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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.

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