree with their priorities):

The prioritiesPdf external identified for the upcoming national plans include the following:

  • Transparent and publicly owned water management comprising both public and business involvement and empowerement and clear information on who pays for which water use.
  • Reducing waste and better use of water through the adoption of a new approach to water management.
  • More space for living rivers, which are under pressure from human use. This should be done by creating of buffer zones in which human activities are restricted or banned.
  • Healthy, safe water for people and nature through reduced pollution, substitution of hazardous chemicals and making the polluter pay for the costs of cleaning up.
In addition, EEB and WWF call for visionary and adaptive water policies. source

Brussels eyes natural reserves in raw materials scramble

5 November 2008

Natural areas protected under EU law could be opened for mining as part of efforts to curb Europe's growing dependence on third-country imports of precious minerals and metals, the European Commission announced yesterday (4 November). This new legislative proposal won't happen until 2010.

The initiative comes amid growing concerns about global resource scarcity as the environmental 'footprint' of the planet's population grows heavier (EurActiv 29/10/08).

EU industries, and particularly those active in the communications, aerospace and other hi-tech sectors, are facing growing competition from emerging economies like China and India, which are increasingly sourcing and using raw materials from Africa and Latin America, home to some of Earth's largest reserves of minerals and metals such as cobalt, copper, zinc, gold and diamonds.

To address the situation, the Commission called for greater clarity regarding industry access to mineral and metal deposits found in the nature reserves of the EU's Natura 2000 network.

Greater recycling of 'end-of-life' goods and efforts to stop illegal exports of scrap metal are also among the recommendations of the strategy, which contains no specific legislative measures.

Brussels-based environmental NGOs have refrained from critically responding to the plans so far.

During the presentation, Verheugen stressed that any increased mining activity in protected areas would need to take place in a "sustainable" way, before adding that precise criteria would need to be defined. source

My comment: I can't believe that WWF have "restrained" from opinion. True, the Natura 2000 in Eastern Europe is a joke, but if this proposal goes on, the little territhories that are protected will become mines. Sustainable? I'm afraid mr. Verheugen doesn't know the meaning of this word. If mining could be sustainable, they would already have legislated it in a proper way. I cannot even think how business managed to convince someone from the Commission to say this in public. So what, if USA happily destroy Latin America and we cannot join them, let's destroy Europe instead, is this the logic? For me, the whole approach to the problem is wrong. Instead of looking for more places to dig, they should look for a better way to use and re-use what they already have.

EU mulls sustainable Baltic Sea strategy

4 November 2008

The European Commission yesterday (3 November) launched a public consultation on a future EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). The strategy will address environmental pollution, increased maritime transport and protection of critical infrastructures.

The consultation invites stakeholders to submit views on how the main environmental challenges of the region, such as pollution, oxygen deficiency and over-fishing, can be addressed. Stakeholders are also invited to propose ideas on how to develop better integrated and more efficient transport, as well as energy and other communication networks.

The public consultation is openexternal until 31 December. Non-EU members such as Russia, Iceland and Norway are invited to participate. The EU strategy and action plan for the Baltic Sea Region is expected to be finalised by June 2009. source

My comment: This sounds kind of desperate. And useless. Ok, maybe I'm simply not involved enough with the problem, but I'm sure the discussion will eventually lead to something good about citizens in those regions. I'm just way to unaware of the problems of Baltic sea in the moment apart from the fishing one and pollution, but you are free to share your knowledge with me in a comment.

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