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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Environment in Europe, May, 2009-seal hunt banned

Today:
  1. Enforcement of EU renewables law 'faltering'
  2. EU votes to criminalise pollution at sea
  3. EU seal ban raises trade tensions with Canada
  4. Petrol stations asked to recover harmful emissions
  5. Further emissions fall predicted this year
Quote of the day:Seal hunt should have been completely banned unless it's for personal use under strict rules. I mean who needs seals?No one except for few sadistic ladies! Why the fuck should we kill them, then! And WTO can fuck off and die!

Enforcement of EU renewables law 'faltering'

30 April 2009

The European Commission insists that the EU's new Renewable Energy Directive gives it sufficient power to ensure national compliance, after it admitted that the Union is unlikely to meet its goal of sourcing 12% of its energy from renewables in 2010.

The Commission's latest progress report, published on 24 April, showed that member states have been making patchy progress towards their 2010 targets for the share of renewable energies in the electricity and transport sectors. It thus concluded that the EU would only reach a 19% share for electricity (instead of 21%), and 4% instead of 5.75% in the transport sector.

Germany leads the group of member states that have already reached their targets, but many countries continue to fall behind. In the electricity sector, for example, renewable shares have not grown at all, and in seven countries have even declined since 2004.

The Commission argued that cumbersome administrative procedures, grid access and lack of adequate support measures are to blame for member states' poor performance. It argued that an enhanced legislative framework is needed to overcome these well-known barriers.

The EU executive stated that with the recent Renewable Energy Directive agreed in December as part of a package of climate legislation (EurActiv 09/12/08), the Union is in a "far better position" to facilitate the development of renewable energy sources over the next 12 years.

The current directive mandates the Commission to start infringement proceedings against member states that fail to fulfil their obligations. It has initiated 61 legal proceedings since 2004, most of which were against Italy. 16 remain unresolved, with the new directive set to come into force next month.

Speaking at a sustainable energy seminar in Brussels, Dörte Fouquet, director of the European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF), argued that the lack of binding interim targets or penalty mechanisms are the weakest points of the new directive.

Hans van Steen, head of unit at the EU executive's transport and energy directorate, countered that the Commission did not share this assessment of the weaknesses. The major drawback, he said, is in the area of buildings and heating, not the lack of enforcement measures.

He said the directive clearly stated that member states were obliged to "introduce measures effectively designed to ensure that the share of energy from renewable sources equals or exceeds that shown in the indicative trajectory". If they fall behind their targets and these measures are not in place, the Commission can sue them. source

My comment: I agree that the problem is not transport, even if they kind of forgot about transport too. But if we have to be honest, the idea in transport was to rely on biofuels, which turned out not to be the greenest option. In some ways, they are even worst than fossil fuels. Although, I still think that if they use organic garbage, instead of growing the stuff on purpose, this could lead to solving two problems in one show-both decreasing the number of organic garbage and using it in our cars. But I guess that can meet some resistance in the mafias around Europe. Anyway, back to buildings, it's absolutely obvious that the problem is in the funding of civil buildings to go efficient and renewable. And the reason is quite obvious too-if every building in a city has a solar panel and a wind turbine, it would rely much less on state monopolists for its electricity. And who will lose from that? Of course, state monopolists and thus the state. And I think that's the nightmare of every prime-minister. And if people God forbids start using bio-fuels, instead of oil and gas, the taxes on fossil fuels will decrease and just imagine how much money the government will lose (and this is where the big money come-the taxes on fuels are HUGE!). That's why, I think the Commission has to decide its priorities. Are they striving for renewables (which will mean that they'll have to support both citizens nad governments in the transition) or do they want stronger members-state economies (in the sense more taxes and stronger monopolists->more money for the government). That's is the question!

EU votes to criminalise pollution at sea

6 May 2009

The European Parliament yesterday (5 May) adopted a new directive that forces EU countries to introduce criminal penalties for maritime pollution, whether caused deliberately or by negligence.

At their plenary session in Strasbourg, MEPs adopted the new directive by 588 votes in favour and 42 against, amid three abstentions.

The directive introduces compulsory criminal sanctions for serious cases of maritime pollution, and also forces member states to impose stringent penalties for minor cases if they are repeated, deliberately caused or the result of serious negligence.

The EU law leaves it to national governments to set the penalties, but requires them to be "effective and dissuasive", not only for ship-owners but also for the "other agents" involved in sea transport, such as cargo owners.

MEPs reached a first-reading agreement with the 27 EU member states last week, paving the way for a swift adoption of the rules, it added.

Following the vote, Luis de Grandes Pascual, a Spanish centre-right MEP (EPP-ED) who steered the proposal through the EU assembly, said Europe had "made a big step forward to stop maritime pollution".

Pascual explained that until now it has been "cheaper" for large shipping companies to pay fines rather than implement laws to prevent pollution. "This directive will help remove this unwelcome laissez-faire attitude towards pollution law from the maritime industry," he said. source

My comment: Well, I know my country isn't precisely an example of order and justice (not at all, actually), but I believe that in most cases this happens all over Europe. People simply buy the authorities to pretend nothing happened. And if you don't know something happened, you cannot enforce any compulsory penalties. Not to mention that in the rare cases when the public will find out about the pollution, the penalties will be too weak in most cases. Ok, I hope this is the pessimistic me. I do believe that the sea pollution must be heavily penalised. Because people think that if no one sees, there's no damage. They destroy the seas and oceans and think that they are too big to matter. Well, it does matter. And if our planet is mostly water, imagine what will happen if the water becomes devastated and toxic. How exactly could we live?

EU seal ban raises trade tensions with Canada

6 May 2009

The European Union and Canada clashed on Tuesday after EU lawmakers voted to ban imports of seal products into the 27-nation bloc, prompting Ottawa to threaten action in the world's top trade court.

If the ban adopted by the European Parliament fails to exempt humane and sustainable sealing, Canada pledged to launch a challenge at the World Trade Organisation, the global trade watchdog.

"If the EU imposes a trade ban on seal products it must contain an exemption for any country, like Canada, that has strict guidelines in place for humane and sustainable sealing practices," Canada's Trade Minister Stockwell Day said.

"If there is no such acceptable exemption, Canada will challenge the ban at the World Trade Organisation."

Canada, Greenland and Namibia account for around 60% of the 900,000 seals killed each year. The rest are killed in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Britain and the United States.

The animals are usually shot or bludgeoned over the head with a spiked club called a hakapik. Seal products include fur used in clothing and oil used in vitamin supplements.

The European Commission - which oversees EU trade policy - said "it is up to Canada to decide whether to take action," but Brussels had worked hard to meet WTO trade rules.Trade talks

The EU and Canada hold a meeting on Wednesday in Prague, but diplomats said the ban, affecting around 4.2 million euros ($5.6 million) of business, would not prevent the launch of talks on a bilateral pact worth at least $27 billion in additional trade.

"Both sides have politely agreed to avoid talking about the ban on Wednesday," an EU diplomat involved in preparing the summit told Reuters.

The 15 seal species now hunted are not endangered, but European politicians demanded action after finding what they said was evidence that many animals were skinned while still conscious.

Animal rights activists say the hunt is inhumane, and called the Parliament vote a "victory for seals".

The decision will become final after a vote by the European Council, which represents all 27 EU member states. A pre-agreement was reached between lawmakers in the Parliament and Council meaning the vote should only be a formality.

The European Commission had proposed a partial ban coupled with clear labelling of products to show they contain culled seals, but the Parliament said this was not enough.

There is an exemption for seal products from hunts conducted by the Inuit people in Canada, or by other indigenous communities. But the products must be for personal use and brought into the EU on a non-commercial basis.

The ban covers all so-called pinnipeds, which include walruses and sea lions. It takes effect within weeks and EU states must impose effective penalties for breaches. source

My comment: Gosh, why didn't they ban the whole seal hunt! Because now it looks like they did it for Norway, which sucks. I think we all have seen videos of what hunters do with the poor animals. I feel like crying only by thinking about it. This hunt should have been completely banned unless it's for personal use under strict rules. I mean who needs seals?No one except for few sadistic ladies! Why the fuck should we kill them, then!And WTO can fuck off and die!

Petrol stations asked to recover harmful emissions

6 May 2009

In a drive to protect human health and the environment from cancerogenic oil fumes which escape while cars are being refuelled, all new and renovated service stations will be obliged to equip their pumps with petrol vapour recovery technologies by 2012, according to EU legislation adopted yesterday (5 May).

MEPs adopted a Commission proposal for a directive laying down measures aimed at reducing the amount of petrol vapour emissions. The Commission tabled the proposal just five months ago, in early December 2008. Its swift first-reading adoption by the House follows an agreement reached in informal negotiations with the Council.

The new law requires so-called 'Stage II' petrol vapour recovery (PVR) technologies to be fitted to petrol pumps at all new or substantially renovated service stations with an annual petrol throughput of over 500 cubic metres. Others, except the smallest ones, will be obliged to install these technologies by 2018.

Member states are responsible for ensuring that the minimum level of vapour recovery of the new systems is equal to or greater than 85%. They are also expected to draw drivers' attention to recovery systems by labelling petrol pumps appropriately, and come up with rules on effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties in case of non-compliance.

Benzene is known to cause cancer, and contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone ('smog'), one of the most damaging air pollutants for human health and the environment.

According to the Commission, PVR equipment has already been installed in petrol stations in around half of EU countries, and the directive is now set to extend the technology to the rest of the EU 27. source

My comment: Hm, I haven't seen such equipment home, but I still think this is a wonderful idea. I cannot figure the extent of the damage the vapours do, but I think this will matter for the people working on the gas stations. And that's not little!

Further emissions fall predicted this year

6 May 2009

The ongoing economic recession is set to reduce EU carbon dioxide emissions more dramatically than expected in 2009, but carbon prices are expected to continue to rise, according to a Deutsche Bank report published yesterday (5 May).

The bank's analysts now estimate that EU industrial installations will emit 1.97million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 this year, revising its previous figures down by 50 Mt. This would be a 150 Mt fall from 2008 levels.

The analysts said that the steel and cement sectors would be particularly affected by the difficult financial conditions in 2009, and would see their emissions fall "significantly".

"With all the other industrial sectors also likely to suffer varying degrees of declining output, we think that an overall reduction of 150Mt is more consistent with the 3%-4% decline in 2009 eurozone and UK GDP now widely forecast," the bank's researchers said.

Deutsche Bank predicts that there will be a 92Mt surplus of EU allowances (EUAs) over the second trading period, between 2008 and 2012.

Despite this, the analysts expect the prices of EU allocations (EUAs) to rise over the course of the year, as power utilities start buying allowances ahead of 2013, when the revised EU emissions trading scheme enters into force. In the third trading period, power plants in the EU 15 are expected to buy all their emissions allowances at auctions.

"We think that generators and/or speculators could start to buy EUAs opportunistically ahead of mid-2010 in anticipation of a tighter market by the middle to end of next year," the analysts said. This should create more demand for allowances towards the end of the second trading phase (2008-2012), as it is unlikely that auctioning for post-2013 allowances will start before late 2011, they argued.

As Germany's RWE and other Western European energy giants start to "forward sell electricity into 2013," Deutsche Bank predicts that the price of EUAs will climb to €16-18 per tonne over the next 12 months.

The data shows that despite the economic downturn, EU companies still pumped more tonnes of CO2 into atmosphere than the number of issued allowances (EurActiv 07/04/09) The bank said the deficit was driven heavily by the power sector, while other industrial installations still had allowances to sell by the end of the year.

Power generators are in a markedly different position from other industries, as they are free from international competition and can thus easily pass on the price of carbon to customers, the analysts argued. Allocations were cut "dramatically" in phase two, they said. source

My comment: That's not a bad news, but as we know, after a recession it comes a rise in the activity and that could lead to some unpredicted results. And Europe still has a lot to do in terms of both efficiency and CO2 reduction due to allowances.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vote, people! European Elections, 2009

As the title suggests, this one would be dedicated to the European elections. I know that many of you are quite distrustful to the idea of electing members of the European Parliament, recently I even heard the question "why do we need the EP anyway", so I wanted to show you my perspective. Maybe that could provoke you to make the effort and vote. In the bottom you can find links to two VERY useful sites, to find out which party you should vote for, if you still don't know!

First of all, why the European Parliament is important. If you follow the blog, you'd know much about it already. The European Council consists more or less of your elected politicians . Ministers, prime-ministers and other general garbage. Oh, no, I don't want to offend anyone! But people are generally unhappy with their politicians, so I express the common attitude. The point is that if you're miserable with the politics your guys have at home, you're very unlikely to be happy with their positions in Europe. And let's be realistic-our guys don't have much power in the Council. In most cases, they do as the big guys say-France, Germany, Italy, sometimes UK, sometimes Spain, rule in the Council. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Those are big members, big countries and big players. They deserve their places. But we have to understand that they are big players precisely because they know how to protect their national interests. And thus, we cannot expect them to simply swallow their prides and huge business interests and just make sure their not so big neighbours are happy also. And if we have to be honest, in most cases the little guys are ok with that situation. Because the same corporations pay to everyone. (note the European Commission is the more qualified and administrative version of the Council, but it's the Council that makes the big decisions). And here comes the European Parliament!

The European Parliament is a huge mess of people, parties, nationalities and histories. The truth is that it's too unpredictable to be bought. It's not impossible, of course, but it's not very practical. Because the difference between the members of the parliament even from the same party is so big, it's hard to know which one to buy. And what's even better-they are so different that they make decisions not so much based on ideology, or party's order or anything-they communicate on more instinctive level on which they are equal. And that instinctive level is what we usually call moral. Now, I'm not a huge fan of the moral as a common idea-they fill it with too much religious nonsense. For me, there is only one moral-the moral of life. This moral is very simple-do what is good for the life, for the people. Do what harms the least amount of people and eventually what benefits people to the maximum. I don't live in some alternative reality, I know people are generally naughty and not very smart or insightful, but I believe in the cooperative phenomenas. Like in physics, there are events that happen only on macroscopic level. They are not a function of the individual, but of the group. And in such case you can do a great good or great evil.

So, in the EP, instead of a group of elected primes of the various national mobs, you have a bunch of very different people, who are so far free. They are too much and too chaotic to be worthy the trouble. And this is the beauty of the idea. Each of both governing bodies can be VERY harmful alone. But together, they more or less annihilate each other. There is a balance. Not total, but partial balance. Sometimes the EC wins, sometimes the EP. But there is some variety. There is a chance for the people to have a fair rulers. And I think this is worthy all of your efforts to vote.

Now on the parties themselves. One thing you have to know is that you're not voting for your local party. You are voting for its European equivalent. If your local socialists are idiots, but you are a socialist, you can still vote for them, because they will still represent the major party. If your democrats suck, but you are a democrat/from the right/ then you still should vote for your guys, because they won't have the chance to do much harm in the bigger European family.

The other thing you must know is that you're not voting for the European party-you're voting for your people. This is the key point. You HAVE to vote for the people. You choose the people! And you have to choose very carefully. Because while the party ideas (or faults) would melt in the bigger party, the personalities won't melt. They will continue to carry your message, to tell it, to protect it. There is so much freedom in the EP, if you vote for smart, intelligent and active people, no matter of the party, I'm sure they will do much more good for the whole Europe, than if you vote for your party no matter of the people. I repeat-European parties, local people!

Last but not least, I want to address a common misconception. Your MPs are not in the EP to protect your national interests. They are there to work for the whole Europe! They are there to help the Europeans to live a better life. And so far, they do it quite well! If you follow my posts, you'll know that in most cases, the EP manages to stop or moderate the most idiotic decisions of the EC. Not always but in many cases. Which is a point for the citizens. For the average citizen, who wants to live a peaceful and abundant life. I hope I don't disappoint you with what I say. But you have to know it. The EC cares for your national interests. You politics can take care of that. In the EP there are so many people-it's absurdly hard to protect any national interests. It simply cannot be done. No matter how many MPs your country have-they are never enough to protect your national interest against the one of all other countries. So don't become seduced by the fancy slogans how a party will help your country in any way. It's simply not possible. What is possible is that they protect all the Europeans, because only then they will have the support of their fellow MPs. Only general issues can be solve in the European Parliament. And precisely because of this, you have to vote not for nationalists, but for intelligent and passionate people who will want to work for the whole Europe.

Let's repeat the principles:
  1. when you vote, vote for the European party which the national party belongs to
  2. when you vote, choose personalities-choose smart, intelligent and active people. Ideology doesn't matter, choose professional qualities.
  3. when you vote, vote for the well-being of the whole Europe, not for your own country
So, please, choose carefully.

Now, I'm going to offer you few sites when you can find information for the election and the parties.
http://www.euprofiler.eu - answer few questions and find out which party you have to vote for-you can see the local parties that fit your results and the local parties from the whole Europe.

Parties in the EP - check the table where you can find the major parties, their programs and the local(national) parties that belong to them.

I wish you a good hunt. As for me, I'll vote left, even though I'm also disappointed by our local pigs. But I'm a socialist, even if quite a moderate one and in some cases even I go to the right. But as for Europe I think there must be more socialists in it. And more Greens, but I have ideological differences with them on Nuclear Energy, so :) I hope I was useful for you, I wrote this post with a lot of passion. Too bad Berbatov didn't score, but I guess that's what sport is.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Innovation and business, May, 2009

First of all, Happy Day of the Slavic Alphabet!
As you probably know, the Cyrillic alphabet is the third official alphabet of the EU, after the latin and the greek ones, so I think this is a wonderful occasion to celebrate both the letters and the Union. I will make a more extensive post on the issue in the After The Pink Goat, when I have time, but for me, this is an extremely important day and I want to share it with you. Because for us in Bulgaria(or България in cyrillic), this is the day of the knowledge and education, so as a scientist, this is my day too. And I'm quite happy that it coincided with a post on the Innovation.

Today:
  1. EU budget 2010 counts on innovation for recovery
  2. Patent applications falling across Europe
  3. Music copyright still divisive, despite MEPs’ backing
  4. Layoffs dwarf job creation across Europe
Quote of the day:The true strength of the EU is in its variety. Because when it comes to a crisis, only variety helps (it's an evolutionary principle, actually). That's why, we have to help each other, so that in the end, we can survive any problem with mutual effort.

EU budget 2010 counts on innovation for recovery

30 April 2009

The European Commission yesterday (29 April) proposed a bigger budget for 2010 to lift the bloc's economy out of recession.

The Commission's draft budget, presented yesterday in Brussels, set spending at 122.3 billion euros ($161.4 billion), compared with 116.7 billion euros planned for 2009. Programmes linked to research and energy would see the biggest funding increase, at 12 percent.

"This budget targets measures to help avert an even sharper downturn. Six billion euros will go into research and innovation, while some nine million citizens will receive support through the European Social Fund," European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas told a news conference.

The 12 mostly ex-communist countries that joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007 will receive 52 percent of the bloc's regional development aid, for the first time getting more than the 15 older members of the bloc. It will be the EU's third consecutive annual budget in which spending on measures to boost economic growth and research and development, 62 billion euros, will be higher than farm expenditure, which was traditionally the biggest item.

Still, around 40 percent of the budget will go to the farm sector. The budget also envisages eight billion euros for foreign aid, including 1.6 billion euros for countries hoping to join the EU one day, mainly in the Western Balkans.

The EU is to overhaul its budget from 2014, but the Commission has kept the controversial issue on the backburner for fear, officials say privately, that reform proposals might go down badly in Ireland. Ireland is to hold a referendum, probably in October, on the EU's Lisbon Treaty. The country is among very few countries that have still not ratified the charter on institutional reform. source

My comment:It's good that we start with money since money are the most important factor in research (ironically some might add). Now, if we check the numbers, although we get the biggest increase, we still don't get the most money, so let's not get carried away in the good news. Yes, there will be more money, and no, certainly they won't be enough.

What I would like to point out, however, is the way the article tries to oppose new members to old members, especially mentioning that those are ex-communist countries. To be historically correct, we must say that those countries weren't communists, because they wanted it. They wanted it, in the beginning, but in the end, they had no choice. So, I would please ask my fellows Europeans reading this not to get angry on the new countries. We're no different than you, just little bit less fortunate (and much less disciplined). And note, the new members are quite big and many, so it's normal that they will get more money than the rest. I'd like to check sometimes the shares that each country pay to the EU, but after all, even if they contribute a lot less, the joined effort should be comparable to that of the old members. And thus, those money are deserved. And badly needed!

Also-a little note on why you shouldn't feel angry by this. The true strength of the EU is in its variety. Because when it comes to a crisis, only variety helps (it's an evolutionary principle, actually). That's why, we have to help each other, so that in the end, we can survive any problem with mutual effort. But for this to work, rich members have to help the poorer ones.

Patent applications falling across Europe

30 April 2009

Preliminary figures from the European Patent Office (EPO) reveal that the number of applications for new patents is down 7% in the first two months of 2009. This is the first reduction in patent applications in over a decade, sparking fears that Europe's knowledge economy is under threat.

Applications to the EPO have doubled since 1995, leaving the agency with a backlog of between 400,000 and 500,000 applications. More than half of the applications filed last year were not granted.

However, the advent of the financial crisis has brought a sharp downturn in the exponential growth of new intellectual property filings.

An EPO survey of its clients, published this week (April 27), forecasts a levelling-off of new patent applications in 2009 and 2010, but this study was conducted in mid-2008, and is unlikely to have factored in the recession, which has deepened in the meantime.

Early indications for 2009 suggest applications for this year are likely to be down for the first time since the early 1990s.

The news comes as a major blow to the EU's Year of Innovation and Creativity (see EurActiv LinksDossier) and its much-vaunted Lisbon Strategy, which aims to turn the EU into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. source

My comment: Erm, this is hardly a surprise. European patents are in horrible state and since business and patents are very tightly connected, I think it's obvious that patents application will fall. The way out for me is to think of a way in which patents would protect the rights of inventors for real. Because let's be realistic-inventors never stop inventing. Scientists don't work to make a living (though this is a very important side-effect). We work because we want to. And if our rights are properly and transparently protected, patents would never stop flowing. But that is not the case! I personally have no idea where to file for a patent even if I wanted. I don't know what I can patent and at what cost. What's even worst-the rights over my work belongs to my institution which, however, won't spend an euro to file a patent or to protect my work. Is this fair? No. Does it encourages me to invent? Not at all.

Music copyright still divisive, despite MEPs’ backing

29 April 2009

The European Parliament last week backed an increase in copyright protection for musicians from 50 to 70 years, in a move aimed at ensuring longer royalties for artists and record companies. But the move caused concern among consumer and green groups, who called on member states to reject the proposal.

Voting on 23 April, EU lawmakers backed proposals that would extend protection for artists to 70 years from the date of the first publication or performance of their song.

The draft legislation, which still needs the support of the 27 EU member states before becoming law, is aimed in part at shielding the recording industry from the rise of the Internet, and the piracy that comes with it.

"The extended term would also benefit the record producers," said Crowley. "It would generate additional revenue from the sale of records in shops and on the Internet."

MEPs also proposed introducing a specific fund for session musicians and financed by producers, who would be forced to set aside at least 20% of the revenue gained from the proposed copyright extension on an annual basis. Collecting societies would be entitled to administer the annual supplementary remuneration. source

My comment: See positions in the source. The Greens really surprised me in a very positive way. What they say is very troubling. They tell us that copyrights protect the rights of the musicians, when that's not entirely true. The big winners are actually record labels who earn big time from something they do not produce. Because if in the past, they have spent money to record and distribute the products, now, everything is digital. Their expenses are minimal, while the profit is maximal. And not, they have to set aside only 20%(!!!) for royalties, when they don't produce anything! Is this really aimed to benefit musicians? Well, not really!

Layoffs dwarf job creation across Europe

4 May 2009

The first quarter of 2009 saw announced job losses outnumber job creation by almost three to one, according to the European Restructuring Monitor (ERM), published by Eurofound.

The financial sector, auto industry and retail sector were worst hit by the losses, with new employment recorded in discount stores and fast food outlets.

220,000 job losses were recorded by the ERM – the highest since it began to collect statistics in 2002 – with just 90,000 jobs created.

The UK recorded the highest number of announced job losses (63,314), followed by Poland (38,975), Germany (17,461) and France (11,779). For the third quarter in a row, auto manufacture is the sector with the most reported ERM job losses (23,584 jobs).

Other sectors with large restructuring-related job losses were retail (21,740), financial intermediation (16,778) and machinery manufacture (16,432).

Unemployment has also spiked very sharply in other member states, notably in the three Baltic countries, where the jobless rate has risen by between 6% and 9% over the past 12 months. A similar situation is seen in Ireland, where unemployment has risen to 11.4% from just 6% last year.

The data is less dramatic in other member states, but the ERM confirms that unemployment is rising across all member states, with the exception of Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands, where short-time working, partial unemployment and other forms of worker flexibility have helped keep numbers down. source

My comment: It's interesting how this effect is not so well felt in Bulgaria. Not that we're not hit by the crisis, but when you don't produce, you cannot be affected by the problems of production. Anyway, I don't think anyone finds this surprising, I post it just for your information.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Green progress in the EU, May, 2009-another kick in the ass for Monsanto

Today:
  1. Germany joins ranks of anti-GMO countries
  2. MEPs back tougher rules for nanotechnology
  3. Parliament backs strict labelling for tyres
  4. MEPs back eco-design rules for energy-related products
  5. EU lawmakers reject revised energy labels
  6. Parliament backs crackdown on illegal logging
Quote of the day:I might not be a great fan of Greenpeace irrationality in many cases, but on illegal logging, we all should be adamant. You cannot believe how much exquisite woodland turns into green desert, because some low-paid "operators" beat the locals, beat the guards and just cut the trees.

Germany joins ranks of anti-GMO countries

15 April 2009

Berlin yesterday (14 April) joined France, Greece, Hungary and other EU countries opposed to GM crop cultivation by ordering a ban on Monsanto's MON 810 maize, despite European rulings that the biotech grain is safe.

The US biotech company's strain may no longer be sown for this summer's harvest, German Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner told a news conference on Tuesday.

The move puts Germany alongside France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg, which have banned MON 810 maize despite its approval by the EU for commercial use throughout the bloc.

"I have come to the conclusion that there is a justifiable reason to believe that genetically modified maize of the type MON 810 presents a danger to the environment," Aigner said, stressing that five other EU states had taken the same action.

The decision to ban was based on scientific factors and was not a political one, Aigner said. It was an individual case and not a fundamental decision against GMO crops, she added.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has tried without success to get the bans in other countries lifted and on Tuesday warned it would examine the German decision. "The Commission will analyse the ban by Germany with the adequate scientific information support and the Commission will decide on the most appropriate follow-up toward this situation," Commission spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau told a regular briefing.

Monsanto spokesman Andreas Thierfelder said the decision was unjustified and no supportable scientific reasons for the ban had been given. Should the ban be confirmed, Monsanto would consider legal options with the goal of enabling GMO seeds to be planted for this year's harvest.

The MON 810 maize is resistant to corn borer, a butterfly whose caterpillars damage maize plants.

The south German state of Bavaria welcomed the decision and now planned to become a GMO-free zone, Bavarian state Environment Minister Markus Soeder said.

Aigner's decision was also welcomed by German environmentalist association BUND.

Environmental group Greenpeace called on Aigner to work inside the EU to stop further approvals of GMO maize. source

My comment: Ah, poor Monsanto. I almost feel pity for them. Nah, I don't. They get what they deserve. Seriously, how a company producing seeds could become a giant? Don't want to sound more socialist than I am, I like entrepreneurs and I like successful companies, but their case is very smelly-especially their cases against people who by accident grew their plants.

And I believe in free will. Just as smoker do intervene with the rights of non-smokers, because non-smokers do not have the choice not to breath the smoke, the same, I think that if a seed is so aggressive that it can genetically pollute a whole region, then it violates the rights of the other producers. Then, it must be banned. I'm not against that technology. I just think that if someone want to grow such seeds, they have to do it in a closed space, so that no seed can escape that place under no circumstances. I mean, there is already genetic pollution in Mexico, we don't need more of it.

MEPs back tougher rules for nanotechnology

28 April 2009

The European Parliament last week backed a controversial report by Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter urging the European Commission to revise its stance on nanomaterials. MEPs said all nanomaterials should be considered as new substances, and that existing legislation does not take into account the risks associated with nanotechnology.

Environmental and consumer groups welcomed the vote, but industry groups warned that "improper" regulation could stifle one of Europe's growth industries.

The own-initiative report was adopted on April 24 by an overwhelming majority of 391 votes in favour and three against, amid four abstentions. The Commission has yet to formally respond to criticism contained in the non-binding opinion from parliamentarians.

Schlyter said the resolution adopted by the full sitting of the European Parliament was "more than a wake-up call for the Commission and the chemical industry".

He insisted that the EU executive must revise its stance on nanomaterials and revisit all relevant European laws to guarantee the safety of all applications of nanomaterials throughout their lifecycle.

The report also demands that consumer products containing nanomaterials must be labelled 'nano', and that the European Commission must review worker-protection legislation to safeguard employees who handle nanomaterials. source

My comment: Now this is an inititive that I completely support. I remember an article about a butchery, published by NY Times. Workers in the butchery started experiencing all sorts of diseases. In the end, it turned out the problem was the puverised brains of the pigs (a nanoparticle) that provoked severy reactions in the immune systems of the workers. This is a good example why we shouldn't underestimate the effect nanomarticles might have on our health. Even when the element in normal size is ok, it still could be dangerous in nanosize. So, I hope the EC would very soon act accordingly.

Parliament backs strict labelling for tyres

23 April 2009

EU lawmakers have insisted that tyre manufacturers such as Michelin and Continental must display details of tyres' fuel performance, as well as their wet grip and noise levels, as of November 2012.

The draft measures were backed by the European Parliament, which approved the proposals by large majority on Wednesday (22 April).

The new tyre label will use a fuel-efficiency classification similar to the energy label for washing machines and fridges, with performance rated from 'A' (best) to 'G' (worst).

The draft text still needs the backing of the Council of Ministers, which represents the 27 EU member states and may express different views.

Parliament sources said they expected the proposal to be adopted in second reading "under the next legislature", as negotiations with member states have not formally opened yet.

European elections are due in June, and the new Parliament will not start its legislative work before the autumn.

One contentious issue is the high degree of detail that the Parliament inserted into the draft text. This includes a new obligation to include a "low-noise mark" depicting a tyre with earmuffs if rolling noise is kept below a certain decibel level.

There are also new obligations for suppliers to provide a "fuel savings calculator" on their websites to allow consumers to make informed choices.

MEPs also chose to modify the proposal from a directive - which usually requires a lengthy transposition process into national law - to a regulation, a more stringent legal instrument which leaves no room for EU countries to tailor rules to their national circumstances.

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a Liberal MEP from Germany, said tyre manufacturers had been asking for such unified measures. source

My comment: That's another wonderful idea. Especially the noise pollution measures. People don't realise how important noise is for our healthy lives. And although, the biggest producer of noise isn't the tyres but the engine, it still makes sense to minimise all the damage. And the fuel calculator is also a very cool idea. It could provide a wonderful incentive for buying new tyres, which can even save life! And of course, helps you drive in more economical manner.

MEPs back eco-design rules for energy-related products

27 April 2009

The European Parliament last Friday (24 April) approved the extension of the Ecodesign Directive to cover products that have an indirect impact on energy use. Consumer groups nevertheless criticised the compromise for failing to address all relevant environmental impacts.

In the future, the Commission could set minimum efficiency standards for products which impact on the final energy household consumption, such as windows, insulation materials, showers and water taps. The directive currently only applies to products which use energy directly, such as fridges, hairdryers and televisions.

The agreement makes no immediate changes to the products covered by eco-design rules. New product groups will thus not be considered until 2011, when the Commission will publish its revised working plan, which affects energy-related products as well.

Romanian MEP Magor Imre Csibi, who steered the legislation through the Parliament, wanted to stretch the scope of the directive to feature all other products apart from means of transport. The proposal was nevertheless rejected by his colleagues .

Moreover, the Parliament failed to obtain a clear timetable for extending the product list. The revised directive will now merely oblige the Commission to review the effectiveness of the current implementation measures in 2012, and to assess whether it is "appropriate" to extend the scope of the directive to non-energy related products.

The Parliament congratulated itself for introducing more of a lifecycle focus into the directive. As part of the review in 2012, the Commission will look at the methodology for identifying environmental parameters, such as resource efficiency, for the whole lifecycle of products.

Consumer groups ANEC and BEUC said, however, that apart from resource efficiency, the revamp of the directive had ignored many other relevant environmental impacts of products' lifecycle phase. They singled out the use of dangerous chemicals, waste production and recycling.

The agreement now needs the final seal of approval from the Council of Ministers. source

My comment: Am, I start getting confused. I mean, I kind of published this news like 3 times and I'm pretty sure there's no repetition. Obviously, the EP has many layers just like an onion :) In any case, I approve what they did, but I think it should have had more obligatory effect on the EC. Oh, well, nothing is perfect.

EU lawmakers reject revised energy labels

22 April 2009

The European Parliament's industry committee yesterday (21 April) voted on two resolutions to block the introduction of new energy labels for household goods such as fridges and television sets.

The decision, if confirmed by a vote in Parliament later this year, would overturn a draft agreement on the proposal passed in March between EU member-state representatives and the European Commission.

The text would replace existing energy labels which are commonly found on household appliances including, fridges, freezers, washing machines and dishwashers.

The new labels would subdivide the highest 'A' class of the EU's well-known 'A-G' energy efficiency classes, and introduce the label to televisions for the first time.

But MEPs on the industry committee argued that the new format would "add to confusion about whether class 'A' represents an efficient or an inefficient product".

Instead of adding classes such as 'A-20%', denoting products which use 20% less energy than a traditional 'A class' product, the MEPs wanted to the closed A-G scale to be maintained.

Parliamentarians called on the Commission to submit new proposals by the end of September 2009 to upgrade existing energy classes so that the highest category would be reserved for the "top 10-20% best-performing equipment".

MEPs stressed that they were not against introducing an energy label for televisions, but merely opposed to the proposed format.

If the Parliament is to use its veto on the new labels, the resolutions endorsed by the industry committee yesterday will have to be backed by the full assembly at the plenary on 4-7 May. This would be the first time the Parliament has used its scrutiny to reject a proposal under new comitology rules.

The energy label format was opposed by the Socialists, Liberals and Greens. The vote in the industry committee was very narrow, which is to be expected in the plenary in May as well, according to Parliament sources. The result is difficult to anticipate, as the June elections are drawing near and MEPs might feel less inclined to vote along party lines, the sources speculated. source

My comment: As I said it when I first heard of this, it's very odd that they have a problem with the new definition of the energy labels. Seriously, they underestimate people. It would take a while to adopt the new labels and then everyone would be used to them. The only thing that I see as a problem is that it's time to redefine the whole A-G scale to mirror the better effectiveness of appliances. If something was A 5 years ago, then today, it should be say C or D. Now we just have new standards. And thus, they have to change the whole scale. And maybe they have to update the scale every year, so that the A-20% don't have to be used. Ok, on second thought, they might have made the right decision :)

Parliament backs crackdown on illegal logging

23 April 2009

The EU took a step towards taking action against illegal logging yesterday (22 April) when the European Parliament voted in favour of stricter rules on timber sold within the bloc's markets, including the introduction of sanctions against offenders.

The Parliament yesterday (22 April) adopted a report authored by Green MEP Caroline Lucas (UK), strengthening the Commission's proposals on timber trade (EurActiv 20/10/08).

According to MEPs, all actors in the timber supply chain must be made responsible for ensuring that illegally-sourced wood does not find its way to the EU market.

The Commission originally proposed a one-off check by the operator which placed timber on the market for the first time. The Parliament, however, wants to make all traders and producers responsible for clearly indicating the source of their products and the supplier of the timber through a traceability system.

Two years after the regulation enters into force, member states would have to ensure that all timber products on the EU market are labelled with this information.

Moreover, the Parliament's move effectively criminalises illegal timber trading, obliging EU member states to impose financial penalties on operators in breach of the law. The co-legislators' amendments to the proposal stipulate that these penalties must represent "at least five times the value of the timber products obtained by committing a serious infringement".

The adopted text also provides for improved monitoring, urging the competent authorities to carry out controls on the supply chain. In case of infringement, these authorities should take "corrective measures", such as "the immediate cessation of commercial activities" and "the seizure of timber and timber products," MEPs say.

The tough stance reflects the extent of the problem. A WWF report last year estimated that almost a fifth of timber coming into the EU market was from illegal sources.

While the Parliament has made quick progress by producing its first-reading stance on the rules governing the timber trade, the 27 member states are yet to present their views.

A Swedish government official said that while member states had different interests, as some are clearly importers of wood products and some are producers, the negotiating difficulties should not be exaggerated.

A source from a member state with a large forestry sector said the problem for wood-producing EU nations is often that they already have well-functioning legislation and monitoring systems to combat illegal logging in their own countries. They are now worried that these might not be compatible with the European framework, it said.

Countries which import a lot of timber from third countries, including the UK and the Netherlands, on the other hand, face different problems. Illegal logging is mainly associated with tropical wood, while EU countries in general have relatively well-regulated timber markets.

However, some member states, such as Bulgaria and Romania, are having problems enforcing legislation to combat criminal activity in the sector.source

My comment: "problems enforcing legislation" is very weak way to express the situation in Bulgaria, at least. A whole forests disappear, because there's always to profit from ignorance and corruption. I might not be a great fan of Greenpeace irrationality in many cases, but on illegal logging, we all should be adamant. You cannot believe how much exquisite woodland turns into green desert, because some low-paid "operators" beat the locals, beat the guards and just cut the trees. I hope soon enough they finish with that directive and that they don't make it criminal only for the people who cut the trees, but also for the governments that don't do enought to stop them. I know this would be harmful for the image of my own country, but this image is destroyed enough and the only way that it eventually gets better is to stop the idiots who want to sell the country on parts and go live in some tropical paradise on the expense of poor locals who don't have the choice to say no.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Energy summits and falls, April, 2009

Today:
  1. EU nears energy liberalisation finishing line
  2. Russia unveils new global energy treaty blueprint
  3. Russia seeks EU backing for gas pipeline
  4. Azerbaijan and Russia edge closer to gas deal
  5. Obama backs Turkey's strategic energy role
Quote of the day:"I don't get it when USA will stop discussion Turkey's eventual membership. Mind your own business, people."

And I will use the time to express my utter disappointment about Eurovision. I know it's stupid, but our song wasn't bad. I liked it actually. And it's sad to see all the bad publicity we got. I know we have a lot of guilt about it, since our idiots so-called stars did't stop wining about how unfair and corrupted was the competition back home, but the truth is that they are idiots. This was the best song available, like it or not. Anyway the Czhech singer made my day. Dude!

EU nears energy liberalisation finishing line

23 April 2009

The European Parliament yesterday (22 April) endorsed an agreement struck by the EU institutions to curtail the power of energy giants and move closer to a truly internal gas and electricity market. However, critics said the measures did not go far enough in breaking up energy monopolies.

The Strasbourg plenary vote put an end to year-long squabbles over the third package of legislation to liberalise EU energy markets. The text will now be transmitted for adoption by the EU Council of Ministers representing the 27-member bloc, formally putting an end to the process.

The new legislation consists of two directives on rules for the internal electricity and gas markets, two regulations on conditions for access to those markets and one establishing an 'Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators'.

The Parliament and governments clashed on a number of issues, including the separation of vertically integrated power companies' production and transmission assets, consumer rights and the power of independent transmission operators.

Working under pressure to push through the legislation - deemed crucial to the EU's energy security - before the elections, the Parliament dropped a demand that full 'ownership unbundling' had to be the only option for the electricity market.

Instead, MEPs signed up to a deal which also allows companies to opt for two alternative models which let them retain ownership of their gas and electricity grids. This is, however, on the condition that they either hand over the operation of their transmission networks to an independent system operator (ISO), or adhere to rules which guarantee that the two sectors can operate independently. Such rules include the establishment of a supervisory body and the provision of "cooling-off periods" for employees before moving from transmission to generation.

MEPs voting against the new legislation said it was neither strong enough to contain energy giants' power, nor to provide for genuine competition.

At a time when German cartel authorities are starting to investigate market-price manipulation by the four big domestic energy utilities, and France's EDF is answering charges of spying on Greenpeace activists, Green MEPs Claude Turmes (Luxembourg) and Rebecca Harms (Germany) argued that the outcome of the legislation was testament to the fact that "energy oligopolies still have most EU governments and energy ministers in their pockets".

Nevertheless, the agreement endorsed yesterday takes consumers' concerns into consideration, largely due to heavy haggling by the Parliament. As a trade-off for the compromise on ownership bundling, Parliament obtained recognition of the concept of energy poverty, obliging member states to offer measures such as social security benefits to provide vital energy supplies to poorer customers, and requiring governments to guarantee universal access to electricity for all households.

Moreover, the new legislation gives consumers the right to change their gas and electricity suppliers within three weeks and without charges. They are also promised access to all relevant gas and electricity consumption data, allowing them to control their energy bills.

Member states are now expected to endorse the agreement some time in the summer. source

My comment: Haha! On the last sentences I mean. So we can change our suppliers within 3 weeks, huh? I wonder with which one after we have only one supplier per geographical region. But then, the intention is what matters. As for liberalisation, I don't know why they started the whole issue, if they never intended to finish it. It's odd. It's not like someone from outside tell them you must unbundle, that European initiative. Then either do it or leave it!

Russia unveils new global energy treaty blueprint

22 April 2009

The Kremlin yesterday (21 April) published Russia's proposal for new rules on international energy cooperation, following a dispute with Ukraine over transit in January which left millions of Europeans without heating in the heart of winter.

Arkady Dvorkovich, Medvedev's top economic aide, said Moscow was proposing a document that would "essentially replace the Energy Charter," but was flexible on its legal format.

"We are offering a new fully-fledged legal base for future energy cooperation," Dvorkovich said in a briefing with Russian reporters, quoted by AFP, adding that the new document should also cover nuclear energy in addition to conventional energy.

The draft treaty refers heavily to the January gas dispute with Ukraine, apparently seeking to build on the crisis to promote the idea that a new legal basis is needed to govern international energy relations.

"The existing bilateral arrangements and multilateral, legally-binding norms governing international energy relations have failed to prevent and resolve conflict situations, which makes it necessary to efficiently improve the legal framework of the world trade in energy resources," reads the document, entitled 'Conceptual Approach to the New Legal Framework for Energy Cooperation (Goals and Principles)'.

Indeed, a substantial part of the four-page document is dedicated to transit. The blueprint seeks to introduce the principles of establishing transit tariffs and obliging all parties to ensure the proper fulfilment of transit requirements by their entities.

It introduces the principle of unacceptability of transit interruptions or reductions, promotes responsibility of the parties for losses incurred, and proposes establishing specific bodies to address emergency situations.

Moscow is also pushing for a global system in which the sovereignty of energy-rich nations would be recognised as "unconditional". At the same time, Russia would be free to access international energy markets, and no restrictions should exist for investments in energy-chain links.

In a spirit familiar from recent speeches by Russian leaders , Moscow said it was seeking to promote mutual exchange of energy businesses' assets, and promote non-discriminatory access to Western technologies.

Significantly, the blueprint proposes the "promotion of infrastructure projects of great importance for global and regional energy security". It has become clear from recent statements that Russia wants EU support for its own projects, such as the South Stream gas pipeline.source

My comment: I don't quite get what's the point of this blueprint. They cannot honestly expect that they will have the power to do whatever they like and the rest have the right to oblige. I'm usually on their side, but now, it doesn't make much sense. And what's more, I didn't notice the article to mention remunerations in case of stopping of the oil/gas. Because in the case of Bulgaria, the problem is that we have noone to ask compensantion from, because the contracts simply don't consider a situation as the one with Ukraine. So, if we're talking about a fair deal here, both sides must have both rights and responsibilities and I don't see the responsibility of Russia in this blueprint.

Russia seeks EU backing for gas pipeline

21 April 2009

An energy summit to be held in the Bulgarian capital on 24-25 April is expected to boost the South Stream gas pipeline project favoured by Russian state monopoly Gazprom, the Bulgarian press reports.

A few days ahead of the Sofia Energy Forum, uncertainty reigns as to the level of participation, the daily Standart writes today (21 April).

Russia is trying to introduce language into the final declaration of the Sofia energy summit pushing for the Gazprom-favoured 'South Stream' gas pipeline project to be declared an EU priority, reported the daily Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria.

The European Commission does not agree with such wording, and prefers a more general commitment to diversification of energy sources and corridors, the daily adds.

A statement by Gazprom's CEO to the Russian press confirmed Moscow's ambitions.

The Gazprom-favoured South Stream project is expected to receive a boost at the Sofia summit, according to Banker, a Bulgarian weekly. The newspaper learned that a political declaration in support of the pipeline was being prepared and should be ready for signature by all the countries taking part in the project (Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Hungary and Austria).

The political declaration can perhaps be considered symbolic, however, as other practical issues remain outstanding, such as the new contracts with Gazprom and its Bulgarian counterpart Bulgargaz, Banker writes. However, these issues too are highly likely to be resolved during the mandate of the present government, the weekly further elaborates. The cabinet's mandate ends in July this year.

In official statements, the Bulgarian authorities are careful to position the EU's favoured Nabucco project as a priority too, making it appear to be at the same level as South Stream, which is seen as a rival to Nabucco.

Other items on the summit's agenda include shaping "a new European energy policy" and seeking "new international arrangements […] for energy security".

As a consequence, Russia is expected to unveil details of its proposals for establishing a new legal framework between the EU and Russia in energy matters. source

My comment: And what was the result from this conference-precisely none! Well, if you don't count the whole capital being blocked because of the security of dear European officials. Not only that, but Bulgaria and Russia had a major quarrel over Gazprom and Bulgargas, that was resolved few days later, where our prime-minister visited Moscow. But nor Europe, neither Bulgaria won anything from this conference, except for few jokes from mr. Putin, who decided we're not worthy his presence. I must say that I think Russia has to change a little bit their attitude when dealing with Europe. It's obvious they are on the top, but when you press a dog too much, it can bite you. And Europe is not exactly teethless, no matter what some might think. And in the end, bussiness should be done with mutual respect and in a way that both sides will benefit maximally. Otherwise, there are bad side effects which nobody wants.

Azerbaijan and Russia edge closer to gas deal

20 April 2009

Europe's hopes of securing natural gas from Azerbaijan via the Nabucco pipeline were further dampened on Saturday (18 April) when Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliev said he wanted Russia to serve as a transit route for selling gas to Europe.

During a visit to Moscow, the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev also confirmed his country's interest in selling gas directly to Gazprom.

The meeting between President Aliyev and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev was expected to improve the chances of a gas deal under which Azerbaijan would sell 16 billion cubic metres of gas annually to Gazprom from its Shakh Deniz gas field.

Baku, which currently exports gas to Georgia and Turkey, says it is looking to new markets – including Russia – and the Azeri president expressed enthusiasm for a deal with Moscow.

"There are no transit countries between us, and this means that quite an effective transport infrastructure is already in place. There is no need for additional investment in building a gas pipeline. All the conditions therefore look very advantageous," said Aliev at the joint press conference, quoted by the Kremlin website.

His Russian host also expressed optimism that a deal could be hammered out soon.

The talks appeared to strike another blow to the EU-favoured Nabucco pipeline project, which aims to decrease the Union's dependence on Russian gas.

Anticipating wary EU reactions, the Russian press gloated that Brussels had better not complain. "The European Union would likely welcome the emergence of a new supplier from the East, albeit one dependent on Russian pipelines, especially since the completion of Nabucco remains in doubt," the Moscow Times wrote today.

At the same time, analysts said the US had started shifting from the policies of previous administrations, which focused on promoting alternative energy corridors Europe, in order to improve its relations with Moscow.

Alexander Rar, director of Russia and CIS Programmes for the Foreign Policy Council of Germany, a think-tank, said "Americans offered to unite 'South Stream', Nabucco and other pipes into a general project under the code name 'Southern Corridor' in order not to create geopolitical contradiction at the moment when we need Russia to solve Iranian problem and other matters". source

My comment: Well, this shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, this is what competition is supposed to mean. And obviously there is enough politics involved.

Obama backs Turkey's strategic energy role

7 April 2009

Speaking before the Turkish parliament yesterday (6 April), US President Barack Obama said America would continue to support Turkey's central role as an East-West oil and gas corridor, and highlighted new economic opportunities offered by clean energies.

Energy offers the United States and Turkey opportunities to "expand markets and create jobs," Obama told the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara during his first visit to Turkey as US president.

Obama told members of parliament that he would "continue to support [Turkey's] central role as an East-West corridor for oil and natural gas," extending a long-standing policy of the White House in supporting Turkey's role as a transit country for oil and gas.

The EU's projected Nabucco gas pipeline, which would see Turkey become a major transit route for Caspian gas to Europe, has long been supported by Washington, although Obama did not specifically mention the project.

The US president instead preferred to turn to the future, promoting renewable energies as a way to combat climate change.

Wider economic cooperation between Turkey, the US and Europe is also crucial for security reasons, Obama stressed, reiterating America's support for Turkey's EU accession bid. "Let me be clear, the United States strongly supports Turkey's bid to become a member of the European Union," the president said amid applause. source

My comment: I don't get it when USA will stop discussion Turkey's eventual membership. Mind your own business, people. Turkey is our own problem. It's not exactly a surprise that European leader acted as bitten about Turkey. In any case, Turkey isn't ready to be a member. And it's not exactly acting as a friend of Europe if we consider the latest Nabucco round of blackmailing. And lol, about the renewable sources in Turkey. Is he serious?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Climate news, April, 2009

Today:
  1. EU wraps up climate and energy policy
  2. Experts urge UN to include agriculture in climate talks
  3. Car-scrapping schemes meet huge success in Europe
  4. EU stimulus plan to include funds for energy savings
Quote of the day(credit goes to a Czech minister):"If their situation deteriorates, they will lose the new car, while having scrapped the old one. The only thing left will be the debt. This is even less moral than consumer credit offers, because they are not subsidised by the taxpayer."

EU wraps up climate and energy policy

7 April 2009

The EU's Council of Ministers yesterday (6 April) adopted the final legal texts of the energy and climate change package of legislation negotiated by member states in December last year.

The new legislation is intended to meet the EU's 2020 climate goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 20% below 1990 levels and boost the share of renewables in the total energy mix to 20% by the same date.

The 'package' is composed of six measures. The revision of the EU's flagship emissions trading scheme will enter into force in 2013, obliging power installations to buy all their emissions allowances at auction to correct the deficiencies of the previous scheme, in which free allocations resulted in massive windfall profits .

For other ETS sectors, auctioning will be gradually phased in, with 20% of emissions permits bought at auction by 2013 and 70% by 2020. Full auctioning will not kick in before 2027. Moreover, member states with significant coal-based production negotiated substantial derogations to their industries that are deemed to be at risk of 'carbon leakage'.

For the sectors outside of the ETS, such as transport and agriculture, the package contains an "effort-sharing" decision, which sets out binding emission-reduction targets for each member state, in line with their ability to pay, in order to reach an overall cut of 10% by 2020.

The package also establishes a regulatory framework for the capture and underground storage of CO2 to help support this new technology before it becomes commercially viable .

Another of its major policy developments is to set out individual targets for the proportion of renewables in member states' final energy consumption, to reach 20% EU-wide.

In addition, the directive stipulates that each country should reach a 10% renewables share in its transport sector, and establishes criteria for the sustainable use of biofuels.

The two remaining measures set CO2 emission limits for new passenger cars and standards for fuel quality. source

My comment:Nothing new here-but it's good to have this list for future reference. I still think that they chose the soft way. We should have chosen much more ambitious goals.

Experts urge UN to include agriculture in climate talks

10 April 2009

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could further help mitigate the impact of climate change, policy experts are arguing, calling for the sector to be put at the centre of ongoing UN climate talks.

If climate-change mitigation and adaptation goals are to be met, international climate talks must include agriculture, argued the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in a policy paper published last month.

Agriculture is "the missing word" in the UN climate talks, said Gerald Nelson, a senior research fellow at IFPRI, adding that while the agricultural sector emits 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions, it also has a "unique role" in absorbing carbon emitted from other sectors.

Therefore, "any funds set aside in the UN talks to help adaptation need to include agriculture. We need to think about new crop varities, new physical infrastructure to make farming more resilient as well as new institutions both domestically and internationally that support resilience," said Nelson.

According to IFPRI, agriculture can mitigate emissions through "changes in agricultural technologies and management practices," and new crop mixes that include more perennial plants or have deeper root systems. Such plants allow more carbon to be stored in the soil.

Reduced tillage and changes in crop genetics, irrigation, fertiliser use, livestock species and feeding practices can also reduce emissions, the paper continues, asserting that changes to make the agricultural system more resilient to climate change will also increase carbon sequestration.source

My comment: Click here to see the non-result from the talks in Bonn. And when I read the title, I thought they want to help the environment, when in fact, they only want to harm more. This is absolutely disgusting. I mean, they don't offer to reduce emissions trough more sustainable agriculture-no, they offer to MODIFY genetically crops to emit less! Complete idiots! Instead of asking for money, they should consider how to optimise agriculture. Recently I read a complete propaganda article about GMO crops at reason.tv. It tried to convince us that the reason why we don't live in a hungry world (don't we?) is the progress of agriculture, more particularly modified crops. Well, sorry, but that is completely untrue. The fact that we produce so much food is due to the automatized production, better use of fertilisers and probably better use of the land itself. Modified crops are not used for substantial food-can you compare corn or soya with wheat or fruits or vegetables? That's a complete nonsense. Yes, we have to include agriculture in the climate deals. But not so that they can suck even more money from us, quite on the contrary, we must focus on the ways food-production may be optimized to collect more CO2 and probably less water. I don't mind genetical research. I mind however to invest millions into a corporation that endangers both human health and the environment.

Car-scrapping schemes meet huge success in Europe

21 April 2009

Berlin announced plans yesterday (8 April) to treble the size of its car-scrapping scheme to five billion euro after consumers massively responded to the initiative, which encourages motorists to trade old cars for new ones in exchange for a 2,500 euro bonus.

New car registrations in Germany rose by 30% in February after the launch of the scheme, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). As a result, total sales for 2009 could reach 3.1 million cars instead of the 2.8 million forecast initially, the association said.

The German fleet renewal scheme, worth 1.5bn euro, was unveiled in January as part of a 50bn euro stimulus package to kick-start the economy, which is experiencing its worst recession since the 1930s. The plan invites owners to trade in cars that are nine years old or more for new fuel-efficient models in exchange for a 2,500 euro bonus.

But the scheme soon became a victim of its own success. With 1.2 million applications to date, demand has twice exceeded the fund's capabilities to support them. The fund's extension should enable a further two million bonuses to be distributed.

The German case is not isolated. Similar schemes are being introduced around Europe and are experiencing similar success.

But the scheme is not to the taste of everybody. In an online chat session, Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said he "disagrees" with the introduction of the car scrapping scheme and argued that it was "an unfair, temporary aid for a single industry".

He further questioned the morality of such schemes, saying they have dramatic social consequences for the poor. "If their situation deteriorates, they will lose the new car, while having scrapped the old one. The only thing left will be the debt. This is even less moral than consumer credit offers, because they are not subsidised by the taxpayer."

The scheme also came under fire from environmental groups, which denounced its "absurdity". source

My comment: I happen to agree with the Czech minister this time. Although, I'd love to get a 2500 euro bonus (and a new car!) , it doesn't solve people's problems-if you cannot afford a new car without the bonus, you're not likely to be able to really afford it with the bonnus. And in the end, you're fucked. There's only the debt left. And this reminds me of how governments print money-they give credits which the people pay off creating the money for them. And anyway, this isn't fair at all. They have to take into account the type of car, whether it's economical and clean and so on.

EU stimulus plan to include funds for energy savings

17 April 2009

After weeks of wrangling, EU lawmakers and member-state representatives have struck an agreement on a €5 billion European recovery plan, which will include substantial funding for energy projects considered vital to Europe's security of supply.

At their meeting yesterday (16 April), the Czech EU Presidency and the Parliament's negotiators endorsed the list of eligible projects agreed by EU heads of state and government in March (EurActiv 20/03/09).

The plan's revised version allocates €3.98 billion to energy projects designed to stimulate job creation, help the EU out of recession and strengthen the bloc's energy independence.

It includes €2.35bn for gas and electricity interconnections, €0.565bn for offshore wind and €1.05bn for carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plants.

The Parliament had threatened to derail the agreement as the plan agreed by EU leaders in March had omitted energy efficiency and smart cities from the deal (EurActiv 02/04/09).

The final compromise reflects MEPs' views, as it allows the Commission to propose the use of recovery money that is not committed by the end of 2010 for energy-efficiency and renewables projects. However, the EU executive will only be able to do this if it can show that there are "serious risks in implementing the priority projects". A progress report in March 2010 will determine whether such risks exist.

Separately, the Commission will also announce further measures to support energy efficiency and renewable energy, including the revision of the Energy Efficiency Action Plan by end of October 2009 and a public-private partnership on energy-efficient buildings before the Parliament votes on the compromise, the EU's co-legislator said. source

My comment: Again, nothing new here. It's kind of suspicious, however, how they avoid efficiency so diligently. Hmmm... I mean this is the easiest step as it's paid not by the government but by people. And it's the most effective way to decrease emissions as well. So if they are serious about climate, why are they avoiding those decisions?

 

blogger templates 3 columns