Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

European Pride-Goce: up and running

Dear GOCE is up and running. As you will learn from the articles below, this is a truly European project that includes many companies all over the EU (well, without East Europe) and it's cool to see everything working good and without problems.

I put many hope on GOCE, since this gravitational map of Earth might, well, discover interesting things we didn't know. Can't wait for it to become operational. Enjoy!

And I'd like to say that projects like this justify the existence of the EU. Without cooperation on EU scale, no country (but China,Russia or USA) would be able to fund such a mission-and we'll all eventually benefit from it. It's not all about the science, it's also about the people, because in the end, such experiments will bring qualitatively new data about the Earth and this will, of course, lead to new discoveries and finally, to new technologies based on them. And that's the beauty of fundamental science-your money always come back in the form of a shiny and totally useless new gadget-like cell phones, laptops or a brand new flying machine. And that's so exiting!

Earth Explorer mission GOCE launches

March 17th, 2009
This afternoon, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) was lofted into a near-Sun-synchronous, low Earth orbit by a Rockot launcher lifting off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia.

With this launch, a new chapter in the history of observation in Europe has begun. is the first of a new family of ESA satellites designed to study our planet and its environment in order to enhance our knowledge and understanding of Earth-system processes and their evolution, to enable us to address the challenges of . In particular, GOCE will measure the minute differences in the Earth's around the globe.

The Russian Rockot launcher, derived from a converted ballistic missile, lifted off at 15:21 CET (14:21 GMT) and flew northward over the Arctic. About 90 minutes later, after one orbital revolution and two Breeze-KM upper-stage burns, the 1052 kg spacecraft was successfully released into a circular polar orbit at 280 km altitude with 96.7º inclination to the Equator. The launch was procured from Eurockot Launch Services, a German/Russian company based in Bremen, Germany.

Contact with GOCE was established via ESA's tracking station in Kiruna, Sweden, shortly after separation. The spacecraft is now under the control of ESA's teams at its European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

GOCE was selected in 1999 as the first Earth Explorer Core Mission under ESA's Living Planet Programme. The satellite was developed by an industrial team led by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy. EADS Astrium Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, provided the platform. Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, developed and integrated the main instrument using ultra-precise sensors developed by Onera of France. A total of 45 European firms have contributed to the building of the satellite.

For 24 months, GOCE will collect three-dimensional gravity data all over the globe. The raw data will be processed on the ground to produce the most accurate map of the Earth's gravitational field to date and to refine the geoid: the actual reference shape of our planet.

The main payload instrument is a state-of-the-art Electrostatic Gravity Gradiometer incorporating six highly sensitive accelerometers, mounted in pairs along three perpendicular axes on an ultra-stable carbon-carbon structure. The mission will measure not gravity itself but the tiny differences in gravity between the accelerometer pairs 50 cm apart.

The data collected by GOCE will yield accuracy of 1 to 2 cm in the geoid altitude and 1 mGal for the detection of gravity-field anomalies (mountains, for instance, usually cause local gravitational variations ranging from tens of milligals to approximately one hundred). The spatial resolution will be improved from several hundreds or thousands of kilometres on previous missions to 100 km with GOCE.

The spacecraft also incorporates two low-power xenon ion engines, one primary and one backup, each able to deliver 1 to 20 milli-Newtons of thrust (the force equivalent to our exhaling). These thrusters will be used to make real-time compensation for atmospheric drag, based on the mean acceleration detected by the two accelerometers mounted along the velocity axis.

The spacecraft's structure and design were also optimised to filter out all kinds of disturbance, by using ultra-stable materials to limit thermal cycling effects, without any deployable or moving parts.

Over the coming six weeks, the teams from ESA and its industrial partners will check and commission GOCE. The spacecraft will then be transferred to its operational orbit at 263 km altitude and its payload will undergo a further six weeks of commissioning and calibration. Mission operations are scheduled to start in summer 2009.

The mapping of the Earth's gravity field with such precision will benefit all branches of Earth science.

GOCE is the first Earth Explorer Core Mission under ESA's Living Planet Programme which was initiated in 1999 to foster research on the Earth's atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and interior, their interaction and the impact of human activities on these natural processes. Two more Core Missions, selected to address specific topics of major public concern, are already under development: ADM-Aeolus for atmospheric dynamics (2011), and EarthCARE to investigate the Earth's radiative balance (2013). Three smaller Earth Explorer Opportunity Missions are also under preparation: Cryosat 2 to measure ice-sheet thickness (2009), SMOS to study soil moisture and ocean salinity (2009) and Swarm to survey the evolution of the magnetic field (2011). source

GOCE satellite: Critical operations ongoing

March 19th, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- After liftoff 17 March, ESA's GOCE spacecraft is performing very well, having achieved an extremely accurate injection altitude of 283.5 km, just 1.5 km lower than planned. The Mission Control Team is now working round-the-clock shifts to implement a series of critical check-out procedures.

During the three-day LEOP, on-board flight control systems will be thoroughly checked-out and the spacecraft brought step-wise through several modes of operation to achieve a stable, fully functioning status.The spacecraft is currently in Coarse Pointing Mode, the most basic level of functioning, which was entered immediately after separation from the launcher.

Today's work includes preparing the spacecraft to switch to Extended Coarse Pointing Mode (ECPM), which enables a higher level of autonomous flight control; this is scheduled for 20:00 CET this evening.

ECPM also includes orienting the satellite so as to minimise the cross-section exposed to the atmosphere, thus limiting altitude decay. As planned, GOCE is orbiting in free flight and the electric-ion propulsion has not yet been switched on.

Another crucial LEOP step is calibrating the on-board magnetometers, which enable full attitude control to be established; this was done overnight.

Later today, the team will issue commands to switch on the Satellite-to-Satellite Tracking Instrument - a state-of-the-art GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) receiver on board GOCE that has been specially adapted to operate in a low-Earth orbit environment. As well as supporting scientific data analysis, the SSTI will also provide real-time navigation data to the on-board orbit control system. source


A nice BBC site with pretty scheme of what GOCE will do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Climate 04.2009-the efficiency stikes back

Today:
  1. Greenpeace: Forests could collapse carbon markets
  2. EU at odds over priorities for 'green stimulus'
  3. EU endorses new energy labels
  4. EU backs regional funding for energy-saving housing
  5. MEPs push back deadline for zero-energy buildings
Quote of the day:"And while I do belive that if you pour enough money into any science, something will eventually grow out of it, it's not the best use of the European money."

Greenpeace: Forests could collapse carbon markets

31 March 2009

Carbon markets would collapse if forest protection credits were to be included in international emissions trading, Greenpeace warned world leaders gathering for the first official round of UN climate talks in Bonn.

Launching a new report in the sidelines of the meeting yesterday (30 March), the green NGO said carbon prices would crash by up to 75% by 2020, falling from €16.05 per tonne of carbon to €3.9, under current reduction targets, if "relatively abundant" forest offset credits are included in the carbon markets. Even if the number of credits were more limited, the price of carbon would still devalued by 60%, it stated.

According to Greenpeace, a strong carbon price is essential to stimulate investment in clean and renewable technologies. Low prices would delay necessary infrastructural changes needed to keep global warming below 2°C, the NGO said.

The report demonstrates that unrestricted supply of forest credits would halve the production of credits from energy and industrial emissions reductions in China, India and other developing countries. It stressed that China alone would lose around $10-100 billion per year in clean energy and technology investments.

The NGO has taken a strong stance by insisting that developed countries should meet three-quarters of their emissions reduction obligations at home.

The EU has adopted a wary approach to using forest credits as part of international carbon trading. Instead, the European Commission has proposed the development of a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism, a financing mechanism whereby developing countries would be compensated for their efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation (EurActiv 20/10/08).

Artur Runge-Metzger, the Commission's chief climate negotiator, said the Commission is "very critical" about including forest credits to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) (EurActiv 23/02/09). "We think we should keep forestry aside for the moment" he said. The European Parliament, on the other hand, has pushed for including forests in the EU ETS (EurActiv 10/10/08). source

My comment: I also think that forests must be kept outside ETS for the moment but still it should be accounted for them in some form. There must be a major incentive for keeping the forests safe! Because the situation is quite critical in countries like mine. And I of course agree that each member-state should meet the bigger share of its reduction at home. Otherwise, we'll see a major money flow to third-world countries, but instead of helping the people there, they will pour directly into corporative pockets owned by Europeans. It's the law of conservation of money.

EU at odds over priorities for 'green stimulus'

2 April 2009

The European Parliament's industry committee has challenged the EU executive over its choice of green projects to be funded under the EU's economic recovery plan, calling for investment in energy efficiency and smart cities instead of carbon capture and storage.

The Commission originally proposed to spend €3.5 billion of the €5 billion recovery plan on gas and electricity interconnections, offshore wind and carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstrations.

EU member-state representatives in the Council of Ministers increased the energy funding to €3.98 bn, but did not touch the project list (EurActiv 20/03/09).

MEPs voting on the proposal on Tuesday (31 March), however, said any money not committed before 1 September 2010 should "immediately be redirected to projects in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energies". They argue that projects such as CCS are unlikely to reach a stage of maturity whereby they could absorb all the investment by that time.

The industry committee wants to see the leftover money support renewables and energy savings, particularly in cities. Governments expect any unspent funds to be returned to their budgets after the implementation period of the recovery plan elapses in 2010.

The Czech Presidency and industry committee MEPs will now start informal talks. The Parliament has full powers as a co-legislator on the file, but it is in a hurry to reach an agreement before a vote, scheduled for the beginning of May, to seal the deal before June elections.

Vis said the Commission had chosen to support CCS and offshore wind because they are "technologies down the road that are not competitive yet" but have a lot going for them.

"The case for arguing smart cities as needing to come from European funds is just harder to make, because there isn't that transnational character. In the case of an offshore wind farm off the coast of Denmark, Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands, you can envisage connectors to all of those countries. There's a clearly transnational interest," Vis argued.

Nick Robins, head of the climate change centre at HSBC Bank, offered a comparison of economic stimuli being adopted in the EU and the US, saying that investment in renewables was conspicuously absent from European recovery plans.

On the same day, the Commission announced it would spend €15 million in 2009 to promote efficiency and renewables investments in buildings and urban transport under the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) Programme. source

My comment: There is something creepy in justifying major investments in nonsense projects with their internationality. Or maybe I should use the word "soviet" instead of "creepy". Because let's face it CCS is important, but not that important and way far from anything meaningful. And while I do belive that if you pour enough money into any science, something will eventually grow out of it, it's not the best use of the European money. We must focus on efficiency and improving renewables, not in ways to capture the CO2 from coal-burning. And while the wind farms are ok, because they are really efficient, the CCS is not.

EU endorses new energy labels

2 April 2009

The EU stepped up its energy-efficiency policy by upgrading the energy labelling system for household electrical products and agreeing new energy-performance standards on Tuesday (31 March).

Member-state representatives agreed a new energy label layout for televisions, fridges, freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, based on the existing A-G energy efficiency classes. The meeting of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulatory Committee endorsed a European Commission proposal to "go beyond A", as most products have ended up in the 'A' category over the years as a result of technical development.

Consequently, additional classes will be added to the top class, so that "A-20%", for example, indicates that the product consumes 20% less energy than a traditional 'A class' product.

The new labels will be phased in progressively for different products.

Consumer groups ANEC and BEIC, however, slammed the new scheme. They said the new label is "misleading and unclear", and said consumers clearly preferred the straightforward A-G label.

At the same meeting, the committee also approved new minimum energy-efficiency standards for televisions and large household appliances under the Eco-design Directive.

From July 2010, only televisions that are more efficient than the current average are allowed to be sold on the internal market. From 1 April 2012, this efficiency requirement will rise by a further 20%.

For refrigerators and freezers, the current energy classes of B, C and below will be taken off the market by 1 July 2010, with Class A following by 2012. In 2014, only the most efficient products will be allowed to be sold.

Washing machines with lower ratings will be banned by 2010, and the current Class A will be faced out by 2013.

According to the Commission, the measures will save the EU 51 TWh of electricity annually by 2020, the equivalent of annual electricity consumption of Portugal and Latvia.

Green groups, nevertheless, criticised the EU for rushing through unambitious legislation before the elections (EurActiv 12/03/09). source

My comment: Wow! That's quite good legislation. Yeah, it always can be even better, but if in 3 years, only class A appliances will be sold, that's a major step in the right direction! Seriousle, that's absolutely cool. Because it will urge producers to start making better and more efficient stuff. I like it!

EU backs regional funding for energy-saving housing

3 April 2009

The European Parliament yesterday (2 April) approved measures to extend Community regional funding available for co-funding energy-efficiency and renewable energy schemes in housing to all member states.

The rule changes, proposed by the European Commission in December 2008, amend the Regulation on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which currently only funds energy-efficient housing schemes in the 12 countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007.

Once in force, the new rules will allow all member states to use their allocations to co-fund projects like the installation of solar panels in housing, or retrofitting houses with wall insulation, double glazing and more efficient boilers.

The decision will not bring any new money to the Community cohesion budget, but allows member states to "shift their priorities," according to the Parliament.

The EU assembly and the Council agreed to restrict spending by individual member states on energy-efficient housing to 4% of their ERDF allocations. The new EU countries, however, will be able to fund other types of housing programmes, bringing their total spending opportunities to 6% of their allocations.

Moreover, EU lawmakers broadened the scope of the original proposal, which was meant to apply strictly to low-income households. Instead, decisions on which categories of housing are eligible for funding are left up to national governments.

The potential is in any case substantial, as buildings are responsible for around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. The Commission estimates that the Union could cost-effectively save 28% energy in this area by 2020. source

My comment: I so dream of a solar panel on our house. That would be absolutely cool. I hope some day, even in Bulgaria they start funding such devices. Instead of giving European money to Turkish companies to build Bulgarian high-ways, for which in the end, they will of course charge us.

MEPs push back deadline for zero-energy buildings

1 April 2009

MEPs in the Parliament's industry committee yesterday (31 March) backed legislation that would require all new buildings in Europe to produce their own renewable energy by 2019, asking for a big push in public financing for energy-efficient buildings.

Amending the European Commission's proposal for the recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) (EurActiv 14/11/08), the Parliament's industry committee adopted a report by socialist MEP Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (Romania).

They attached conditions for zero-energy buildings, while the Commission originally only proposed that member states should draw national plans, which specify targets for increasing the minimum percentage of buildings which consume low or zero energy. MEPs, however, argued that as of 2019, member states must ensure that all new buildings have zero primary-energy consumption.

The Parliament's definition of zero-energy buildings is buildings "where, as a result of the very high level of energy efficiency of the building, the overall annual primary energy consumption is equal to or less than the energy production from renewable energy sources on site".

The buildings would consequently produce their own energy using renewable energies like solar panels while minimising energy-loss with better insulation, double-glazing and similar measures.

Concerning existing buildings, member states should set intermediate targets for minimum percentages of zero-energy buildings by 2015 and by 2020, the committee agreed.

Moreover, all buildings undergoing a "major renovation" will have to upgrade to minimum energy-performance requirements, according to the report. Smart meters should be installed at the time of renovation and as a default for new buildings, it said.

The minimum energy-performance requirements will, however, only apply to buildings of certain size and not to every individual household. Member states can exempt stand-alone buildings with a total useful floor area of less than 50 m2 from the rules.

WWF regretted that the provisions for new buildings were not as ambitious as many of the tabled amendments to the report.

The committee also added provisions requiring the EU to step up existing financial means to promote energy-efficient building.

If adopted, the amendments would require member states to submit national action plans by 30 June 2011, detailing the financial instruments they plan to use to improve the efficiency of their buildings. These could include low-interest loans, fiscal rebates on income, property taxes or obligation for energy suppliers to assist their customers on financial matters, MEPs said. source

My comment:Hmm, that sounds pretty ambitious if you ask me. It will require quite an investment so that all the buildings can produce their own energy, not to mention how happy the state energy monopolist would be from such an amendment. I hope the adopt it :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Research in Europe, 03.2009-the invasion of idiots

Today:
  1. Commissioner warns against 'research protectionism'
  2. OECD lashes out at university 'conservatism'
  3. EIT launches first call for proposal
  4. Parliament slams Spain over unchecked urbanisation
Quote of the day:"I'll tell you what-we have to abolish science and leave science fiction do the work-after all, it's so much easier to understand something in a novel, than in an article." Just read the second article and you'll find out what drove me so mad!

Commissioner warns against 'research protectionism'

26 March 2009

The development of the European Research Area (ERA) must be defended against nationalism if Europe is to have an efficient and cooperative research infrastructure, according to European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik.

At a research infrastructure conference in Prague yesterday (March 25), Potočnik said cooperation between member states on major projects is essential if the EU is to address the "fragmentation and duplication" of research, which has led to resources being wasted.

Referring to the free movement of knowledge as the "fifth freedom” of the EU – in addition to goods, people, services and capital – the commissioner said "the growing and developing ERA must be defended from research protectionism".

Potočnik acknowledged that research infrastructure is complex and expensive, saying it can be mutually beneficial for member states to invest jointly in major long-term projects as these are often "simply beyond the reach of one region, one nation or even one continent".

He pledged to put in place a legal framework for research infrastructure which would allow faster construction and more efficient operation.

Potočnik highlighted a number of examples of cooperation, including the new International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Portugal, which is a shared project between Portugal and Spain. Both countries will benefit from any innovations in nanomedicines and nanomachines that are produced at the institute. source

My comment: Mmm, I don't think there is a great deal of nationalism in Research (except in Russia, probably). Research just can't function this way, because we rely too much on collaborations-simply there are not enough specialists in every field in one country, to get the work done. So I don't think we're so endangered, but then, it wouldn't hurt to give some encouragement and publicity to the good projects. And the truth is that most installation modern science needs are really quite expensive, so one country can never build it in not-war time.

OECD lashes out at university 'conservatism'

31 March 2009

Traditional university faculties are too conservative and are standing in the way of progress, as Europe's education system struggles to become more innovative, according to the head of the OECD's Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.

Dirk Van Damme said the current system of dividing knowledge into faculties should be broken up if Europe is to move to a new education system capable of equipping students with critical skills.

"We should abolish faculties in universities. Faculties are the most conservative bulwarks against change. Europe must move to a radically different trans-disciplinary approach. Most of the interesting things happen on the boundaries of the discipline," he said.

Speaking at a European Policy Centre debate entitled 'Beyond chalk and talk: Creativity in the classroom', which is part of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, Van Damme said Europe's economic and social progress is due to the quality of its educational system.

"Compared to Japan and even China, European schools are much more innovative. Japan teaches hierarchy and respect, whereas European schools teach us to challenge convention."

However, he expressed concern that education ministries in the EU are attempting to "squeeze" ever-increasing amounts of information into curricula when a more balanced approach would be more beneficial.

He also stressed the importance of quality in education and teacher education, warning that the push towards greater innovation in education would result in mediocrity if greater emphasis is not placed on excellence. source

My comment: Oh, so hot subject for me. Now, let's start lashing out! I always wonder how people who have nothing to do with science stand up and tell us how to do science better! Does this make any sense? Not for me. What the hell means faculties must be abolished! Yes, the greatest stuff happen where disciplines meet, but that's because good specialists from 2 fields meet to do something cool. Had those people not have been specialists in their fields, nothing good would ever come out! When politicians will start asking scientists how science is done! No, we don't need physicists and biologists, we need physico-biology-chemistry-Sanscrit-Old Testament specialists. We have to abolish not only faculties, we have to abolish Universities too, because they are way to elitists, we have to abolish scientific language, because it's too hard to understand, we, of course, must abolish formulas, because they are so difficult to type and poor politicians can never read them without bunch of crazy scientists helping them. I'll tell you what-we have to abolish science and leave science fiction do the work-after all, it's so much easier to understand something in a novel, than in an article. Oh, I love science fiction. But some people have to understand science is not about ideas, nor about shiny stuff that they can sell. Science is about hard and quite dull work, lots of patience and devotion in order to get something out of nothing. And scientists need an environment in which to work. This environment are Universities, Institutes, Faculties, Joint Groups and ever other form of collaboration you figure! We need the stuff. I agree even in our University, there are too many departments in our Faculty and pure science gets drowned in bureaucracy, but that doesn't mean we have to join the Faculty of Letters! That's nonsense.

EIT launches first call for proposal

3 April 2009

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has invited applications for its first Knowledge Innovation Communities (KICs). The move is designed to foster partnerships between business and academia, and should create new business for large companies, SMEs and start-ups.

The EIT said development of new partnerships between the higher education, research and business sectors will bring new technologies to market, and the successful candidates will benefit from a range of EU funding programmes and loans from the European Investment Bank. KICs will also be expected to attract funding from the private sector.

The first KICs will be selected by January 2010 and are expected to bring together researchers in the fields of climate change, energy efficiency and information society.

Successful proposals must demonstrate innovation, a high degree of integrated partnership and drive new interactions in the fields of technology, culture, business and design.

These priorities were identified two years ago, but it is not yet clear whether they will be dealt with in a particular order. source

My comment: That was just for your information. If you intend to send proposal to EIT that is :)

Parliament slams Spain over unchecked urbanisation

27 March 2009

Spain is not doing enough to protect communities and the environment from abuse by developers, constructors and local government involved in its property sector, the European Parliament said yesterday (26 March).

It suggested in a report that the European Union freeze 35.1 billion euros of aid funds earmarked for Spain in 2007-2013 until it rectifies the abuse.

"Local authorities have frequently given excessive powers to property developers and town planners at the expense of communities and residents of the area," said the report , presented by Green MEP Margrete Auken.

The report, which was approved by 349 votes to 110, calls on Spain to suspend all new real estate developments which do not guarantee respect for private property and the environment.

The document is the Parliament's third formal criticism of Spain's property sector, which Greenpeace said was burying its coastline under concrete at a rate of three soccer pitches a day in 2007.

Built-up areas up to 2 km (1.25 miles) inland from Spain's coastline grew by 22 percent between 2000 and 2005, twice as fast as between 1987 and 2000, according to sustainability observatory OSE, cited on Monday by newspaper El Pais.

Court cases involving councillors and mayors charged with illegally re-zoning land in lucrative deals with property developers regularly appear in Spanish national news. Spain's current recession, its worst in decades, has been aggravated by the collapse of a raging property boom. source

My comment: Oh, yeah! This is hardly a surprise and I sincerely hope they do freeze the money for Spain. And not because I don't like Spain-it's one of my favourite vacation spots. But everyone who has visited Spain's coast will see that it's all about concrete. There are no natural beaches, everything is artificial and made for profit. And while this isn't bad by default, it's killing off the Nature there and that's totally wrong. They are changing even the landscape, by using small mountains for construction material. Just go there and consider the situation for yourself. I didn't like what I saw and I definitely think that the EU should be equally strict when it comes to the Nature with all of its member-states, be it Romania or Spain.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Business in Europe-patents and agriculture, 03, 2009

Today:
  1. Business leaders want 'European Skills Pact'
  2. Patent litigation reform to cut costs for SMEs
  3. Lawmaker seeks Chinese funds for European SMEs
  4. Europe warned about looming food import surge
  5. Commission wants to scrap 'throw-away' culture
Quote of the day: "We should start exporting angry french farmers for Russia's Far East!" (4)

Business leaders want 'European Skills Pact'

27 March 2009

A key report launched yesterday (26 March) at the European Business Summit urges governments to pay to train workers who would otherwise be laid off, in an effort to address the yawning skills gap that is opening up across Europe.

Under the proposed plan, companies considering lay-offs or putting staff on shorter working weeks can apply for public funds to boost the skills of their staff.

The report on skills and innovation, conducted by business school INSEAD, shows Europe faring well in basic skills and literacy but paints a grim picture of Europeans' ability to compete in the "global knowledge economy".

The study stressed that high levels of education alone are no guarantee of sustainable competitiveness.

The report, calls for a 'European Skills Pact' between Europe's educators, employers, investors, policymakers and citizens and sets out six priority actions which should be taken immediately:

  • Launch a Europe-wide private-public alliance to ensure the re-skilling of excess labour in times of crisis;
  • Re-focus the European Structural Funds earmarked for training and re-training in 2007-2013 towards the sectors most likely to contribute to Europe's competitiveness in post-crisis times;
  • Identify and scale-up successful public-private initiatives and partnerships (such as JetNet) aimed at stimulating young people's interest in mathematics, science and careers in engineering, information and communications technologies and environmental protection;
  • Enhance and develop high-level business-university partnerships to generate the 'Global Knowledge Economy' skills which Europe needs to realise the benefits of its Lisbon strategy and be a leader in innovation;
  • Encourage skills mobility within Europe, as well as between Europe and other parts of the world, and;
  • Foster innovative approaches to education, including through e-learning and distance learning, competition and innovation.source

My comment: Not too much to say. Obviously they are right and these things are important. But in the end, if those workers who would be fired don't have money for basic products, they won't be very good students. In fact, they won't care about studying. So I think much more should be done for guaranteeing the living needs of people and then we must try to educate them further. Actually, much better might be, those workers to be educated not in schools, but in another companies-this way the country might help companies to diversify their employees while keeping their production, to educate people and still, to provide people with enough money to survive. Which in the end would mean that the state will pay for example half the salary of those people.

Patent litigation reform to cut costs for SMEs

25 March 2009

The European Commission is seeking powers from EU member states to conclude an agreement on a Unified Patent Litigation System (UPLS), which would establish a court with jurisdiction for existing European patents and the future Community patent system.

The move has been presented as a boost for SMEs and private inventors, for whom the current system can be complex and costly.

According to the Commission, the UPLS will increase legal certainty, reduce costs and improve access to patent litigation for businesses.

In a statement , the Commission added that the proposed court system would support growth and innovation by allowing prompt settlement of disputes over intellectual property.

At present, patent holders seeking to protect their inventions throughout Europe may have to pursue parallel litigation in all countries where their patent is valid. This has led to considerable legal uncertainty in cases where courts in different member states issue contradictory judgements.

Under the UPLS, the ECJ would rule on preliminary questions raised by patent courts regarding the interpretation of EC law and regarding the validity and interpretation of acts from the Community institutions. The Commission will have to ensure that the rules of any draft agreement are consistent with the creation of a Community patent . source

My comment: Lovely. But until done, it's only a good idea. Anyway, I've said so much on patents. I just hope that this new court will really help small enterprises and inventors and not big companies. Because so far, Bigs are the only one to profit from patents.

Lawmaker seeks Chinese funds for European SMEs

24 March 2009

Irish MEP Gay Mitchell (EPP-ED) has called on the European Investment Bank (EIB) to persuade China to invest billions of euro in the bank, which would then be repaid through additional customs duties collected from increased trade.

Mitchell, who is the European Parliament's rapporteur on a joint report regarding the EIB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), said such a move would ease the pressure on member states struggling to adhere to the terms of the Stability and Growth Pact due to rising levels of borrowing.

Presenting his report in Strasbourg today (March 24), he called for a 'Marshall Plan' to help boost SMEs, adding that the EIB was well placed to kick-start economic recovery by releasing funds to small businesses.

He said EU inward investment in China was €7.1 billion in 2007, while China's inward investment in the EU was just €0.6 billion. Increased trade would benefit both, he added.

Mitchell welcomed the EIB's decision to boost lending to SMEs, which he said would help member states work their way through the financial crisis and highlighted the €310 million being made available at low interest rates to Irish businesses. source

My comment: That's quite interesting because we know that China is the biggest lender to USA. So from one side-this MEP obviously want China to lend also to Europe-something that I oppose-we don't need more fictional money we need more value to our production. On the other hand, if Europe invest so much in China, it's because they sell the production back to the EU. So, if the EU gives them back the money from duties, then, this is a fine way to support European companies! Fun, right?

Europe warned about looming food import surge

24 March 2009

Former EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler last week called on Europe to significantly contribute to world food security by fulfilling its "production potential", as the continent moves from being a net exporter of foodstuffs to become a net importer.

"Europe's role as provider of food to the world is diminishing," and as 2015 approaches, the EU is expected to move from being a net exporter to a net importer of wheat, oilseeds and other commodities, said Franz Fischler, chairman of the Forum on the Future for Agriculture, last week.

This means that "the EU capacity to help fight world starvation will be reduced at a time in which food production will decline predominantly in those countries which already record increasing food import needs," Fischler added.

However, he predicted that Europe will become a "more secure production location" in comparison to other parts of the world, where higher food prices are driving deforestation. "Consequently, Europe has to take responsibility to significantly contribute to world food security and also to combat global warming by utilising its production potential," Fischler argued, adding that there is good potential new land to be cultivated in Eastern Europe, for example.

Indeed, one of the main challenges threatening global food supply is the lack of quality soil, which is under growing stress due to increasing populations, accelerated urbanisation and diversion of irrigated water towards cities.

Meanwhile, Fischler said "new land is insufficient" due to potentially polluted soil, doubtful property rights, government mismanagement, lack of adequate transportation infrasturucture to get food to market or simply urbanisation. In order to meet world food demand, "the necessary production growth will to a large extent have to be met by a rise in the productivity of the land already being farmed today," he added.

Increased productivity should, however, go hand-in-hand with increased environmental protection as the climate, environmental and food crisis are interconnected, Fischler went on.

Fischler welcomed in advance the Commission's upcoming White Paper on adaptation to climate change and its annexed working paper on agriculture, which "apparently advocates strengthening the CAP to discourage unsustainable practices" and "deals with crops with existing varieties as well as biotechnology products, heat-tolerant livestock breeds and modifications in animal diet patterns". source

My comment: Those White Papers are kind of a disease :) They are everywhere! Anyway, I can't see the use of Europe being a net exporter of food. Especially when there is so much more arable land outside Europe. Think Russia for example. True, they never were agricultue country, but there is so much space on the East. Why not use it?! I suggest exporting angy french farmers to Russia's Far East. Think how beneficial would be for everyone-Russia gets European population to the China's dream-land, Europe gets rid of the angry farmers, and we can set a joint-venture with Russia to sell the production. And when the farmers get too naughty, they'll annoy mr. Putin :) Sometimes, I'm so smart, I scare myself!

Commission wants to scrap 'throw-away' culture

27 March 2009

The European Commission urged European business leaders gathered at a summit in Brussels yesterday (26 March) to empower Europeans to consume more sustainably by offering them affordable and recyclable products.

Speaking at the European Business Summit in Brussels, Jivka Staneva, a member of EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva's cabinet, made the case for sustainable consumption and production (SCP).

Introducing sustainable manufacturing and consumtion patterns "takes a long time," but Europe cannot afford to adopt a 'wait-and-see' attitude, Staneva stressed during a session on SCP and greening the supply chain.

Businesses need to design durable and recyclable products and communicate on the eco-benefits of their products to empower consumers to consume differently and to get rid of the current "throw-away" culture, Staneva said. Changing consumer behaviour is part of "modern consumer policy" and more sustainable general behaviour, she added.

"It is important to make the sustainable choice an easy choice," she underlined. Easy choices need clear and comparable product information and must be affordable, and sustainable choices should in no way be a "luxury option", Staneva insisted. source

My comment:Yeah, they probably should have started this initiative back home, where we have a garbage crisis in Sofia. And I didn't see even one official getting out and saying to people, "please, try to consume in a way you'll trow away the least, because we REALLY can't deal with the garbage now!". Fat chance! Anyway, I support with all my hand and legs the idea, because if you think how much garbage with produce-why wasting all those left-overs, when we can re-use them in thousands of ways!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Energy in the end of March, 2009

Today:
  1. Putin warns EU over Ukraine pipeline deal
  2. Russian-Azeri gas deal a blow to Nabucco
  3. Commissioner advertises Russian oil firm
  4. EU strikes deal on energy market liberalisation
A very good one. Especially the first 3 articles which are quite fun actually :) I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Putin warns EU over Ukraine pipeline deal

24 March 2009

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threatened yesterday (23 March) to review his country's ties with the EU after a European Commission plan to modernise Ukraine's gas pipeline system failed to include Moscow.

In Moscow, Putin called the EU-Ukraine gas pipeline modernisation plan, announced yesterday (23 March), "ill considered and unprofessional".

Hours before in Brussels, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko also blasted the agreement, signed earlier that day between Ukraine and EU representatives, and even warned that the plan may backfire, with serious consequences for European consumers.

The EU-Ukraine declaration, signed with Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko in Brussels, pledges assistance to modernise the country's 13,500 km pipeline system. Shelving his personal conflict with Timoshenko for the occasion, President Viktor Yuschenko also attended the conference, where a Ukrainian 'masterplan' for modernising the country's gas system was presented and hailed by the European Commission.

During his speech, Commission President José Manuel Barroso apparently irked Russia by calling Ukraine "a flagship in driving forward the Eastern Partnership initiative". Over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lashed out at the EU's new Eastern Partnership, set for its formal launch on 7 May, describing the pact as an attempt by the EU to spread its "sphere of influence," a criticism which he said his country often stands accused of itself.

Valeri Golubev, deputy chairman of Gazprom's management committee, joined Shmatko in warning that the Commission's plans to modernise the Ukrainian gas system by isolating Russia will trigger "double expenditure" at the expense of the consumer. Golubev also called for any such effort be channelled via the consortium between Gazprom and Ukrainian gas monopoly Naftogaz, in which both sides hold 50%. Additional EU shareholders could also join, he said. The consortium was set up as part of the agreement that ended the January gas crisis.

Both Shmatko and Golubev expressed reservations regarding the idea of setting up a single entity in charge of gas transportation through Ukraine. They also described as "unrealistic" the cost estimates for the modernisation of Ukraine's pipeline system, which the EU and Ukraine valued at 2.5-3 billion euros. source

My comment: As you know I tend to support Russia in their row with Ukraine. But at this occasion, I find their behaviour quite premature. It's absurd to leave conferences in protest, because your country wasn't mentioned as very important. Or to be angry that the EU is spreading its influence, especially when you do the same all the time (and when this is more or less normal). This isn't the behaviour that one would expect for such a big and important country. Who cares what's in that document, if it's unrealistic anyway. If you want to be respected, you must behave in a respectful and self-dignified manner. And I find the whole situation quite shameful. Though, I agree, it's odd to pour money into a country that's not a EU member, especially when it has problems with your biggest supplier. And it's not very smart, neither. Not to mention that the whole problem was never due to the state of the pipes in Ukraine-it was about unauthorised use of gas, transparency problems and the lack of satisfying payments for both sides. How this new European initiative will deal with those problems?

Russian-Azeri gas deal a blow to Nabucco

1 April 2009

Gazprom and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan last week signed a memorandum of understanding for long-term supplies of Central Asian gas to Russia at market prices, further undermining the EU's favoured Nabucco pipeline, analysts said.

According to a Gazprom press release, the parties committed to "massive long-term cooperation" after an agreement was reached on 27 March to settle the terms of Azerbaijan's gas sales to Russia.

First deliveries are expected in January 2010 on delivered-at-frontier terms, according to the Memorandum of Understanding.

Pavel K. Baev, a senior researcher from the Oslo International Peace Research Institute, suggests that the project could make Nabucco irrelevant as Azerbaijan is seen as the most likely first gas supplier for Nabucco.

Behind the signed agreement lies a pipeline project, Baev said, which like Nabucco could also be named after an opera, such as 'Prince Igor' by Alexander Borodin. The pipeline would channel Russian gas together with supplies from Azerbaijan towards south-eastern Europe, via the planned South Stream pipeline and under the Black Sea, from Novorossiysk to Varna in Bulgaria.

Agata Loskot-Strachota, an energy policy analyst at the Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw told EurActiv that sales of Azeri gas to or via Russia would reduce the volumes available for rival pipelines such as Nabucco and weaken the incentive to get involved with them.

"Azerbaijan is forcing both EU and Russia to issue more concrete and commercially attractive offers. This means that the time is running out for those European consumers or companies, who want to have Azeri gas shipped to the EU independently of Russia," the Polish researcher concluded. source

My comment: I don't think this article is very well stated. When you have two competing projects, it makes sense that the their supporters will compete for resources. So, the EU should have been quicker and we should have made a better offer. We didn't so we lost. You can blame your rival for playing smarter than you. And in any case, I prefer Turkey out of the European gas grid, because they already showed signs of black mailing the EU with those projects. And that's not acceptable for me. And shouldn't be acceptable for Europe. So, I find this news for quite good. Even if it means more dependency on Russia. And in any case, the way out of the dependency isn't by finding new sources, but by using new resources-like wind, energy and water-which we have in abundance. And the whole story might help Iran, so one good possible outcome!

Commissioner advertises Russian oil firm

27 March 2009

In an attempt to convince a Russian oil firm executive that the EU is not trying to limit his country's capital investment in the Union, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in fact ended up advertising that firm at a public event held in Brussels yesterday (26 March).

Speaking at the European Business Summit, Piebalgs surprisingly complimented his fellow panelist, Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov, saying that the many Lukoil filling stations in Brussels sell the cheapest petrol.

"If I go now with my car, I will go to the Lukoil petrol station, because it's the best price in Brussels. So it's not true that we are hampering Russian investment," Piebalgs said.

Lukoil, which has recently taken over the entire activity of Conoco-Philips in Belgium and Luxembourg - 157 filling stations - indeed claims that it sells the cheapest petrol on the market. However, if prices are strictly compared, then this is not always true, as can be seen on a specialised website .

Alekperov had attacked the EU for keeping mutual investment in oil and gas sector very low. But Piebalgs countered this, saying that the two sides sometimes had "misunderstandings", but not in all areas.

"Where we have more understanding is [in the field of] electricity, with Russia following exactly in the same way as we do, and opened its market, and we have E.On, Fortum and Enel investing billions in the system, because they know how this market functions. On gas we have different approaches – well, let's find where this misunderstanding comes [from]," Piebalgs said.

"We are not against a common European policy in energy affairs. But we cannot fail to notice that such a policy is based on a stand-off between the EU, as a major consumer, and Russia as a supplier," Alekperov said.

Alekperov advocated the establishment of "fair oil prices".

"Maybe the time has come to put in place new price-setting mechanisms. Such will help reduce the financial bubble and increase the efficiency of markets," he said.

The Russian CEO also called for long-term contracts between suppliers and clients. "Only the coming closer of consumers and suppliers can prevent the transformation of the global economic crisis into a global energy crisis. This into a full extent applies to the relations between Russia and the EU," the Lukoil chief warned.

Piebalgs was challenged with questions on whether the EU was abandoning the Nabucco pipeline project, as that impression had remained following the latest EU summit (EurActiv 18/03/09). He made the point that the public was becoming obsessed with Nabucco, the importance of which was in fact minor. source

My comment: Lol! I fill in Lukoil too, but I'm not walking around and pledging my love for them :) That's so fun. That's definitely something a commissionaire should NEVER do. It's so humiliating anyway. We all know Lukoil is big. We don't have to be reminded all the time. Anyway, it's interesting that they look for long-term contracts. That could mean two things- they either know about new energy source that could make oil/gas very cheap or they want to discourage people into investing in such new sources. Because if we believe that renewables are so...unefficient, that means that gas/oil will only get more and more expensive with time, which obviously will mean long-term contracts are not a good idea. I think they finally have seen the new horizons :) And that's cool! Btw-how did they ever let in E.On and the rest in Russia? I mean, we have them in Bulgaria and it sucks. They don't invest into the grid, they only reap profits.

EU strikes deal on energy market liberalisation

25 March 2009

The European Parliament and the Czech EU Presidency reached a long-awaited agreement on the third energy package late on Monday night (23 March), strengthening consumer rights at the expense of full ownership unbundling.

The informal compromise deal, negotiated between MEPs in the Parliament's industry committee and the Czech EU Presidency, still needs approval by the full EU assembly and member-state representatives in the Council of Ministers.

Both the Parliament and Commission congratulated the Czech EU Presidency for tabling a "bold" compromise, although MEPs had previously expressed concern that other member states may not have seen eye-to-eye with the Czechs (EurActiv 19/02/09). Nevertheless, negotiators themselves had expressed optimism that the deal would be acceptable for all parties.

The Commission originally proposed two approaches. It said member states could either opt for full unbundling, requiring integrated energy companies to sell their grids to fully separate the production and transmission functions, or allow companies to retain their ownership of transmission systems, but let a separate body take over their operation.

MEPs insisted throughout the talks that full unbundling was the only option for electricity and supported a third option, involving a strong independent transmission operator, for gas. The Council, under pressured from France and Germany, said the third option should apply for both.

The Parliament finally gave in, and the compromise allows member states to choose between all three options.

Moreover, Morgan pointed out that European companies were effectively already going down the road of ownership unbundling.

In early 2008, German energy giant E.ON offered to sell-off its high voltage electricity grid to settle ongoing EU antitrust inquiries, in a surprise move that infuriated the German government.

The third energy package differs from the second in that it details the powers and roles of the national regulators. A deal breaker for the Parliament was that the independence of both the national regulators and the community-level agency overseeing their work was strengthened in the agreement.

Indeed, the agency will be tasked with following the 10-year network development plans to be submitted by national authorities and giving recommendations about them.

The third package will also establish a European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSOE) and gas (ENTSOG) to implement common codes and security standards, to facilitate cross-border trade by creating equal operating conditions in different member states.

The Parliament managed to insert strong obligations on consumer rights to the compromise text. Once the law enters into force, energy customers will be able to change their gas and electricity suppliers within three weeks free of charge, and have access to more information, independent mechanisms for treating complaints and compensation for service failures.

Energy poverty was also dealt with in the text, which requires member states to guarantee universal service to all household customers.

But the measures go still further: national governments will also have to protect vulnerable energy consumers and take "appropriate measures" to address energy poverty, including national energy action plans or social security benefits to ensure minimum energy supply to households.

The text also requires smart metering systems to be fitted to 80% of homes by 2020 as a way of enabling consumers to better monitor their energy use and to avoid peak hours. source

My comment: I must admit this sounds much better than before. Especially the national control and the pan-European grids. I'm almost sure it won't pass, because it requires too much from member-states as social mesures, something they really won't like, but it's better than before. And in the end, it was foolish to expect big companies to sell some of their assets just like that. Operation control, on the other hand is good enough depending of what it actually means.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Climate in March, 2009

Today:
  1. Climate inaction 'inexcusable', scientists tell leaders
  2. EU regions to get €105 billion for green projects
  3. UK to go ahead with domestic emissions scheme
  4. World leaders urged to link water to climate negotiations
  5. EU summit postpones climate decision until June
Enjoy!

Climate inaction 'inexcusable', scientists tell leaders

13 March 2009

A high-level scientific climate conference concluding in Copenhagen yesterday (12 March) delivered a tough message on the social and economic costs of failing to address climate change to world leaders expected to hammer a post-Kyoto global deal in December.

The message warns that the worst-case scenario predicted by the influential scientific body Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is presently unfolding, with mean surface temperature and sea-level rises, ocean and ice-sheet dynamics and extreme weather conditions beyond their natural patterns.

The scientists say there is no excuse for inaction, because there are already many tools available to act on climate change and help reduce future social and economic costs significantly. They pointed out that even modest climate change effects are putting poor nations and communities at risk.

There are also equity issues at stake, as people experience different consequences of global warming even within individual countries and regions, the conference concluded. As the burden faced by the current and future generations will be very different, the experts called for a "common but differentiated mitigation strategy".

The conference's goal was to give a comprehensive picture of climate research carried out in the last two years, since the publication of the latest IPCC report (EurActiv 09/03/09). Its conclusions will be delivered to world decision-makers ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference (COP 15) in December.

One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation of new findings showing that even the strictest greenhouse gas reduction targets can benefit the economy if supported by the right policies.

Barker said there is now evidence that stricter targets can improve innovation and speed up the distribution of low-carbon technologies, while increasing government revenues from taxes and permit sales. The money, he stated, could be used to pay for new technologies and to lower other indirect taxes, "ensuring the fiscal neutrality of these measures".

Scientists also presented positive evaluations of the viability of renewable energies. New research suggests that technologies such as wind and solar power could supply 40 percent of the world's electricity by 2050, if given adequate financial and political support. This contrasts sharply with previous estimations, which put the share of renewables at only 12% by 2030.

Without the required push, though, these technologies risk being marginalised to a share of around 15%, the scientists said. source
My comment: Not much to comment here, really, since it's all discussed and discussed. I posted it, because it gives a good overview of the situation in the moment. Also-note that there are no biodiesels and so on in the report-obviously people figured they are not a good idea. And, I think those 40% of renewables are quite low. The reality is that Nature provides unlimited amount of power, we only have to harvest it in a way we find economically and ethically justified. I personally think that major solar projects in the deserts should be avoided and it must be invested in housing solar panels and wind generators. But that would of course mean that people will produce their own electricity and that's not precisely the dream of any government in the world.

EU regions to get €105 billion for green projects

10 March 2009

The European Commission yesterday (9 March) announced it will back job creation by investing an unprecedented €105 billion in green projects under the EU's cohesion policy.

The 'green' funding takes up more than 30% of the regional policy budget for 2007-2013, almost three times as much as in the last budgetary period. The Commission hopes this will boost growth and create new jobs that are unlikely to flee to emerging economies such as China and India.

The lion's share of the money will be spent on helping member states to comply with EU environmental legislation. A further €48 billion will go on achieving Europe's climate objectives, including €23 billion for railways, €6 billion for clean urban transport, €4.8 billion for renewable energies and €4.2 billion for energy efficiency.

Research and innovation will also receive a boost, with €3 billion given to SMEs to help develop environmentally-friendly products and processes (EurActiv 10/07/08).

Meanwhile, MEPs yesterday (9 March) voted to extend EU regional development funding to energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy for housing to all member states.

Only new member states with low GDP per capita can currently use money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for projects like installing solar panels in housing or replacing old boilers with more efficient ones. The Parliament's regional development committee argued, however, that the financial crisis has created an impetus to changes to help create jobs in the building sector, while slowing down climate change by reducing energy consumption.

The new rules do not introduce any new money to the budget, but simply give all member states the option of spending up to 4% of their total ERDF allocation on efficiency and renewable energy schemes for houses. The full plenary is scheduled to vote on the initiative in April. source

My comment: Yeah, all very nice but if you think about it, the money won't go into research and implementation of new technology but of helping infrastructure and so on with exsisting or old technologies. It's all about the money, as Meja sings. And about propaganda if I may add. Why?Because for me investing in the green sector means investing into new projects that will significantly improve the use of renewables and/or the energy efficiency of buildings. Not rerouting public money to the public in a "green" manner.

UK to go ahead with domestic emissions scheme

13 March 2009

The UK is going ahead with a plan to make energy-intensive businesses, including banks, hotels and schools, cut their energy use and carbon emissions, the country's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said yesterday (12 March).

The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which includes all central government departments and local authorities, is a mandatory scheme that will help Britain cut greenhouse gas emissions by four million tonnes by 2020, the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road.

Yesterday, DECC published a guide to help affected businesses prepare for the scheme's start and the government launched a consultation for the next stages, it said in a statement.

"The CRC could help business save a total of one billion pounds ($1.38 billion) by 2020, whilst also helping them play their part in the fight against climate change," the UK's Energy and Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock said.

The scheme starts in April 2010, when some 5,000 British firms that spent over 500,000 pounds on electricity in 2008 must register and disclose their energy use and carbon footprints.

At the end of 2010, the companies will have to retroactively buy carbon allowances from the government to cover their emissions for that year.

Following that, businesses must buy allowances every April starting in 2011, based on their expected annual emissions.

The revenues raised will be recycled back to participants based on improvements made in energy use and emissions cuts.

The scheme will not affect installations already participating in the European Union's emissions trading scheme.

Britain's emissions in 2007, the latest figures available, were 639.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, already well within its Kyoto target of 12.5 percent below 1990 levels.

The UK has also committed to a further EU-wide goal to reduce 1990 levels by 20 percent by 2020 . source

My comment: I just have to point to the obvious. The make schools pay for their emissions but not steel-producers?! Ok, I'm guessing, but still most of the steel producers in Europe receive free allowences, does it sound fair? Not to me. The biggest polluters-the energy intensive sectors are free to pollute and the smallest polluters, like schools should pay?Hello!

World leaders urged to link water to climate negotiations

20 March 2009

Business leaders attending this week's World Water Forum called on the international community to acknowledge the link between water, energy and climate change, encouraging them to take these up in global climate negotiations that are expected to be concluded this December in Copenhagen.

Launching a new report yesterday (19 March), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) pointed to the "inextricable link" between water and energy.

Water is indeed used in the energy generation process as a coolant for nuclear power stations, for example, or as vapour to clean up heavy tar sands from which oil is extracted. Likewise, cleaning up water resources for later reuse consumes large amounts of energy.

With large greenhouse gas emissions, these industrial activities are important contributors to climate change.

Furthermore, global demand for both resources is on the rise as growing numbers of middle and high-income citizens need water and energy to power lavish lifestyles and particularly transport, swimming pools and green gardens, the report says.

However, some regions would feel the impact more intensely than others, it adds, urging world leaders due to meet in Copenhagen in December to agree a successor to the Kyoto protocol, to address water, energy and climate change as an interlinked issue in the UN negotiations.

Calls to make water an essential issue in the UN-led climate negations were echoed by conservationists. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) urged politicians at the World Water Forum to do more to protect the natural environment, arguing that rivers and wetlands offer vital services like clean drinking water and energy.

The organisation said climate change would be felt first via water, amid droughts, floods and rising sea levels. River basins and coasts in good condition could help people fend off impacts of climate change, it argued, stressing that investment in nature should therefore be included in all policies aimed at adapting to climate change.

The European Parliament's delegation to the forum argued that low political and financial priorities are the main hurdle on the way towards efficient water management, calling for the Copenhagen agenda to address water management, water resources and access to water for all. source

My comment: Indeed. Nothing more to say.

EU summit postpones climate decision until June

23 March 2009

Green activists strongly criticised heads of state and government for failing to put concrete sums on the table to help developing countries combat climate change at their meeting last week (19-20 March).

As anticipated, European leaders postponed until June a decision on the EU's position for global climate talks, which are scheduled to conclude in Copenhagen in December (EurActiv 18/03/09).

Meeting in Brussels for last week's spring summit, heads of state and government even appeared to dilute the conclusions drawn up by environment and finance ministers earlier this month by omitting references to potential financing mechanisms.

The summit conclusionsPdf external merely state that further discussions were needed on international financing mechanisms, and that leaders will determine "well in advance of the Copenhagen conference" the EU's stance on financing approaches, its specific contribution and "principles of burden sharing among member states".

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the European Union should make no commitment "while other nations, notably the United States and China," are not doing the same.

According to one minister, the principles of how the financial burden should be shared between EU member states, a major stumbling block for Poland (EurActiv 10/03/09), should be decided before June

NGOs said Europe was wasting precious time and needed to move faster to make sure that global warming doesn’t exceed 2°C, after which most scientists say its effects could become irreversible.

Greenpeace urged EU ministers to agree a concrete plan for climate financing during the Czech Presidency, and called on the G20 to put climate change higher on its agenda for its meeting in London on 2 April.

With the delays, however, it now seems that the Swedish Presidency, which assumes the EU helm from the Czechs on 1 July, will be left to finalise the EU's position for Copenhagen. source

My comment: Anyone surprised? Well, not me, certainly. But I must say that the Sweddish Presidency may be better into tackling the climate problems. Comparing them to the Czechs...But they must come to some decision at some point. Right?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nano safety finally becomes a priority

Today:
  1. EU food safety watchdog puzzled by nanotech risks
  2. Industry, NGOs at odds over nanotech regulation
  3. EU completes 16-year pesticide review
  4. Europe urged to curtail its water use
  5. EU wants ICT industry to cut emissions by 20%
I'm not sure how good are the good news, but those are somewhat good. EFSA seems to finally grasp the complexity of nano technology which is good. Read my comments for more info and ENJOY!

EU food safety watchdog puzzled by nanotech risks

6 March 2009

Uncertainties in detecting and measuring levels of nanomaterials could make risk assessment of some nano products extremely difficult, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The agency is calling for a case-by-case approach to determining the risks associated with engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), adding that there is limited knowledge of current usage levels and likely exposure products in the food area.

In its newly-published opinionPdf external on the potential risks arising from nanotechnologies in the food and feed chain, the food safety watchdog says available data on oral exposure to specific ENMs is "extremely limited".

EFSA recommends that additional research and investigation is needed to address the many current uncertainties and data limitations, with a particular focus on the following areas:

  • The interaction and stability of ENMs in food and feed, in the gastro-intestinal tract and in biological tissues;
  • The need for the development of routine methods to detect, characterise and quantify ENMs in food contact materials, food and feed, and;
  • Improvements of test methodologies to assess toxicity of ENMs (including reliability and relevance of test methods).

Prof Vittorio Silano, chair of EFSA's scientific committee, said the issue is a priority for the authority, announcing that an expert group will be established to monitor emerging scientific data. source

My comment: I absolutely agree with their opinion and a post that will be published soon in To The Future With Love will fill you on the latest research on nanotech safety. The found that approximately 76% of the genes are affected in no different way by nano particles, than by ordinary ones. However, some genes, connected with inflammation are not among this percent and what is even more important, as I said there, the difference between humans and monkeys is 2 % of the genes, so 76% really isn't enough to guarantee safety.

Industry, NGOs at odds over nanotech regulation

4 March 2009

A new study has revealed deep divisions on how nanotechnology should be regulated, with environmental lobby groups seeking a moratorium until products are proven to be safe, and industry proposing that specific guidelines be introduced to supplement existing regulations.

The comprehensive new reviewPdf external of existing legislation on nanotechnology, conducted by the FramingNano project, found variation in governance structures across the world and disagreement over whether voluntary codes of conduct will be enough to regulate nanomaterials.

NGOs, including GreenpeacePdf and Friends of the Earth , consider the existing regulatory situation to be inadequate and are urging a strictly precautionary approach.

Industry representatives are instead seeking the development of specific guidance and standards to support implementation of existing regulations, which are generally seen as adequate.

More than half the respondents to date have suggested that regulation on the use of nanomaterials in the production of chemicals and food is inadequate.source

My comment: Again, I also think there definitely should be new regulations on nanotech that account for their different nature and effect on humans and environment. It's not about banning new technology, but for providing a legal framework for its use.

EU completes 16-year pesticide review

16 March 2009

Detailed human health and environmental risk assessment of some 1,000 active substances authorised for use in pesticides before 1991 has led to the removal of more than two thirds of them from the market.

The risk assessment review evaluated each substance with respect to the health of consumers, farmers, groundwater and non-target organisms, such as birds, mammals, earthworms and bees.

According to the European Commission, there were around 1,000 active substances contained in tens of thousands of products on the market when the review was launched in 1993.

The review has led "to the removal from the market of more than two thirds of these substances," said Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, presenting the final results last week.

The majority of substances, about 67%, were eliminated because "dossiers were either not submitted, were incomplete or were withdrawn by the industry," the Commission said. Some 70 substances were withdrawn from the market because the evaluation revealed risks to human health and the environment.

Another 250 substances (26%) passed the harmonised EU safety assessment. A databaseexternal of the approved active substances is being launched today (16 March 2009).

Late last year, the European Parliament and the Council reached agreement on new market authorisation rules for pesticides proposed by the Commission in July 2006 (EurActiv 19/12/08). The regulation, set to enter into force later in 2009, replaces the 1991 Directive on market authorisation of pesticides, under which the sixteen-year review was conducted, and thus restarts the assessment process for substances that are currently authorised. source

My comment: I have discussed the new legislation and I do think it sucks, but it should be better than the old one and in the end, it would lead to something better. If you think about it, they could have banned all the hazardous substances back then, but that would meet very severe response from farmers mostly. Now, they have a little bit better chance to introduce such bans and people to accept them. Even if everything is absurdly lax.

Europe urged to curtail its water use

20 March 2009

European governments must adopt policies to control water demand as rising living standards have pushed the use of water resources beyond sustainable levels, according to a new study published ahead of the World Water Forum in Istanbul.

The report, from the European Environment Agency (EEA), reveals that Europe has so far concentrated on increasing the supply of water rather than exploring ways to limit its demand.

As a result, Southern Europe in particular is experiencing chronic water scarcity, but parts of the north are also under growing water stress, the EEA alleges. Climate change will only exacerbate the situation, it adds.

As people's incomes grow, activities like tourism can significantly increase water use during summertime, when water resources are most scarce, the report says. Taking Spain's Júcar River Basin as an example, it points out that 55 new golf courses are planned there in addition to the existing 19. Each golf course typically uses 500,000 m3 of water. On top of this, huge amounts of water are needed to fill up swimming pools for tourists, the EEA adds.

According to the agency, turning these courses into agricultural land would not use less water, but would bring far fewer economic returns. What Europe needs is "a sustainable, 'demand-led' approach to water resource management, focusing on conserving water and using it more efficiently," it concludes.

The report lists a number of efficient government policies to reduce water consumption, identifying making sure people pay for water according to volume as a first step, because in the past, EU agricultural policy in particular has subsidised unsustainable use.

Installing water meters in homes has already been proven an efficient means of reducing consumption in England and Wales, while modern domestic appliances can reduce water needs for acativities like flushing the toilet, which accounts for 25-30% of domestic water use alone, the report says.

But the agency does not stop here. Raising awareness is crucial in changing habits and lifestyles, it adds. Also, educating farmers on the right choice of crops and irrigation methods can substantially reduce agriculture's contribution to water stress, as the sector currently uses 24% of the water extracted in the EU.source

My comment: Absolutely correct. Unfortunately. I don't want to repeat myself, but people really don't realise how scarce water is and we can get ourselves into very ugly situation. I'm not sure what good do those forum serve, but at the point where governement realise they have a problem, they will use that forum's information. And as of all of us-we can economise water easily-shorters baths, no leaks, fix the toilet and always fill the washing mashines to the fullest.

EU wants ICT industry to cut emissions by 20%

13 March 2009

The European Commission wants the ICT sector to cut its CO2 emissions by 20% before 2015 in exchange for the benefits the industry is expected to reap from EU legislation on smart technologies to tackle climate change.

The ICT industry currently accounts for about 2% of global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to estimates by Gartner, a leading consulting firm. The figure is slightly lower than that for the aviation sector, which is in the process of being regulated by the EU via its introduction into the bloc's emissions trading scheme.

The Commission does not foresee binding targets for the ICT industry, but "recommends" the sector to "show the way for the rest of the economy by already reducing its own carbon footprint by 20% by 2015," saidInformation Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, commenting on a document adopted yesterday (12 March) by the EU executive on the issue (EurActiv 23/01/09).

Many major companies have already announced commitments to significantly cut their emissions. BT intends to reduce its carbon footprint by 80% by 2016, compared to 1996 levels.

Vodafone plans to halve its CO2 emissions by 2020, while Intel has announced plans to cut its carbon footprint by 20% by 2012. Handset makers, by contrast, are lagging behind somewhat: Motorola and Nokia have committed to 6% reductions by 2012 and 2010 respectively.

The investments that ICT companies are making to become greener will be offset by relevant savings and growing revenues resulting from smart technologies, a trend which the European Union is underpinning with its markedly pro-energy efficiency policies.

ICT can also reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 17% and the carbon emissions of transport logistics by 27%, believes the EU executive. Brussels is therefore working to broker a partnership between the ICT sector and other major energy-consuming sectors. source

My comment: No comment really. I hope they all do it, but people tend to forget that CO2 isn't the worst greenhouse gas. The pollution as a whole should be limited and energy efficiency maximised.

 

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