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Thursday, December 25, 2008

European Environment, December, 2008

Today:
  1. UN climate talks make little progress
  2. EU to consider CO2 labelling for products
  3. Road users pressed to 'internalise' pollution costs
  4. Commission tables electronic waste recycling review
Merry Christmas to all! The news aren't exactly Xmas like, but oh well, better than nothing.

UN climate talks make little progress

9 December 2008

After a week of intensive talks, ministers have not yet made a breakthrough in negotiations for a post-Kyoto climate change deal currently taking place in Poland, despite some progress on tackling deforestation.

Uncertainty over the recession, the change of US administration and the adoption of an EU energy and climate package this week is weighing heavily on the talks.

Sources close to the negotiations at the December 1-12 summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) expect parties will not be able agree a negotiating text before the very end of the conference, during the night of December 12-13.

Some experts are still confident that some progress is possible in specific areas. Countries could agree on funding to help poorer countries cope with the effects of climate change and set up a scheme to pay tropical countries to protect forests.

According to the UN, annual investment of $17-30bn could halve deforestation levels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10%.

Speaking to EurActiv, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas underlined that part of the bloc's contribution to such a global mechanism could come from the revenues governments receive from auctioning emission allowances under the EU ETS.

Broadly, the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation initiative - known as REDD - proposes to extend existing carbon trading mechanisms whereby polluters in the developed world would buy credits to offset their carbon emissions that include forests in the developing world, rewarding conservation and sustainable use.

But the "forest offsetting" mechanism sparked criticism among developing countries in Poznań.

Brazil has ruled out letting developed countries offset their greenhouse gas emissions by helping to save the Amazon rainforest. Earlier last week, Brazil set itself an ambitious target of reducing its deforestation by 70% over the next 10 years. But the Brasilia government favours a public funding scheme, rather than allowing countries and companies to compensate for excess carbon emissions by funding tropical forest conservation.

Representatives of Latin American indigenous communities in Poznań have opposed a carbon market approach, as they fear the scheme will trigger a damaging land grab involving millions of dollars.

The Commission suggested having a pilot phase in which credits could be bought by governments to help them meet their post-2012 emission targets.

Meanwhile, big polluters from the developing world, such as China and India, have repeatedly said that they will not commit to a global deal until tough action is taken by developed countries. source

My comment: No surprise here. I wonder that's the thing with Brasilia. Not that I get the idea of the forest offsetting but it might be better than it sounds. Oh well, I don't expect any deal soon, because everyone is using the crisis as an excuse to not give money (or to request some more).

EU to consider CO2 labelling for products

8 December 2008

EU environment ministers have asked the European Commission to find ways of calculating carbon footprints and assessing environmental performance of products throughout their life cycles. But the idea has attracted fierce criticism from industry.

Last week's Environment Council (4 December) requested a study as part of its conclusions on the Commission's action plans on sustainable consumption and production and sustainable industrial policy (SCP).

Overall, ministers welcomed the Commission's proposal as a potential means of speeding up the creation of "a safe and sustainable low-carbon and resource-efficient economy that is capable of competing successfully in global markets," through a combination of voluntary and binding measures designed to mitigate the energy consumption and environmental impact of products.

They asked the EU executive to conduct a study estimating the impact of inserting a carbon footprint for products into existing EU environmental labelling instruments, including the eco-label and energy labelling, and to develop common voluntary methodologies for its calculation.

The Commission is expected to assess the implementation of the SCP action plan by 2012, to provide guidance on widening of the scope of the Eco-Design Framework Directive to other product types. source

My comment: I like that obviously but I'm kind of suspicious toward the good will of ministers. Sure, the idea sounds very good, but I'm sure that industry won't like it too much, because of the lack of clarity and probably of fairness. They probably agree to it only because it's in such a beginning phase.

Road users pressed to 'internalise' pollution costs

5 December 2008

As transport use continues to grow, all modes of transport must pay their fair share for the pollution they emit, including lorries and private car users, argued stakeholders attending a logistics conference on 3 December.

One of the main questions debated in the CLECAT annual freight forwarders' conferenceexternal was whether the current EU approach to 'internalise its external costs' is right in the current context of economic slowdown.

"If congestion is not taken into account - and you hardly ever see trucks on congested roads, but rather private cars of individuals getting their goods in and out of cities - 99% of our external costs are covered," he said.

Nielsen also underlined that the objective of Eurovignette should be see that money collected from one transport mode is invested back into that mode to improve performance.

Nielsen's call for all transport modes to be tackled equally was supported by freight forwarders. "If introduced, internalisation of external costs must be done for all modes of transport, including private cars," argued Jean Claude Delen of CLECAT, which represents the industry.

Meanwhile, the European Environment Agency (EEA) underlined that freight markets were driven by consumption patterns and the burden of external costs should therfore be shared across society. source
My comment: Ok, I have a big problem with such transports, because they claim they pay all but in the end, the decisions are made in a very cartel-like manner. An example is the rows between Bulgaria and Turkey-when Bulgaria threaten to raise some kind of tax, they immediately answer with the same for our trucks. In the end, nobody want to impose any taxes or fees, from fear. This is not right. I don't know what European trucks pay, but I can see how polluting they are home, so..

Commission tables electronic waste recycling review

4 December 2008

Electronic equipment manufacturers fear that a proposed review of an EU directive on recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment will result in producers having to pay for household collection.

The European Commission tabled proposalsPdf external to recast the WEEE and RoHS directives on 3 December.

According to the EU executive, the review aims to tackle the technical, legal and administrative difficulties related to the current directives and cut down related unintended costs and burden on market actors and administrations.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also referred to the review as "an opportunity for EU companies to innovate and have access to valuable raw materials" as the bloc seeks to become a resource-efficient economy and encourage sustainable consumption and production.

Changes proposed for the two directives include:

  • Change in the collection target from the current 4kg/capita per year ('one size fits all') to a variable binding target that takes into account the economies of individual member states (65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market over the two previous years);
  • including the re-use of whole appliances in the recycling and re-use target in order to encourage re-use;
  • increasing the re-use and recycling target by 5%;
  • listing priority substances posing particular environmental concerns when used in electrical and electronic equipment, to be assessed in line with the EU's REACH regulation on chemicals with a view to a possible ban in the future;
  • harmonised EU-level registration and reporting obligations for producers;
  • minimum inspection requirements for member states to strengthen the enforcement of the directive and monitor requirements for shipping WEEE.

The EU executive is also asking member states to encourage producers to finance the costs of separate collection from private households and shift the costs of WEEE collection from taxpayers to consumers of electrical and electronic equipment (through producers) to bring financing in line with the 'polluter pays' principle set out in the EU Treaties.

EICTA argues that it puts a disproportionate financial burden on electrical and electronic equipment producers by encouraging producers to be made financially responsible for household collection. Although the proposal remains unclear on this, stating that producers should be encouraged to finance collection costs, EICTA believes the revision would "massively increase the costs of compliance with no environmental benefit".

Environmental and health NGOs said the Commission proposals regarding the RoHS Directive were not strong enough, because they do not set targets for phasing out additional hazardous chemicals used in electronics. NGOs also called on European regulators to keep the REACH process separate from the RoHS review. source

My comment: I don't understand how they manage to get out of the word "encourage" some form of obligation that will lead to raising of the costs. That's nonsense. Currently the recycling of appliances is so low, it's almost not existing. Whatever they do to improve this should be supported. It's shame to throw out all this silicon when it can be reused.

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