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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Environment in Europe, 01.2009-weak but steady steps forward

  1. Parliament seals pesticides deal amid opposition
  2. EU urged to introduce emission limits for power plants
  3. Cities seek better energy efficiency of buildings
  4. Commission under fire over green road charging

Parliament seals pesticides deal amid opposition

16 January 2009

The European Parliament yesterday (13 January) voted to restrict the use of toxic pesticides, despite strong opposition from the UK, Spain and Hungary and calls for better evaluation of the legislation's impact upon agricultural production and food prices.

The package still needs to be formally adopted by the Council, which remains divided over the issue, despite the compromise reached before Christmas (see EurActiv 19/12/08).

The deal will lead to a ban of a number of hazardous substances that pose a potential threat to human health and the environment, and obliges member states to embrace more sustainable use of pesticides.

The UK, Ireland, Spain and Hungary oppose the deal, claiming that it will seriously affect agricultural production and increase food prices. However, the four countries put together will not be enough to form a blocking minority for a qualified majority vote in the Council, which is likely to adopt the package as an 'A point' (adopted without discussion). source

My comment:I'm little confused by the number of times that the EC and EP can juggle in between them, but so what. This deal is going to pass and this is good enough. I already discussed it, it's not perfect, but it's a good start. Producers must understand that the health and safety of the consummers should be their absolute priority. And that's final. And I like the "Adopted without discussion" point :)

EU urged to introduce emission limits for power plants

14 January 2009

Introducing binding emission limits for all power stations is key to shifting investment decisions in the power sector to "avoid dangerous lock-in to high-carbon power infrastructure," argues a new report commissioned by environmental groups WWF, Bellona Europa, ClientEarth, E3G and the Green Alliance.

Europe could cut greenhouse gases emitted by large power plants by more than two-thirds by 2020 if mandatory emissions caps were introduced in stages between 2010 and 2020, according to the researchexternal , carried out by the consultancy Ecofys. It also argues that an early phase-in would be cost-effective.

The environmental groups believe the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) and other climate legislation agreed upon by EU leaders last December is not strict enough to deliver Europe's commitment to moving from a 20% CO2 reduction target to 30% by 2020 should a new international agreement become a reality.

The NGOs criticise the revised EU ETS for allowing the construction of new power plants "under the guise of '[CO2]-capture readiness'". They say a CO2 emissions performance standard that puts a cap on emissions per unit of energy output would guarantee investment in low-carbon technologies, as new power plants unable to meet the standard could no longer be built. Existing installations would also have to invest in energy efficiency measures and have carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies retrofitted.

According to the research, an emissions performance standard could be introduced in stages for both new and existing plants. source

My comment:"[CO2]-capture readiness"-what the fuck?! Can you believe such a word exist. Just like "vista-ready", this is an absolute nonsense. You're either energy and emissions effective or you're not. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if such measures are to be implemented sooner or later, the sooner is the better. And for people with long-term investment in any business, the sooner they start investing, the easier it will be when the time comes. And the time will come. Notice the last Atlantic storm? Or the -10C in Spain? Very unusual, but not for long.

Cities seek better energy efficiency of buildings

16 January 2009

The public sector must be the front-runner in raising energy-efficiency standards for buildings, according to 45 European cities that have come together to contribute to a review of EU laws regarding the energy performance of buildings.

The cities have united in pursuit of sustainable communities by integrating energy-efficiency improvement techniques and the use of renewable energy sources. They argue that the revamped Energy Performance of Buildings Directive should oblige authorities to display energy-performance certificates in visible places in all public buildings. In addition, all new public buildings should exceed national regulations by a certain percentage, they recommend.

CONCERTO's other key recommendations include:

  • Lowering the current 1000m2 threshold required for buildings undergoing a major renovation in order to meet specific efficiency standards,
  • Including final energy-use figures, as well as the corresponding primary energy-use and CO2-emissions ratings, in energy performance certificates, and;
  • Creating a certified professional category, introducing certification to guarantee the quality of inspections and energy-performance certificates.
The CONCERTO representative said the group had reached agreement with the Commission to continue to cooperate until the draft directive is adopted. source

My comment: It's interesting that this is an organisation from cities, not from NGOs or GOs. I of course support the idea and I think that the recent gas crisis showed us just how vulnerable we are on this front. Sure, the only European capital that felt it really was Sofia, but how many examples one needs to get the moral. And the moral is simple-we're way to used to our comfy life to be so dependent on the benevolence of third countries. Especially when there is enough energy in the form of wind,water and sun around us. And when we're losing so much energy in the form of heat or inefficieny. It's a big investition but a worthy one. Because no matter how many sources we have for gas, there'll always be a possibility that something will go wrong with them (even if it's just a huge accident or sabotage). We cannot allow ourselves to be that vulnerable! see here what France will hopefully do.

Commission under fire over green road charging

20 January 2009

Amid accusations of failure to provide adequate trade-offs for the road freight industry, a European Commission proposal to charge trucks for the environmental damage they cause is attracting fierce criticism from politicians and industry.

The EU executive had a hard time yesterday evening (19 January) defending its proposal to charge trucks for the noise, pollution and congestion they cause.

In a debatePdf external on the greening transport proposal and in particular the internalisation of transport external costs, MEPs and representatives of both the Council and road freight industry argued against the proposal as it currently stands.

Finnish French MEP Ari Vatanen denounced the Commission's "useless" attempt to force a modal shift from road to other means of transport.

The rapporteur underlined that all political groups support Commission's proposal to earmark revenues from green road charging for expenditure on transport infrastructure, from which the funds are collected.

Meanwhile, Council representatives noted that there is currently no common position among the 27 EU countries on earmarking, while overall, EU governments are having a hard time forging consensus on the proposal, as it would affect central and peripheral countries differently. source

My comment: Many points of view, of course, but I think that trucks are way too polluting as they are and we should use any means possible to force them to invest into cleaner, and not so loud vehicles. If that's another tax, then so it shall be. And I don't see anything wrong in using this money for infrastructure. Especially if that means sound-isolation of the high ways and/or some ways of cleaning the air.

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