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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Climate and Europe, 02.2009

Today:
  1. Global business groups say climate deal 'possible'
  2. EU unveils strategic disaster prevention plan
  3. US shift spurs on global mercury pollution deal
  4. Green groups call for mercury labelling of fish
  5. Parliament paves way for wider eco-design product list

Global business groups say climate deal 'possible'

20 February 2009

Business organisations from across the world, including Europe, the United States, China, India and Brazil, have offered their support for a global climate change agreement at this year's UN meeting in Copenhagen.

"Business is committed to supporting a successful outcome at the COP15 in Copenhagen, which we believe is possible in spite of the economic downturn," read a joint statement from the climate change roundtable of business representatives, adopted in Copenhagen on 17-18 February.

Signatories include business organisations from the EU, China, Brazil, Canada, India, Denmark, Kenya, South Africa, Japan and the US.

In their joint plea, the groups called for the establishment a global framework to tackle climate change that includes all countries and "gives equal attention to mitigation, adaptation and deforestation". This framework, they added, should "develop measurable, reportable and verifiable methodologies" to monitor greenhouse gas reductions and "make them a priority".

Businesses warned, however, about the poor state of the economy, saying that "without economic recovery, the global community's ability to take ambitious actions to address climate issues could be compromised".

The business organisations argued that the technologies to tackle to climate change are already mostly there, but governments could "do better with supporting policies, such as standards, public-private partnerships, government procurement, etc.". They also called for increased focus on energy-efficiency and the removal of "counter-productive taxes and tariffs" at a time when protectionism seems to be gaining ground due to the crisis.

"We must step up funding for R&D, innovation and training, and promote enabling frameworks to reduce costs for technology transfer and commerce," they added. source

My comment: That looks to me like the attack being the best defence. Though I must applaud the initiative, of course, and I cannot but agree with the idea to "step up the R&D", since that is EXACTLY what we should do. I just think they say it for the wrong motivation, but then, sometimes one does the right things for the wrong motivation and in the end, what s/he thinks matter only to him/her.

EU unveils strategic disaster prevention plan

24 February 2009

The European Commission yesterday (23 February) adopted a package of proposals to improve knowledge of both natural and man-made disasters and forge common external and internal strategies for tackling risk with Community funding.

The two communications imply that disaster prevention must be integrated into other EU policies, including development policy, and seek areas where EU-level action brings added value to national responses, which are often most suited to dealing with specific local situations.

The proposals do not cover emergencies related to conflicts or acts of terrorism. Nor do they advocate the creation of new instruments, but say the Community approach should "explicitly seek to build on measures that have already been taken at European level".

The Communication on the Prevention of Natural and Man-made Disasters says a common response would be effective in areas of action such as establishing a Europe-wide inventory of existing information and best practices, developing guidelines on hazard and risk-mapping, and improving access to early warning systems.

Concerning funding, the EU executive wants to establish an inventory of existing Community instruments that could be used to finance disaster prevention activities and to list the measures for which member states could apply for EU funding. Furthermore, risk prevention should be integrated into Community funding when the next financing perspectives are defined, it says.

The EU should invest in research to better anticipate and prevent risks, according to the Commission, as well as develop early warning systems. To this end, the EU executive suggests creating regional action plans, including awareness-raising campaigns, beginning with the Caribbean region.

The communication also promotes information exchange, for example by setting up networks between disaster-prone countries and regions. source

My comment: An article I think one must consider when reading this one is the following. It's about what a solar flare could do to our electronic world-more or less, it could create a very dramatic situation. And that's why I think this new initiative should be supported, but not only to such European money, it must create a clear and working network and to be able to correlate monitoring and early alarming. And of course, to manage aid at later times. The whole thing really isn't as stupid as it seems. It is important.

US shift spurs on global mercury pollution deal

2 March 2009

Thanks to a dramatic shift in the position of the United States, environmental ministers from over 140 countries agreed to begin negotiating a treaty to control global mercury pollution last week at a meeting of the UN Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya.

US President Barack Obama's administration supports the creation of a legally binding document to control mercury pollution, in contrast with the Bush administration, which had stubbornly refused to enter into any agreement.

Green groups, including the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the Zero Mercury Working Group, praised this agreement as a "breakthrough".

"The treaty will ensure that the EU and other countries of the world make a serious commitment to reduce global mercury emissions, supply and demand," claimed Elena Lymberidi, coordinator of the EEB's 'Zero Mercury' campaign .

The industry association stated that the agreement to negotiate a treaty is in line with its "long-standing commitment to share best practices globally for reducing the use and emissions of mercury from mercury-cell chlor-alkali facilities".

The chlor-alkali industry is known for using the mercury cell process , during which mercury is used to support chemical reactions that produce chlorine and caustic soda.

The treaty aims to reduce the supply of mercury, minimise its use in products and processes and lower atmospheric mercury emissions. To achieve this, participants in the UN gathering agreed to "enhance the capacity for the environmental storage [of mercury]".

This is likely to translate into a major reduction of human exposure to mercury, as the US is responsible for 40% of mercury emissions. The agreement follows the adoption of an EU regulation to ban all exports of mercury from the EU in 2011.source

My comment: Haha, I was wondering what the EU regulation would be good for, but it looks like USA bought it. Those are great news, even if I don't understand exactly the process. But this really is a step in the right direction. I hope USA won't expect something in return, because after all it was a EU initiative, if they chose to obey it, that's their choice.

Parliament paves way for wider eco-design product list

18 February 2009

MEPs yesterday (17 February) backed European Commission proposals to extend the scope of the Eco-design Directive and the Ecolabel, but rejected proposals to include food products in the plans.

The European Parliament's environment committee voted on a report to cover all products with an impact on energy use, such as windows, insulation materials and water-using devices, in the EU's Eco-design Directive (EurActiv 24/10/08). Currently, only devices that directly use energy are part of the scheme.

MEPs, however, rejected a proposal from the rapporteur, Romanian MEP Magor Imre Csibi (ALDE), to go as far as including all products except means of transport. This would have effectively mandated the Commission to set minimum energy requirements for food and clothes, for example.

The committee consequently requested the Commission to come up with a proposal by 2012, extending the scope only to "non-energy-related products" with "significant potential for reducing their environmental impacts throughout their whole life-cycle".

MEPs also backed the Commission's proposal of July 2008 to make the voluntary EU Ecolabel less bureaucratic and less expensive. The Parliament wants to ensure that the Commission and member states provide proper funding for awareness-raising campaigns and that particularly small and medium-sized enterprises have better access to the flower label.

Moreover, the Parliament urged the Commission to consider the inclusion of reduced animal testing and better environmental performance as criteria for awarding the label. source

My comment: A good one too. I also think that it wouldn't work if they included food. All I want from food is firm control over the content and labelling. But then, that's a big one.

Green groups call for mercury labelling of fish

12 February 2009

Environmental NGOs have called for fish and seafood products to carry labels indicating their level of mercury content, claiming that eating fish can be "hazardous".

"The proposed European Union regulation for labelling foodstuff, currently being considered in the European Parliament, should include advice for vulnerable groups about the mercury content of fish and seafood," the NGOs assert in a report released on 10 February.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) gave its backing to the call, insisting that the labelling of certain fish products "should be instituted without delay".

"All governments should agree on launching an International Negotiating Committee (INC) to start work immediately on a global mercury treaty next week [at the United Nations convention in Nairobi]," says Elena Lymberidi, coordinator of the EEB's Zero Mercury campaign.

To protect consumers against the risks of mercury ingestion, the Commission stated that "member states should be provided with all the relevant information to be able to issue consumer advice" and "consumers are entitled to receive concrete information where possible".

In particular, the EU executive stressed that "pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding should not eat more than one portion per week of large predatory fish, such as swordfish, shark, marlin and pike". Moreover, parents should be aware that young children "should not eat tuna more than twice per week".

Given the high levels of mercury pollution to which fish are exposed in the sea, the NGOs' report claims that eating fish can be "hazardous".

Indeed, it has been shown in a reportPdf external by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEA) that the consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans.

Ivan Bartolo, spokesperson for the Sea Fish Industry Authority (SFIA), said the "EU-wide legal limits in place for mercury have been set following rigorous scientific assessments".

As for the risk of mercury ingestion, Bartolo said "it is true that specific groups, such as pregnant women, need to be aware of advice from their national food authority". "But in all other cases, we would encourage everyone to eat at least two portions of seafood a week, because of the overwhelming health benefits of eating fish," he added. source

My comment: Very very interesting. I wasn't aware that the situation is so serious, but I noticed that the spanish clams I'm eating are very odd. They are simply different from those one year ago, though my guess is that when it comes to mercury, they had the same exposure. I think the pollution is much more extensive than the mere mercury, but in any case, it's important to know this. The bad news is that our government didn't warn is. So much about member states activity.

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