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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Environment in Europe, September 2009

Today:
  1. UK climate plan builds on wind, nuclear, clean coal
  2. Commission eyes tighter enforcement of EU waste law
  3. UN shipping body agrees to CO2-cutting proposals
  4. Industry stands to win over €5 billion from ETS
  5. EU, US eye green goods tax pact in climate fight
First, check this climate report. I'm not going to paste it here, because I recently realised, there's no use in arguing with climate change skeptics. That's why, read it if you like. My own opinion is that by now, we should be done talking and start acting. After all, it's not so important whether we should keep the CO2 levels to their 90s levels, 80s or 99s levels - once we start limiting them, we'll seriously, we'll have the time to choose the limit we prefer. Once producers of appliances understand that efficiency is a great way to attract customers and that it offers them even more options to explore, I'm sure it will become very easy to track emissions and to limit them and so on.

UK climate plan builds on wind, nuclear, clean coal

16 July 2009

The UK yesterday (15 July) unveiled its transition strategy to a low-carbon economy, foreseeing that 40% of the country's electricity will be provided by 'clean energy' by 2020.

The eagerly awaited white paper and accompanying strategy for renewable energy set out how the UK aims to meet its national target of slashing greenhouse gases by 34% from 1990 levels by 2020 as well as its EU obligation to produce 15% of energy from renewable sources by the same date.

The plan sets obligations for emissions cuts in all sectors of the economy, but the most far-reaching change is expected of the power sector, as "greening the electricity mix" is expected to deliver half of the total cuts.

Renewable energy should deliver a third of British electricity by 2020, while clean coal and nuclear would cover a further 10%. The share of renewables would have to rise from the current 5.5%, mainly with the help of wind, but the government also sees a role for wave and tidal power, hydro and bioenergy.

To speed up the connection of renewable electricity to the grid, the government pledged up to £6 million for the development of a smart grid. It also said it would increase financial incentives for developers in the field.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology gets a prominent role in the low-carbon strategy, as the government plans to fund up to four demonstration plants in the country (EurActiv 28/04/09). It also announced that it would establish a special Office of Carbon Capture and Storage to support work on developing the pioneering technology to bring it to a commercial scale.

The UK business lobby urged the government to reduce projections for wind energy by 2020, shifting support to nuclear power instead.The UK government sees its 2020 plan as a model for other nations to follow so that the Copenhagen climate conference in December delivers an ambitious global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. source

My comment: I'm extremely interested what "clean coal" is supposed to mean. After all the CCS is still only a project, not a reality. And without CCS "clean coal" is impossible phrase. They will create even an office of CCS! And they want to be a model for everyone. For me, this white paper shows good intention, but not real desire to bring them into reality.

Commission eyes tighter enforcement of EU waste law

17 July 2009

The European Commission does not have enough resources to properly enforce the implementation of the EU's Landfill Directive and related infringement cases against member states have very little effect, regretted an official at the EU executive, suggesting that the establishment of an EU waste implementation agency would remedy the situation.

According to 2008 figures, there are currently 141 waste-related infringement procedures pending against member states, representing 19% of all environmental infringement cases. Meanwhile, Maurer said he finds that infringements "have little effect", as reaching a court decision can take up to six years in some cases.

"Separate waste collection is a prerequisite to get landfill rates down" and member states have to opt for recycling, he argued.

Maurer further regretted that while waste officially ranks among the EU's top priorities, "there is not much happening". The Commission does not even have a unit dedicated to waste, and the issue is dealt with by the EU executive's sustainable consumption and production unit, where there is only one person in charge of the Landfill Directive, he said.

Maurer also stressed that national waste management plans are often just "pieces of paper", as highlighted by the recent "Campania case". The Campania region of southern Italy had submitted to the Commission a "magnificent plan", but had done "absolutely nothing" in practice, he said.

The case has led Commission services to take action and made the EU executive cautious about member states' waste management plans. "The Commission will monitor much more closely the implementation of these plans in the future," said Maurer.

According to Commission figures, reported by individual member states, there are some 7,000 illegal landfill sites [landfills operating without a permit] in the EU. But this is "just the tip of the iceberg," said Jorge Diaz de Castillo, another Commission official. According to 2005 figures, the highest number of illegal sites are situated in Italy (1,763), 700 of which are considered hazardous. Italy is closely followed by Greece (1,453), France (1,042), Belgian Wallonia (963) and Bulgaria (252).

However, the Commission believes the real number of illegal sites is much higher, giving estimates of around 5,000 in Italy and 1,500 in France, for example.

The EU executive sent letters to the EU's 27 governments this week, asking for an update of the current situation.

The results should be available by the end of 2009, after which the Commission may issue a Green Paper on the matter. source

My comment: What is "green paper"? Damn, white papers, green papers...the rainbow becomes politically charged, lol :) As for the article, very correct observation. The problem with garbage is huge and it's pretty obvious why - the garbage mafia is one of the biggest ones - at least in Bulgaria and Italy this is the problem. So, if the Commission wants to mess with this, it will become very interesting. But I'm sure there can be an equilibrium in which the two mobs will balance each other benefiting the decent citizens. So to say :)

UN shipping body agrees to CO2-cutting proposals

20 July 2009

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations shipping agency, on Friday (17 July) agreed to voluntary proposals aimed at cutting carbon emissions, but environmental groups said it fell short of what was needed.

Shipping and aviation are the only industrial sectors not regulated under the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets for greenhouse gas emissions by rich countries for the period 2008-12.

Shipping accounts for nearly 3% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and pressure has grown for cuts ahead of a crucial climate change summit in Copenhagen in December. Delegates from around 90 countries approved non-compulsory technical and operational measures to reduce greenhouse emissions from ships.

These included an energy efficiency design index for new ships to ensure that new vessel designs are environmentally friendly, as well as guidelines for existing vessels' development index.

The measures will be trialled until March 2010, when they will be addressed again by the IMO's marine environment protection committee.

Peter Lockley, head of transport policy at environmental group WWF UK, said the measures should have been mandatory with set targets.

"This does not meet our demands or what is necessary to protect the climate, and we are going to call on the UNFCCC to set targets and timelines and guiding principles," Lockley said, referring to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Peter Hinchliffe, marine director with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents 75% of the global industry, said the proposals were an important step, adding that shippers wanted them to be mandatory as soon as possible.

France called last month for a decision in Copenhagen on curbs to ship emissions, but stopped short of stating figures.

Some analysts argue that the IMO has been slow to come up with a mechanism to curb CO2 due to differences between member nations, especially ahead of Copenhagen (EurActiv 19/05/09).

The session of the IMO's marine environment protection committee discussed for the first time the issue of market-based measures and agreed on a work plan. It "could be in a position" to report progress made on the issue in 2011. source

My comment: Hm, this is a good news. Even if the actual share is only 3%, it still is important to set an example. To be sure that everyone is included in the efforts, so that nobody feels misunderstood. And after all, as I said everyone wins once people get efficiency stuck in their heads. It's easy. I also agree there's no use of setting goals that cannot be reached, but also, well calculated ambitions lead to progress.

Industry stands to win over €5 billion from ETS

23 July 2009

Industries participating in the EU's emissions trading scheme will likely end up with surplus allowances worth almost 400 million tonnes of CO2 in the period 2008-2012, undermining the objectives of the scheme, a climate campaign group said this week.

A new report by Sandbag released on 20 July argued that the EU ETS (see LinksDossier) is failing to follow the 'polluter pays' principle, and is in fact subsidising polluters by giving them a large number of free emission allowances instead.

The report estimated that the industries included in the scheme - except those in the power sector - are likely to earn as much as €5.4 billion by selling surplus credits accumulated during the second trading period, 2008-2012. The new entrants' reserve, set aside for those installations entering the ETS scheme, could hold another 300 million surplus permits by 2012, the report added.

The windfall profits result from firms selling their extra allowances to power companies, which by and large have to pay for all their emissions.

Moreover, the scheme includes a "generous safety valve" to counteract potential excess demand by allowing companies to buy offset credits from abroad, the report stated. The second trading period could see some 900 UN-administered CER credits enter the market, adding to what is perceived as increased "hot air" in the system, the report argues.

Sandbag stressed that as permits and offset credits are bankable up to 2020, nearly 40% of the effort required to achieve 2020 caps could be covered by extra allowances from the second phase ending in 2012.

To get the artificial market deliver on reducing emissions, its original purpose, the EU should take steps to tighten targets by 2020 and to cancel the New Entrants Reserve, the NGO underlined. Moreover, member states could offer tax breaks to companies that surrender their extra credits instead of putting them on the market, it proposed.

Sandbag also launched a map yesterday (22 July), indicating which EU industrial installations are short of permits and which have surpluses. The data shows that just ten plants make up 60% of the whole EU surplus, three of them belonging to steel group ArcelorMittal.

Presenting the results in Brussels, Sandbag Director Bryoni Worthington argued that companies in countries with strong 'polluting' industries like Germany, Spain and Sweden have shown great skill in lobbying member states for free allowances, while new member states have distributed their free permits more equally between players. source

My comment:Wow! That's very interesting report! I wonder what the response of the EC will be. Because there MUST be a response. It's simply a joke to pay to polluters to pollute. And then to argue how nice schemes Europe has and to offer it to the world. I'm not sure how those allowances are distributed, but for me, they should be given on production principle not to member states, but to companies. A database should be made for the EC updated periodically (like on 3 months) and every company that obtained allowances should account for them. Just like with European money - you want them, you have to prove you need them and how you would use them. Not just get them, because your member-state is more initiative and sell them for profit.

EU, US eye green goods tax pact in climate fight

29 September 2009

The European Union and the United States are holding talks on forging a pact with OECD countries and China to eliminate duties on green goods, as part of a deal with Beijing in view of a global climate agreement to be reached in Copenhagen by the end of the year.

EU diplomats told Reuters that under a plan being discussed by Brussels and Washington, the 30 nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and China would agree a global pact to phase out import tariffs on goods such as wind turbines, renewables and green technologies.

But any deal is unlikely to include environmentally friendly hybrid cars, the diplomats said.

"The talks are entering an advanced stage. Brussels and Washington hope this could be one of the incentives needed to get China on board in the lead up to the Copenhagen climate change talks," one EU diplomat told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative's office said the US and the EU had been pushing within the Doha round of world trade talks since November 2007 for a deal to cut tariffs on environmental goods "and continue to work closely in pushing for concrete progress".

US businesses such as United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) and General Electric Co. (GE.N), which are frustrated with the slow pace of the Doha round, have urged the Obama administration to consider alternative paths to reach a deal to boost trade in environmental goods and services.

China is on course to become the world's largest producer of wind turbines in the world this year and is a major manufacturer of solar products.

The Asian powerhouse - the world's biggest polluter - is under pressure from Europe and the US to cut its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as part of negotiations on a new global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which lapses at the end of 2012.

In return Beijing wants billions of dollars in cash from the EU and the US to help it harness new greener technologies for its export-driven economy.

"This deal would save Chinese exporters billions of euros and dollars and could form a large part of the overall package offered to Beijing to cut emissions," another diplomat said.

India and Brazil are also being wooed by the EU and Washington before global climate talks in Copenhagen in December, but are considered unlikely to take part in the initiative.

"Brazil and India are not seen as part of the deal since reducing their import tariffs would not benefit them. They can opt in, but it is expected they will opt out," the first diplomat said.

EU trade ministers gave the green light earlier this month to current EU presidency holder Sweden and the European Commission - which oversees trade policy for the 27-nation bloc - to pursue the negotiations with Washington.

Any negotiations would take place between ambassadors at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva, but any deal would be formally agreed outside the global trade watchdog, the diplomats said.

"It would be similar to an agreement in the pharmaceutical sector and would not contravene WTO rules," one envoy said.

Pharmaceutical-producing countries accounting for approximately 90% of global production, including the US, EU and China, have agreed to "zero-for-zero" tariffs for pharmaceutical products and for chemicals used in the production of pharmaceuticals. source

My comment: That sounds like a good deal to me. No more comments from me, since this isn't a fact yet. It's sad that hybrid cars and bulbs are not included, but well, industry is always with a priority against decent citizens.

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