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Monday, June 8, 2009

Climate in Europe in 06.08-green tax-good or bad?

Today:
  1. Rich and poor still divided over climate pact
  2. Agri-food sector to assess its environmental footprint
  3. EU defends cap-and-trade scheme as 2008 data unveiled
  4. Swedes to push for CO2 tax at EU helm
That's it, folks, the elections are over. I have to say I'm quite upset by the result. The socialists were beaten quite hard. I know it's logical-in time of economic crisis, it makes sense to have right-wingers on top. But I don't like the awful lack of balance. Because rightists will win on national election. And we'll have a double-right ruling organs. I find this quite disturbing. The balance is key to prosperity and it seems like we lost it. I hope that even with a center-right Parliament, the green reforms will stay. Otherwise, we'll be very screwed.

Anyway, the news are not bad only on that front. Check below!

Rich and poor still divided over climate pact

29 April 2009

Over 30 national proposals submitted to the UN in recent weeks have revealed that a significant divide must still be bridged between rich and poor countries if a new global climate agreement is to be concluded in December.

The proposals are to form the basis of a negotiating text for the post-Kyoto treaty, and will set the tone for the next round of UN negotiations in June. Differing views on sharing the cost of climate change, which have been a stumbling block, persist in the submissions.

Developing countries called on industrialised countries to commit around 0.5-2% of their GDP to funding mitigation and adaptation measures in poor countries. Moreover, the idea of using revenue from emission allowance auctioning to do so was floated by China, India and Indonesia, among others.

Rich countries, meanwhile, have been slow to come up with concrete proposals. The EU's stance is that the bulk of such financing will have to come from the private sector and carbon markets, and the bloc is yet to commit concrete sums to aiding developing countries (EurActiv 18/03/09).

The two-day meeting of the world's 17 biggest greenhouse gas emitters, which ended in Washington yesterday (28 April), indicated the scale of the problems that the world must address before agreement can be reached.

Although financing for developing countries was meant to be a major theme of the discussions, participants never even got as far as talking about it. They ran out of time after prolonged discussions on mitigation.

Developing countries generally insisted that industrialised countries should commit to cuts of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

China insisted that it made no sense to talk about long-term targets for all parties before developed countries had agreed to such reductions.

In fact, the EU is the only bloc of nations with a binding commitment to a 20% cut from 1990 levels by 2020. It has pledged to raise this to 30% if other developed nations take on comparable targets.

The US, which has previously been focused on setting an 80% long-term reduction target for 2050, has now indicated that it will push for strong mid-term targets too.

During the Major Economies Forum, Stern said the US would suggest a collective target that was at least as ambitious as the 14% cut below 2005 levels by 2020 as proposed by President Obama for the States. It might even propose targets in line with a draft Congress bill which would cut them by 20%.

The US numbers are nevertheless far less ambitious than those proposed by the EU. As they take 2005 as the base level, even the stricter target floated by Congressman Henry Waxman would only stabilise emissions at 1990 levels by 2020. source

My comment: Lol about the US target less strict than the European ones. In words, it might be so, but in practice, it's simply not. Because so far, there is no significance decrease in Europe, although this targets are not from today. The biggest share comes probably from the de-industrialisation of ex-Soviet countries after they found out they cannot produce stuff at any cost just for the fun of it. So in practice, Europe is still only talking. While some US states act. I'm not an US admirer, but facts are facts. We have to do so much more before we could be an example for the whole world. And so far, we're not doing it. We're only talking and what's worst-when we don't talk, we invest in suspicious technologies like CCS or cry about the mysterious phenomena Carbon Leakage. And as time passes, I wonder whether people would actually get more serious about Climate Change or no. Because what are few hurricanes and few metres above the sea level in the Maldives, when compared with the oil and gas in the Arctic. I can only hope that since the only European country having legal rights over the Arctic is Norway, Europe will try to prevent this new ecologic catastrophe. But this is just a wish. If they intended to stop oil/gas consumption, they wouldn't invest so hard in CCS.

Agri-food sector to assess its environmental footprint

7 May 2009

An EU sustainable food chain roundtable launched yesterday (6 May) is seeking to develop a methodology for assessing the environmental footprint of individual foods and drinks by 2011.

"Our aim is to deliver an environmentally sustainable food and drinks for consumers," said Jean Martin, president of the Confederation of the European Food and Drink Industries (CIAA), a member of the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) roundtable.

The roundtable brings together farmers and suppliers, food and drink producers, packaging firms and consumer organisations to develop environmental assessment methodologies for products and means for effective consumer communication, and to report on improvements.

According to the Commission, the food and drink sector contributes to some 23% of global resource use, 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and 31% of acidifying emissions.

"The price of beef price should be higher to correspond to its environmental impact," argued the secretary-general of the European farmer and agri-cooperative lobby COPA-COGECA, Pekka Pesonen. "As long as prices go down, we are not going to reach sustainability," he continued, describing the need to boost economic growth while maintaining sustainability as "a challenge none of us has solved so far".

"We need to give consumers the right information from the start, so that we won't be accused of 'greenwashing'," said Jean Martin, underlining the roundtable's objective of trying to overcome the shortcomings of the EU 27's "inconsistent" schemes and "incomplete" methodologies for measuring the various impacts of a product cycle. A framework assessment methodology for food and drink products should be finalised by 2011.

In parallel, the Commission's in-house research centre - the Joint Research Centre (JRC) - has been working since 2005 to identify reliable lifecycle assessments, but not just for food products. The JRC is also developing a common European database to exchange information. source

My comment: So, the beef prices should come up. Well, I don't eat beef often and it's way too expensive here, but I do agree that the price should reflect the use of resources for the production of each thing on the market. But I also think that if the consumer will have to pay that price, so should the producers! I mean what are we paying for if the producers continue to have the same practices? It simply doesn't make sense. The reality is that all parts of our lives need a reform, to make them more sustainable and I think that farmers would have the hardest time grasping this. They are so used to their old, unsustainable way of production in which they get funding, the produce and then they just pour the milk in the sewer, because they are unhappy with something. I do think that each country has to produce at least as much as to fulfill its needs. But the extra production should be regulated only by the market.

EU defends cap-and-trade scheme as 2008 data unveiled

18 May 2009

Factories covered by the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) saw their emissions drop by 3.06% last year, according to the European Commission, which sees the data as evidence that the system is working despite the ongoing economic recession.

The emissions amounted to the equivalent of 2.118 billion tonnes of CO2, with Germany, the UK and Italy topping the list of the most polluting countries, according to final data published on Friday (15 May).

These were also the countries that faced the biggest shortages of emissions allowances, forcing industries there to go out shopping for more rights to pollute (EurActiv 06/05/09).

Last year saw the launch the second phase of the EU ETS, during which the number of EU allowances (EUAs) will be cut by 6.5%. The Commission stated that in light of the new data, the ETS had now finally started to fulfil its purpose of bringing down emissions of global warming gases.

A successful second trading phase of the ETS is crucial for December's international negotiations aiming at hammering out a post-Kyoto climate deal.

"The 3% reduction was partly due to businesses taking measures to cut their emissions in response to the strong carbon price that prevailed until the economic downturn started. It confirms that the EU has a well-functioning trading system, with a robust cap, a clear price signal and a liquid market, which is helping us to cut emissions cost-effectively," said EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

As roughly half of the EU 27 ended up having to buy ETS credits last year, the Commission argued that the emission reductions were partially a result of installations investing in reduction activities. However, the onset of the recession has had a major impact on the ETS sectors, leading to lower emissions due to declining orders.

Barbara Helfferich, the European Commission's environment spokeswoman, said it was not possible to know exactly what proportion of the 3% cut was due to the ETS.

The emissions data also showed that companies did not make much use of the option to offset a part of their emissions via the international mechanisms set out in the Kyoto Protocol. Indeed, using credits from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or the Joint Implementation (JI) mechanism became an alternative to cutting emissions domestically or buying EUAs for the first time last year.

The figures reveal, however, that EU installations decided to use only around 6% of the 1.4 billion credits available for the 2008-2012 trading period on international offsets in 2008. 41% of the CDM credits were generated by projects in China and almost a third in India.

Overall, European power and industrial installations received 92% of their allowances for free last year. International offsets made up 3.9%, meaning only 4.1% of the allowances were either bought at auction or taken from 2009 allowances.

The Commission commended EU industries for their high level of compliance with the rules. It noted that less than 1% of mainly small companies participating in the ETS had failed to match their emissions with the required amount of allowances. source

My comment: So, with 8% auctioned allowances, we see a 3% drop in the emission. I wonder what could happen with 90% auctioned allowances. Ok, I'm a realist, I know this would be good way to stimulate the market in recession, but that time would eventually come. What bothers me is that this allowances should regulate not only CO2, but other greenhouse gases too. Because if they are not combined with stricter over-all pollution standards, we could face even worst situation than the current one-the CO2 at least is not toxic in low quantities. But not all the greenhouses gases are so nice.

Swedes to push for CO2 tax at EU helm

12 May 2009

Sweden wants to push for a tax on CO2 in sectors that do not participate in the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) upon assuming the EU helm in July, said the country's environment minister, Andreas Carlgren.

"We now have a system with a cap on 40% of emissions," Carlgren said in a Swedish radio broadcast last week (8 May), referring to the EU cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions.

"But the remaining 60% also need to come down and a climate tax such as a CO2 tax is absolutely one of the best ways to achieve this," he added, reviving an old debate about which economic instruments are best suited to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Anette Persson, energy counsellor at the Swedish Permanent Representation to the EU, confirmed that Sweden is hoping to rally support for its proposal by highlighting how well a carbon tax has worked at national level. She conceded nevertheless that taxation is "extremely difficult as a community competence," adding that harmonising taxes would be the easiest option.

Carlgren said he was unhappy with the way the Commission had been delaying debate on the issue, taking the economic crisis as a pretext. He added that the tax would in any case only be implemented in 2013, long after Europe has emerged from the recession.

Suggestions of a tax on CO2 emissions have proven unpopular among many voters, and few governments have so far dared to use such an instrument.

Together with Norway, Sweden was one of the first countries to introduce a tax on carbon emissions back in 1991. Customers already pay 2.34 kronor per litre for their fuel, and the government's proposed climate bill would hike up the price of diesel further, and link vehicle registration fees to carbon emissions.

Taxes are considered by economists to be the fairest way of reducing greenhouse gases, as they apply across the entire economy. By contrast, the EU's cap-and-trade scheme is selective and covers only the most polluting industries, such as power generation, cement and others.

Apart from Sweden, other EU countries levying taxes on carbon emissions from fuel, light industry and agriculture include Finland, Denmark and Slovenia.

These would be the obvious candidates to support Sweden on the tax. But the issue could be more complicated in countries like Denmark, which has a big Eurosceptic constituency, said Christian Egenhofer, head of the energy and climate programme at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

Egenhofer said the problem had always been that EU states did not want to accept any EU-wide CO2 taxes for fear of signalling that they would allow the EU to interfere with their fiscal autonomy. He said they were unlikely to budge from this position, although the financial crisis could potentially trigger a rethink.

Nevertheless, he argued that many Central and Eastern European member states would be likely to resist the plans as they have lighter taxation. Moreover, an additional tax on limited disposable income might not be politically acceptable, he noted. source

My comment: Ok, I don't get one thing. We already pay so high taxes on oil/gas/diesel. By we, I mean eastern member states. We buy it so cheap from Russia and we pay almost as much as in other parts of Europe. Can someone please explain to me, why instead of making governments commit a percentage of this tax on green projects, they would increase the tax further?! I'm serious, we really do pay very high taxes on oil, it simply doesn't make sense to pay more. I thought I support a green tax, but now considering it, I think I do not. Why should I pay for the unwillingness of producers to obey regulations? They will charge us for that regulations with the prices of the products, anyway, why should I pay once more by a specific tax! No, I disagree.

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