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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Environment in Europe, November 2009 - carbon tax is coming

Today:
  1. Barroso's green industrial agenda fails to impress
  2. EU countries reject ban on bluefin tuna
  3. Sarkozy renews pressure for CO2 border tax
  4. Commission says farmers need help to cut carbon
  5. EU moves to tackle carbon trading fraud
Quote of the day: I really fail to understand the idea behind VAT - ok, let's all fill the government's coffers, I don't mind. But why business can recover VAT? What's the point of the business not paying the whole VAT, while I should pay the whole thing and never recover it? This is one of the most disgusting taxes. Because you pay it on EVERYTHING. And you pay it EVERYWHERE. And while some people are able to recover what they paid (or even to steal it) the decent citizens can only pay.

Barroso's green industrial agenda fails to impress

7 September 2009

The EU will embark on a radical decarbonisation of its transport and electricity sectors to retain leadership on climate change in the run-up to 2020, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said as he outlined the EU executive's priorities for the next five years. But environmentalists remain sceptical.

In particular, he said more efforts were needed "towards decarbonising our electricity supply and the transport sector – all transport, including maritime transport and aviation, as well as the development of clean and electric cars".

Moreover, the former Portuguese prime minister pledged to launch "a major initiative" to assess each Community policy in light of climate change, making the changes necessary to help the EU to slash emissions and adapt to climate change.

In the context of the current recession, the Commission should concentrate on designing a favourable regulatory environment to foster the uptake of low-carbon technologies by European businesses, particularly SMEs, Barroso said. A modernised industrial base using environmentally-friendly technologies and benefiting from energy-efficiency improvements would give the EU first-mover advantages and provide more jobs, he argued.

Barroso identified a new European supergrid for electricity and gas as one of the "next great European projects" to meet growing energy demand in a sustainable way. In addition, he highlighted the current Commission's leadership in launching the Nabucco pipeline project as well as progress towards Baltic interconnectors. source

My comment:I'm sorry, what Commission's leadership in Nabucco?! Where? The leadership of Nabucco is and always was in the hands of USA. I don't think this was ever an European project, since half of the member states are against it! Anyway, read the complete article for some good rhetoric, as for me, I believe only actions. And those actions are still missing. I only hope to see the electricity and gas supergrids starting soon, because they really are the next BIG thing!


EU countries reject ban on bluefin tuna

22 September 2009
EU member states yesterday (21 September) failed to support proposals aimed at temporarily banning international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna in order to preserve the species, as a result of opposition from Spain, Malta, Italy, France, Greece and Cyprus. The bloc's environment ministers will have their final say by the end of the year.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas regretted the decision, while Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said it was now up to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) "to assume its full responsibility to ensure the recovery of bluefin tuna".

EU member states can still review their position before the Convention meets in March 2010, when the final decision will be taken.

Monaco is the first country in the world to have stopped the sale of bluefin tuna and is sponsoring the proposed ban on the species. Several other European states, including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and northern countries, have declared their support for such a ban and have been encouraged by lobbying from environmental groups.

Temporary bans have been imposed by the Commission before, in 2007 and 2008, when it stated there was a need to protect tuna as a "fragile resource" following "substantial overfishing by the EU fleet in 2007". source

My comment: I don't understand this, the practice shows that once under a ban, the tuna shoals are very quick to recover and thus, such ban would obviously be only temporary, until the bluefin tuna has recovered! Thus the producers (well, the fishers) has the greatest interest of preserving the resources. This is an absolute nonsense. Not to mention how irresponsible it is.

Sarkozy renews pressure for CO2 border tax

14 September 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated calls to impose a European tax on goods imported from countries with less stringent environmental laws as he outlined plans for a new carbon tax on French households and industries last week (10 September).

In a speech, Sarkozy said he would put his weight behind convincing his European colleagues that the EU needs a carbon tax at its borders to safeguard the competitiveness of its industry.

The president said that he would not accept a system where European countries impose constraints on their industries for climate protection while allowing imports to continue from countries that do not respect the same rules.

Sarkozy has repeatedly called for such a border adjustment mechanism since negotiations over the EU's climate and energy package, agreed last December.

But Sarkozy will have a hard time convincing the 27-member bloc that border tariffs are the way to fend off unfair competition resulting from the EU's progressive climate policies. Sweden, which currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, has warned that protective measures would block any progress towards a new global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December .

But Sarkozy claims his call is not about protectionism but fair competition. He said he was encouraged by the US, where the House of Representatives included a provision for a border carbon tariff in its draft climate bill.

Moreover, he pointed to a WTO report which said that a carbon tax at the EU's borders would be allowed under international trade rules if member states put in place national carbon tax plans.

Sarkozy said border carbon tariffs would complement the French carbon tax well. Despite much political controversy, the president is pushing forward with his plan to levy a new tax on oil, gas and coal consumption by households and businesses.

The president announced that the tax would be set at €17 per tonne of carbon emissions from next year, rising gradually. The new tax would add 4.5 cents to the price of a litre of diesel, four cents to a litre of petrol and around 0.4 cents to a KWh of gas.

source

My comment: I also don't think that this is protectionism - after all, if we commit to decrease our emission, we must be sure we'll get the same from the other countries. If they are not willing to contribute to the common goal, then we have to have a way to force them to do it. After all, we already have done this with the energy saving light bulbs produced in China. So, nothing new on the horizon. WTO also agree we have the right to do it (which is kind of suspicious, right?). So, I support Nicolas in this. As for the taxes in France, I find them somewhat high, but I guess it's not that high for them. And it's great that they excluded electricity - this is very positive sign for nuclear energy.

Commission says farmers need help to cut carbon

16 September 2009

European farmers must slash agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020, primarily by producing biomass and storing carbon in the soil, but they risk ruin without outside help, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said yesterday (15 September).

European agriculture emissions have already fallen by 20% since 1990 due in part to there being fewer cattle and also to better technology and farm management.

But the heat is on to find other ways to reduce emissions, ahead of a major global climate summit in Copenhagen in December and to meet tough goals already set for the next decade.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the EU agriculture commissioner, said on Tuesday (15 September) that the farm sector should cut emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

Farmers can also fight emissions by supplying more biomass to produce energy and renewable materials, she said.

Fischer Boel said Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Health Checkexternal and Economic Recovery Packageexternal had helped set aside more money for farmers to fight climate change.

But she said Europe would "almost certainly" have to make changes to the CAP, mainly after 2013, to give farmers much-needed support to reduce emissions. source

My comment: Everything sounds great, I just hope that this won't be just one more source of income for poor farmers (and one more drain for taxpayers). Because we subsidize them kind of too much these days. It seems that being a farmer in some regions of Europe is a very good idea, while in others, it's pure nightmare. Funnily enough I kind of want to be a farmer one day. Not because of the money, but simply for the pleasure of producing your own food. That's nice. Anyway, I hope this initiative can lead to better quality of the food we eat, because a big part of the pollution comes from fertilizers and hormones, antibiotics and so on. If we can limit them without hurting the production too much, that would be nice!

EU moves to tackle carbon trading fraud

1 October 2009

The European Commission has presented measures to fight VAT fraud in carbon permits to regain the credibility of its emissions trading scheme ahead of crunch climate talks in December.

The EU executive proposed on 29 September an express solution to stop "carousel fraud," which has seen criminals steal billions from EU governments by means of VAT receipts for items like mobile phones and computer chips. These criminals have recently moved to the EU carbon market (see EurActiv LinksDossier ).

In a simple case, known as 'the missing trader' fraud, a trader buys carbon credits in one member state without having to pay VAT and then sells them in another country, charging VAT. Afterwards the importer disappears instead of paying VAT to the government.

The Commission proposes to combat this by temporarily applying a "reverse charge mechanism" to greenhouse gas emission allowances, as well as other "particularly fraud sensitive goods": computer chips, mobile phones, precious metals and perfumes.

Under the mechanism, the supplier does not charge VAT. Instead, the customer becomes liable for paying the tax, and declares and deducts it at the same time without effecting payment to the treasury. This removes the opportunity to commit fraud as carbon traders do not exchange VAT every time they sell carbon credits.

During the summer, several member states already took action against suspected fraud cases in carbon trading.

The Dutch government opted for the approach now proposed by the Commission. France exempted emissions allowances from VAT completely, while the UK set the rate at zero.

The Commission is now proposing a harmonised EU response to the problem. Applying the mechanism would nevertheless remain optional for member states.

The proposed measure is only temporary, and the Commission regards it as an opportunity to assess the usefulness of a sector-targeted application of reverse charging. source
My comment: I really fail to understand the idea behind VAT - ok, let's all fill the government's coffers, I don't mind. But why business can recover VAT? What's the point of the business not paying the whole VAT, while I should pay the whole thing and never recover it? This is one of the most disgusting taxes. Because you pay it on EVERYTHING. And you pay it EVERYWHERE. And while some people are able to recover what they paid (or even to steal it) the decent citizens can only pay. If you ask me, that should be the only tax we pay, apart from health and pension insurances and road taxes. I mean seriously, the country earns so much out of it, and the taxes on the fuels, why should they take parts of the salaries too? And note - I'm in no way libertarian. I just prefer to pay once, trough higher VAT, than to have to fill forms, to prove my income and so on. After all, if I have more money, I'll spend more, thus paying more trough VAT. And if the business doesn't have the right to recover VAT, then my payment will go directly in to the coffer. And it would be fair for everyone.
As for VAT fraud trough emissions I think that emissions should be exempted from VAT until the scheme becomes financially viable and also, until we have common VAT for the whole EU. Otherwise, you simply cannot stop frauds.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Patent fun and GMO nonsense, November 2009

Today:
  1. SMEs want patent protection at heart of 'EU Innovation Act'
  2. Google faces new EU battle over e-books
  3. EU firms voice fears of trade secret 'leakage' in China
  4. EU to inject millions into developing innovative medicine
  5. EU farm chief pushes for biotech feed rules
Quote of the day:Of course, the patent system should be simplified and unified, that's clear. But whether SMEs are the ones to really benefit from this is questionable. I think the whole system is corrupted in the sense, it protects mostly big companies and corporations, at least in USA which we want to use as a model. So, if we want to really help SMEs and anyway to boost innovation, we have to think how to change the system in such a way.

SMEs want patent protection at heart of 'EU Innovation Act'

8 September 2009

Small businesses have welcomed the EU's latest efforts to enhance innovation but urged leaders to make a single European Community patent a top priority. The European Commission's new overview of innovation policy includes plans for a European Innovation Act.

In addition to beefed-up intellectual property protection, SMEs also want EU member states to promote innovation through state aid, public procurement and the creation of lead markets.

Responding to the review of innovation issues published by the Commission's enterprise directorate, UEAPME – a leading SME lobby group – called for progress on a single Community patent, "which would dramatically boost innovation in SMEs".

UEAPME Secretary-General Andrea Benassi said the document showed "a better and refined understanding" of innovation issues.

He said the document identifies the right challenges to fill the innovation gap between Europe and its main competitors, namely the protection of intellectual property rights, access to finance and better cooperation between science and business.

The Commission's broad summary of current thinking on innovation in Europe ticks all the usual boxes, including the need for a Community patent, a greater role for SMEs, the importance of the internal market, and improving education and skills. source

My comment: Yeah, nothing exactly new here, but it's good to know that the EC has all the problems in mind and it is working toward solving them. I wonder, however, what exactly have SMEs to do with science and innovation. After all, science is usually expensive field, it's hard to imagine a small enterprise registering patents on something fundamentally new, though maybe I'm wrong. Of course, the patent system should be simplified and unified, that's clear. But whether SMEs are the ones to really benefit from this is questionable. I think the whole system is corrupted in the sense, it protects mostly big companies and corporations, at least in USA which we want to use as a model. So, if we want to really help SMEs and anyway to boost innovation, we have to think how to change the system in such a way. Not an easy task, but then, that's why the guys from the EC have those BIG salaries, right?

As for intellectual property, that's ridiculous. The intellectual property protection never existed in its wholeness. What those laws and regulations actually protect is the right of companies to earn from the intellectual property of decent people. Which will be very obvious if we look into the contracts of any entertainer - musician or writer with his or her company. If you ask me, the real protection should go into this direction - a company should be a representative of the creator and not the right holder. And as a representative, this company should take a regulated percentage of the money, not more than 10%. Otherwise, don't fool us you're protecting intellectual rights, you are not!

Google faces new EU battle over e-books

8 September 2009

Google's project to digitise the world's book heritage has been welcomed by the EU Commission, but many questions have arisen regarding the potential monopolistic power of the US giant over access to digitised works, copyright, data protection and even censorship risks.

Google is at the forefront of the digital book business. According to its own figures, 10 million books have already been migrated from their original paper format into an electronic version, under its revolutionary Book Search project.

This colossal operation holds enormous promise for cultural heritage since it brings back to life works that were shelved in dusty libraries, difficult to access for average user.

In addition, this operation should not harm the existing market of digital books, since it involves only books that are "not commercially available," argues Google.

According to figures provided by Google, 97% of the world book market concerns in-print books. Out-of-print or orphan books (for which the copyright holder is unknown) hold the remaining market share of 2-3%.

Although of little commercial value, out-of-print and orphan books represent 90% of European libraries' collections and the largest proportion of global works. It is a potentially enormous market which, if brought to the surface, could return enormous profits and is likely to shift current market share figures.

Having accumulated such an advantage over any possible competitor, will Google be in a monopolistic position in the nascent market of digitised old books?

European publishers, authors and booksellers largely agree that this would be the case creating new competition issues and potential devastating effects on some of the current business models. "Google would become the world de facto digital bookseller," warned Fran Dubruille of the European Booksellers' Federation, which represents 20,000 EU booksellers. Authors fear that Google will be able to impose the prices it wants.

Publishers fret they will lose substantial revenues: "If a copy of an English-language book published in Europe finds its way to a US library, Google could scan it even if the rights haven't been sold for the US market, possibly harming the publisher's own opportunities to sell those rights in future," argues Angela Mills-Wade of the European Publishers Council.

A monopolistic situation in the books market has potentially terrible consequences for world culture, speakers at a hearing organised by the European Commission in Brussels pointed out, citing emerging risks of censorship. If you have a single distributor, it is easier for a state or a powerful interest group to block a book due to its content, so the argument goes.

Data protection questions arise as well, as with many other Google projects, from the search engine to its email service. The question of who is checking this enormous amount of personal data is frequently posed by Europeans.

Google responds that these are not real issues since it will not be in a monopolistic position. The company says it will guarantee access to its digital registry to every company interested in scanning and digitising books.

European publishers have proposed a way to easily work out if a book is out-of-print or not. The system is called ARROW (Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works) and is poised to become an alternative to Google Books itself, according to a statement published yesterday by the Federation of European Publishers (FEP).

Europeans have another reason to complain about Google Books. If indeed Google does reach a settlement in the US, American users will be able to access thousands of European digitised books which are in European libraries and de facto not accessible to EU citizens.

This is the reason why the Commission is supporting the project and pushing for harmonised copyright rules across EU countries. source

My comment: Ok, I couldn't edit a great deal this article and where I edited it, I feel I lost some information so please go and read it at the source. Anyway, if you follow After The Pink Goat blog, you'll probably know that I had some problems with Google these days, so I can personally vouch how dangerous is to trust everything in the hands of monopolist. And the guarantees Google gives are ridiculous. What does is it mean that they'll provide access to anyone interested? Oh, yeah, they skipped something - they'll provide access to anyone obeying TOS of Google. The same TOS that say that you have to obey Google requirements while Google has no obligation to you, the service is as it is and they reserve the right to delete your accounts whenever they wish. Am, hello?. How could anyone trust something so big in the hands of people who don't understand that they are providing a service and their users also have rights! So, I'm all for digitizing the books, but not like this. Google has to learn to obey regulations and to be responsible for its services and for the rights of its users. No more, no less! The client before all, remember? And just as the mobile provides were forced to obey our rights by the EC, the same should happen to Google.

EU firms voice fears of trade secret 'leakage' in China

7 September 2009

Confidential data provided by European companies to the Chinese authorities as part of patent applications and environmental impact assessments are being leaked to local competitors, according to the European Union's Chamber of Commerce in China.

There is a growing concern amongst European companies about the "leakage of confidential information," with Chinese government agencies demanding detailed data on the products and practices of foreign firms.

Companies are losing vital classified information at various stages of business development, including project applications, product certification, environmental impact assessments, patent filings, marketing approvals and registration, the paper said.

As a precondition of market access in several industries, businesses must provide government laboratories with highly confidential information which European firms say "goes far beyond the scope" of what should be strictly necessary.

There are also concerns over a draft new patent law which requires innovative companies to submit inventions to the Chinese authorities for "confidentiality examinations" prior to filing patent applications abroad.

This proposal is causing much consternation among companies conducting research and development in China and is "likely to make EU companies less willing" to base R&D operations at their Chinese plants.

source

My comment: I'm not sure if I have to bother to comment - this article obviously points to a MAJOR problem. I mean "confidentiality examinations" - come one! How could you submit your patent data any other agencies than the one that will grant you the patent! This is an obvious madness! However, I see a good side of the problem - with little luck, companies will come back to Europe because of this nonsense and we would all be happy. Nice, huh?

EU to inject millions into developing innovative medicines

15 September 2009

Europe is pumping an extra €156.3 million into accelerating the discovery and development of novel drugs as part of a new wave of public-private investment in innovative medicines.

The funding is the second tranche made available as part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a joint venture between the European Commission and members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. The IMI agreed a package of €246 million for new medicines earlier this year.

EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik said the initiative will improve Europe's attractiveness for pharmaceutical R&D and to ensure that results from fundamental research can be rapidly translated into new innovative treatments.

The second call for proposals, which will be launched at the end of next month, focuses on nine topics including new tools for improving drug efficacy, improved diagnostics to facilitate clinical trials, and electronic health records. source

My comment: Oh well, happy money for the pharmacy industry. I only ask why we don't see such tranches for the European Space Agency. Because unlike the pharmacy industry, they don't get to sell drugs developed with the financial help of European citizens on unbelievable prices to the very same European citizens .

EU farm chief pushes for biotech feed rules

15 September 2009

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel yesterday (14 September) urged member states to draw up rules by the end of 2009 to restore soybean imports from the United States and secure adequate supplies of animal feed, despite a zero-tolerance policy towards unapproved genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in imported products.

While the EU has been rubberstamping by default the approval of a string of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), mainly maize varieties, since 2004, it does not permit the use of other GMOs, even in minute amounts, until they have been approved for use in the bloc.

Soybeans, and to a lesser extent maize, are an important ingredient in animal feed.

Commissioner Fischer Boel told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting of EU farm ministers in southern Sweden that a proposal on a maximum level for GMO residues in imports should be ready before the end of the year.

"Over the summer I have become even more worried about this, because of the fact that we are importing into Europe a lot of soybean, and we desperately need soybean for our pig and meat production," she said.

Since the EU's three main country suppliers of soy, a high-protein raw material for feed, mainly grow GM varieties, non-biotech soy has become increasingly difficult to source for the EU's manufacturers of animal feed.

The three suppliers are Argentina, Brazil and the United States.

More than 200,000 tonnes of US soy have been refused entry at EU ports in recent months after traces of unapproved GM maize varieties were discovered in them.

The blockage raised fears in the EU feed industry that it will be unable to buy millions of tonnes of US soybeans as planned unless the zero-tolerance policy on unapproved GMOs is changed.

The Commission has said it will find a technical solution to what is known as "low-level presence" of GMO residues.

"I've been very keen on this issue, raising the discussion on a quicker approval system, making it quite clear that member states do have their obligations," she said.

Fischer Boel said the Commission had already received positive feedback from the EU's scientific advisory body, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), on a variety of GM corn, MON 88017, which she hopes will be quickly approved by member states.

Fischer Boel said Sweden's agriculture minister, Eskil Erlandsson, had promised to put the issue of MON 88017 on the agenda at the next Council meeting.

But getting a proposal on a biotech approval system on the table by the end of the year could be tricky. source

My comment: Interesting, when we had pigs few years ago, we never gave them soya. How life on Earth changes...Sorry, but I don't understand why we should all eat soya and soya alone. There's soya in almost everything. This simply cannot be good! I was thinking of becoming vegetarian only to stop eating soya and antibiotics from the meat. Is this normal argument for such a decision? Well, it is the industry that forces me to do it! I like meat, but is this meat at all? The chickens are full of hormones, the cattle and pigs with GM soya. What are we eating after all! And not only there is soya in the meat, there is soya in most products on the market. This soya is almost always modified! I wonder why they even bother with farming - just use soya and additives for anything. It's much cheaper and simpler. I'm utterly disgusted and I'm the most disgusted from the fact authorities don't botherto solve this problem.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Environment in October, 2009 - Copenhagen getting closer

Today:
  1. Europe's air quality improving, data shows
  2. EU publishes list of airlines for emissions trading
  3. EU ready to shoulder a quarter of global climate funding
  4. Commission unveils first climate aid blueprint
  5. East-West divide stalls EU climate funding talks
  6. EU leaders fail to hammer out climate funding details
Quote of the day:think that there should be something in the middle between the two proposals - like 50-50% with some compensations that will make the scheme affordable to poor member states. Because if countries pay only based on their GDP, they don't have an incentive to invest into cleaner productions. Thus, the proposal of Poland goes against the veryidea of the forum.

Europe's air quality improving, data shows

25 August 2009

Although levels of major air pollutants continued to decline in the EU in 2007, the residential and road transport sectors are becoming increasingly significant sources of pollution, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Friday (21 August).

The findings were presented in an EU-wide emission inventory report that aggregates data on levels of air pollutants in the 27 member states from 1990 to 2007. The report found that the biggest reductions were recorded for sulphur oxides (SOx), acidifying pollutants whose levels were down 72% from 1990. The three main pollutants which cause ground-level ozone to form in the atmosphere – nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO) – were also down.

Emissions of primary particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), which causes health problems like asthma and lung cancer, were also down by around 12% compared to 2000, when levels of these pollutants were first reported by EU member states.

But the report also noted that energy use by households is becoming an increasingly important contributor to bad air quality across the EU 27. The residential sector was identified as a key source of six pollutants, making its overall impact on air quality the largest.

Road transport also got a poor grade as heavy duty vehicles make up the biggest source of NOx, while passenger cars rank among the top six emitters of several pollutants.

The power sector, however, got a better assessment. It has been reducing its emissions continuously via better abatement equipment, energy efficiency measures and cleaner fuels, but remains a major source of the pollutants which cause acid rain.

The largest member states were generally the biggest sources of pollution, with France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK making up most of the EU 27's emissions in 2007, the report shows.

Several member states have been struggling to meet the bloc's air quality standards.

In January, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against ten member states that had failed to meet the standards for airborne particles called PM 10 specified in the 2008 Air Quality Directive. Several member states have notified extensions for meeting their compliance deadlines. source

My comment: To be precise, the reason why those pollutant were down is more likely the fact that most industries continue to relocate in China and so on. Or to go to less developed member states, where there are not enough pollutants anyway. Over all, I think we need much stricter standards in most of the sectors. It's a nonsense to claim we are serious about reducing the pollutants when we exchange one place for another or one pollutant for another. There was an article I read about factories in USA which reduced their emissions of pollutants in the air, by installing filters that emptied a lot of chemicals in the water. That is what I mean. To have an idea is the first step, to have the political will is the second. To implement both is the third.

EU publishes list of airlines for emissions trading

25 August 2009

The European Commission last week (22 August) published a list of nearly 4,000 commercial carriers which will have to participate in the EU's emissions trading scheme from 2012.

The list includes commercial airlines and private jet charters that fly to and from the EU, aircraft manufacturers including Airbus, and armed forces like the US Navy. The Commission stresses that the list is a live document and will be updated every year.

The new regulation kicks off implementation of a directive on the inclusion of aircraft operators in the EU's emissions trading scheme (see EurActiv LinksDossier). The legislation was adopted in January (EurActiv 02/02/09) amid criticism from the aviation industry in Europe and the United States.

The industry fears that additional carbon charges will place too heavy a burden on airlines, which are experiencing negative growth due to the economic crisis (EurActiv 27/10/08).

But the most controversial aspect is the inclusion on the list of foreign airlines that operate flights to or from European airports. The EU faced accusations that its unilateral decision would be subjected to legal challenge as foreign airlines would end up subsidising the EU aviation industry (EurActiv 09/07/08).

To provide legal clarity, the list allocates each airline to an individual member state, under whose regulation it is subsequently bound to operate.

The list was adopted on 5 August after a long delay, which has led some countries to postpone deadlines for monitoring plans. The directive obliges airlines to submit these to their administering country by 31 August, detailing how they intend to monitor and report emissions.

The UK has announced that after its parliament has published the list, it will give its airlines eight weeks to hand in their plans, while Germany has given its operators six weeks to do so. Actual monitoring will start on 1 January 2010. source

My comment: Finally! I can only applaud that they made this decision, because it is good. And ultimately, this is the only way to make foreign airlines to mind their emissions. It's not only about Europe, it's about the whole world! And after all, I'm already paying for carbon offsetting in Easyjet (which by the way are gathering personal data absolutely illegally, but that is another story)...

EU ready to shoulder a quarter of global climate funding

8 September 2009

The EU is prepared to put up to 30% of the money required at global level to finance an ambitious post-Kyoto climate treaty and overcome the current standoff in the negotiations, a draft European Commission document shows.

The paper outlines the financing needs of developing countries for climate change mitigation and adaptation and sketches out a scheme of how the burden might be shared among developed countries. The Commission plans to present the paper in the coming days, possibly as early as 10 September.

International negotiations currently appear to have reached an impasse, the draft said, adding that a step-by-step approach to scaling up finance could help make progress.

The draft evaluates the needs of developing countries for additional climate change financing, excluding any contributions from the carbon market, to €66-€80 billion annually by 2020. Out of this, adaptation costs would be in the range of €10-€24 billion while mitigation would require around €56 billion.

The calculations are based on the presumption that the international community reaches an agreement on an ambitious new climate treaty, requiring developed countries to cut their emissions 30% below 1990 levels by 2020. Developing countries on the other hand would be expected to lower their emissions to 20% below this baseline by 2020, four points of which would be reductions paid for via the international carbon market.

The Commission estimates that industry and power plants would account for €33 billion of additional mitigation costs, agriculture €5 billion and slow tropical deforestation €18 billion.

Over and above this public funding, the international carbon market would provide an annual €38 billion by 2020, according to the paper.

The draft also sets up scenarios of how much each developed country should contribute to the public funds, based on their GDP and greenhouse gas emissions. It puts Europe's likely contribution somewhere in the range of 20% and 30%.

This is the first time that the EU has offered a concrete definition of "fair share", which has been used loosely in previous ministerial meetings' conclusions.

The draft stresses, however, that the scenarios represent an "upper bound" for international public finance, which would be mainly used to enable the development of the international carbon market to leverage "much larger flows of private capital".

Moreover, the Commission proposes to take countries' emissions reduction targets into account when determining its share of overall public financial flows. Nations with more ambitious emissions reduction targets are likely to make better use of the international carbon market, leading to higher flows from the private sector, it reasons.

The draft suggests that the EU's contribution to climate funding would come from a mixture of revenues from the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS;) and "innovative sources".

The Commission estimates that the EU ETS would bring in €15-€40 billion a year from 2013, depending on how the allowance prices develop. The revised directive urges member states to spend at least 50% of their revenues on efforts to combat climate change, but there is no legal obligation for them to do so.

In addition to funds from national budgets, international shipping and aviation could be tapped into by obliging them to buy emissions permits or by using levies on bunker fuels, the draft says.

The paper also presents a contribution key, detailing how individual EU member states would chip in to pay for Europe's share.

Applying a global distribution key with a weighting of 90% GDP and 10% emissions, the EU would contribute €287.8 million per every billion agreed globally, the draft says. The biggest burden would fall on the largest Western member states, Germany (€57.96 million), the UK (€46.60 million) and France (€43.52 million).

Although simply using GDP as a basis for the calculation would increase the EU's overall contribution, Eastern European member states would actually be better off under such a scenario. source

My comment: Ok, I agree with this plan, but of course, it won't pass. And anyway, I'm absolutely sure that we may save most of those money, if we impose a carbon tax on anything that is imported in the EU from a country that doesn't have the same standards, following the productions line all the way trough. Because if we have to be fair, the biggest polluters are the industries. A developing country isn't likely to produce only for itself. So if it wants to export to the EU, make it pay. Then we'll invest the money into clean projects to compensate for their pollution. Or something like this.

Commission unveils first climate aid blueprint

11 September 2009

The EU could offer 2-15 billion euros a year to help developing countries fight climate change and adapt to its predicted devastating consequences, the European Commission said yesterday (10 September).

"The EU is moving and we hope other developed countries will follow," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas stated, presenting a blueprint for scaling up international finance in support of developing countries.

The move represented an attempt to unblock stalled negotiations over a global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, due to be agreed at the end of the year in Copenhagen.

The Commission estimates that developing countries' overall financing needs will hit €100 billion a year by 2020, if an ambitious agreement is reached in Copenhagen. The EU executive foresees that between €22-50 billion will come from the international public sector.

Emissions reductions in core sectors - industry, energy, agriculture and deforestation - would require €10-€20 billion, according to the Commission's proposal. Adaptation would take up €10-24bn, while €1-3bn is foreseen both for boosting capacity building and research respectively.

Moreover, the EU executive earmarked €5-7 billion to "fast-track" the implementation of the new climate deal between 2010 and 2012 ahead of its entry into force. The proposal also recommends that the EU commit to providing at least €500 million and up to €2.1 billion a year, starting from next year.

The EU's methodology for determining how much of the burden each developed country should offer hinges on its ability to pay, measured by GDP, and its responsibility for emissions. Depending on the weight of each factor, this would set the EU's contribution at somewhere between 10% and 30% of the total.

The EU is keen to factor in responsibility for emissions, as this would lower its bill compared to a GDP-only calculation. Where the EU would end up in the wide range of €2-15 billion depends on how the weighting is decided in Copenhagen.

Moreover, the Commission suggests that countries with lower climate ambitions should shoulder a larger financial burden (EurActiv 08/09/09).

The Commission blueprint suggests that around 20-40% of the total should be covered by public and private funding from the developing countries themselves. Poor countries should fund in particular low-cost energy efficiency measures, which pay for themselves through lower energy bills, it says.

A third source of funding foreseen in the plan is the international carbon market. This would raise around 40% of resources and lessen the need for international public finance as it becomes more ambitious, it says.

Dimas fended off accusations that the proposal had been scaled down after pressure from member states, as earlier drafts showed that the EU had been prepared to pay €13-€24 billion per year (EurActiv 09/09/09).

As a result of the EU's emissions trading scheme, European companies are the biggest source of funding for emissions reduction projects in developing countries through the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), he pointed out.

Environmentalists, however, were quick to note that the sums fall far short of an ambitious commitment. They have called on the EU to provide at least €35 billion annually on top of existing development aid.

The Commission's preferred means of financing the EU contribution would be via the EU budget, a method which would give the European Parliament a say in the process. Other options include the creation of a common 'Climate Fund' outside of the budget or direct contributions from member states, it said.

The paper will be discussed by EU leaders at their October summit, and it is now up to the member states to decide whether to take up the EU executive's recommendations. source

My comment: Yeah, this is more or less information as the article before, just more elaborated. I hope you don't find it annoying. As for the result, check below:

East-West divide stalls EU climate funding talks

30 October 2009

The first day of the European summit ended without an agreement on climate funding for developing countries, as Hungary and Poland led opposition to proposals that would share the burden among EU states by placing a significant emphasis on emission levels.

Nine Central and East European member states want any internal burden-sharing to be based mainly on wealth rather than on emissions, as this would significantly reduce their contributions. But the Swedish Presidency was looking for a deal on a distribution key that would have "a considerable weight on emission levels".

Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said that the proposal was "not acceptable" for the less prosperous Eastern member states.

The coalition, led by Poland, argues that emphasising emissions will give countries like Sweden a major advantage as it is already one of Europe's most energy-efficient economies. According to the European Commission's calculations, if the distribution key were based only on GDP, Sweden would pay almost the same sum as Poland, whereas a combination of 75% greenhouse gases and 25% GDP would bring down Sweden's share to roughly a third of that of Poland.

"We will no accept a situation where Romania pay more than Denmark, and Poland pay more than the Nederlends," a Polish diplomat said. "It will be not fair."

"If we pay according to GNP, the country's share will be five million euros a year, while if it is according to emissions, it would be 38 million," said a Bulgarian diplomat, quoted by the daily Trud.

The agreement is seen as crucial to unblocking stalled UN negotiations to agree on a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in December in Copenhagen.

Moreover, negotiations on fast-track funding for the period leading up to the entry into force of the new treaty, expected between 2010 and 2012, stalled on the demands of the nine that contributions to these funds should be voluntary. The European Commission estimates the international financing required to be in the order of 5-7 billion euros per year, of which the EU could pay at least €500 million (EurActiv 11/09/09).

The Swedish Presidency was eyeing an agreement that would commit all EU member states to contributing a share of any upfront costs.

The heads of states and government will return to the negotiating table today to try to agree on a new proposal by the Swedish Presidency. This states that EU contributions to fast-track as well as long-term financing will take into account the financial constraints of poorer member states, according to reports. source

My comment: I must agree that this scheme isn't entirely fair, as well as the request of Poland is not fair neither. You cannot pay only on GDP, because obviously, some countries pollute more than others. For example, Poland with their coal plants cannot be compared to a country that uses mostly nuclear energy (or at least not directly). I think that there should be something in the middle between the two proposals - like 50-50% with some compensations that will make the scheme affordable to poor member states. Because if countries pay only based on their GDP, they don't have an incentive to invest into cleaner productions. Thus, the proposal of Poland goes against the very idea of the forum.

EU leaders fail to hammer out climate funding details

30 October 2009

EU leaders have agreed on the need to provide €100 billion a year to fund climate efforts in developing countries, but failed to commit the EU to any specific sums, delaying their decision until after December's UN conference in Copenhagen.

Between €22-€50 billion a year would have to come from international public financing, but how much the EU would fork out will depend on "comparable commitments" from other countries, EU leaders said at the conclusion of a two-day summit on 30 October.

An agreement on the EU's 'fair share' of the lump sum stalled on disagreements about how the financial burden will be shared within the EU. The heads of state and government agreed to set up a working group "to take account of each country's financing capabilities," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after the summit.

Moreover, the leaders agreed that €5-€7 billion per year will have to be made available as fast-track funding between 2010 and 2012 before the entry into force of the new climate treaty. But the EU's share will only be determined after Copenhagen, the conclusions state.

The leaders endorsed the long-term target of reducing the collective developed country emissions by 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 as agreed by environment ministers last week.

EU leaders talked up the agreement as a huge breakthrough in negotiations that have been dragging on for months.

But the leaders stressed that the agreement was entirely conditional on action by other developed countries. The EU is now looking to see what the US, Australia, Japan and Canada will bring to the table.

However, the summit did not move on the issue of surplus emission allowances left over from the Kyoto Protocol. The conclusions simply state that unused Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), as the pollution permits are called, are likely to accrue and must be addressed "in a non-discriminatory manner, treating European and non-European countries equally".

The bulk of unused credits in Europe are in the hands of Eastern member states, which made clear statements during the summit that they would not part with their allowances. Germany, on the other hand, has been leading calls for all unused credits to be cancelled after Kyoto.

The Swedish Presidency is now likely to call an additional meeting of EU environment ministers to find common ground on how to handle the surplus credits.

Amid bickering among EU member states about internal burden sharing, some EU countries are now starting to look for alliances outside of Europe to ensure an ambitious outcome at the Copenhagen climate conference in December.

Sarkozy said that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were working together with Brazil to put forward a proposal for Copenhagen.

"We think it is very important that Europe mobilises the whole of poor countries and notably Africa on the same position as us," Sarkozy said. He envisioned a common axis between Europe, the emerging economies of Brazil and Mexico and developing countries to counter China, the US and India. source

My comment: Well, I also don't think the credits should be canceled just like that. It's not fair, that is. And I also like how Sarkozy and Merkel are looking for friends, it will be hard battle in Copenhagen and they really need as much help as they can get.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Business in Europe, October 2009

Today:
  1. EU plans to up minimum parental leave to four months
  2. Investors view Europe as short-term safe haven
  3. ECB survey sees credit crunch easing
  4. EU 'biobank' first to benefit from VAT exemption
  5. EU nations seek changes to 'micro-enterprises' plan
Quote of the day:"Jean-Claude Trichet has gently reminded banks of their "responsibilities"." Lol!

EU plans to up minimum parental leave to four months

31 July 2009

The European Union's executive proposed on Thursday (30 July) to increase minimum parental leave from three to four months per child by 2011, which will affect national laws in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Romania and Malta.

Parental leave in the 27-nation EU is paid or unpaid, depending on national law. It comes on top of maternity leave, which is paid leave taken for a minimum of 14 weeks after a mother gives birth, and paternity leave if provided by a given country.

The European Commission's proposal would also allow three of each parent's four months to be transferred to the other - for example, a child's mother could take up to seven months, and the father would take the eighth.

"The proposal complements the Commission's recent package of measures to improve work-life balance for Europeans," the Commission said in a statement.

The proposal would have to be approved by EU national governments to take effect. Its chances of winning support are high since the Commission proposal stems from an earlier agreement between European trade unions and employers representatives (EurActiv 19/06/09). Indeed, under EU rules, agreements by social partners are always converted into law.

The Commission hopes the proposal will be approved by late 2009, to go into affect by 2011.

Parental leave can be taken in the first few years of a child's life. In Austria and Romania, it can be taken only until a child is two years old, while parents in Denmark are allowed to take it until a child is nine years old.

The national governments of the EU are largely responsible for setting their own employment policy, but the EU can set general rules for minimum labour standards.
France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia offer the most parental leave, giving up to three years. Belgium, Ireland, Malta and Portugal all offer three months.

Under the Commission proposals, workplace discrimination such as forcing an employee to take decreased responsibilities after returning to the job would be legally prohibited.

Employees returning to work also would have the right to request changes to their work schedules for a limited period. source

My comment: Well I cannot not support such idea and I don't see how any rational person could be against it. I mean, it's obviously hard for the employers to fit parents in the work process, but after all, it's just as hard to fit the taxes but they do it. This is a social responsibility and that's it. Because the more women work, the less they will want to give birth unless their work is secured. And the work is hardly secured, as we all know. Thus the need of pan-European settling of the issue. Because we all see the result from the lack of balance between work and personal life. Europe is getting older and older and that is sad and so frightening. I have nothing against China or Arab countries, but we have to keep our genes on the market too. Variety is the key and if women continue not to give births and have children, we're obviously not doing any good to humanity.

Investors view Europe as short-term safe haven

31 July 2009

International investors view Western Europe as a familiar and reliable region in which to invest, but Eastern and Central Europe is considered a better medium-term prospect, according to a new report by consultants Ernst & Young.

The annual European Attractiveness Survey shows foreign direct investment was surprisingly steady last year, but says the picture at the end of 2009 will be starkly different.

The investment community views Europe as more stable and relatively safer than the rapidly developing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), but the long-term trend suggests global capital projects will continue to shift from west to east and from north to south.

"Emerging regions are not providing the absolutely safe ground international investors are looking for. Yet, the engine of growth in the global economy is moving east, propelled by a combination of commodity production and the advent of a new Asian middle class," says the report , which is based on a survey of 809 international decision-makers.

Just over half of those surveyed were of European origin, and the report notes a tendency to invest closer to home until the global financial storm has played itself out. The report says investors cannot currently afford to take risks by investing in dynamic emerging markets, and this uncertainty has benefited Europe.

Western as well as Central and Eastern Europe are neck-and-neck as the "safest" regions, and China, which last year was in pole position as the most attractive region in which to establish operations, has slipped to third place. North America, India, Russia and Brazil are the next most attractive regions.

However, when it comes to the most attractive regions for the next three years, Western Europe slips to fifth place. Top of the table is Central and Eastern Europe, followed by China, India and Russia. Looking at the bigger picture, investors expect the next Google or Microsoft to come from Shanghai or Mumbai rather than Paris or Berlin.

China and India are best positioned to return to double-digit growth, according to the report, and China was rated second-highest among all regions for its ability to address the crisis. source

My comment: Interesting article, but it's hard to comment, since I'm not an investor myself. But it's good to know it, especially those people who think that their country is important. Well, it's not. There is mostly one name that is really important and this is China. Because if US economy has the largest deficit ever, guess where those money came from. Correct!

ECB survey sees credit crunch easing

28 July 2009

The European Central Bank's quarterly survey of bank lending, to be published tomorrow (29 July), will show that credit conditions are stabilising. But this assessment is at odds with complaints by businesses that bank credit is hard to get.

While economists point to slow demand as the main reason for weak loan growth, the day of reckoning is likely to come when the economy picks up speed and firms turn to banks for loans.

The second-quarter survey of eurozone banks will show the worst tightening of credit standards is over, ECB Governing Council member Christian Noyer said last week, suggesting that credit has "loosened considerably" and almost stabilised.

In comparison, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has gently reminded banks of their "responsibilities".

But eurozone private sector loan growth rates continued to shrink in June, a development economists attributed largely to weak demand.

Firms applying for loans are now in worse shape than in recent years and some plan to use the money to stay afloat, rather than for making profitable investments or acquisitions.

Also, the export-dependent euro zone is unlikely to emerge first from the global recession, pushing more firms to the brink.source

My comment: Again, not much to comment, this information is old now and it is here for historical reasons. Just to know what happened. And to learn the lesson. And of course : "Jean-Claude Trichet has gently reminded banks of their "responsibilities"." Lol!

EU 'biobank' first to benefit from VAT exemption

17 September 2009

A pan-European biobanking initiative looks set to become the first research consortium to benefit from VAT-free status under a new regulation agreed by EU leaders in May.

The group of biobanks would also be exempt from excise duty if it is established as an international agency under the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC ) scheme, and could employ staff in several member states under a common contract.

This would allow greater mobility for employees who could move between offices while retaining health and social security benefits.

Biobanking experts, gathered in Brussels yesterday (16 September), said Europe is a world leader in the field but needs a more cohesive network of biobanks in order to attract pharmaceutical firms, some of which have moved to Asia in recent years.

Kurt Zatloukal from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, who coordinates the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRIexternal ), said the group aims to harmonise standards in the collection and usage of biomaterials.

Zatloukal noted there are currently no common standards for using DNA, tissue and blood samples, and that quality varies significantly across Europe. Applying a "one-size-fits-all" model will not work, he said, adding that Nordic countries have a tradition of collecting biomaterial, while others are suspicious of sharing personal data with the authorities.

The European group is likely to implement new OECD guidelines on the collection of biomaterials, marking its intentions to lead on a global scale.

To qualify for ERIC status, a pan-European agency must anchor itself in a single member state. Austria and the Netherlands have both expressed an interest in hosting the BBMRI, but the final decision will have to be worked out at ministerial level.

The consortium already has registered over 50 participating biobanks as well as more than 200 associate members from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Turkey and Israel, but not all of these will be part of the ERIC.

The move comes as the EU executive is beginning the groundwork for its next major research funding plan, the Eighth Framework Programme for Research (FP8), which will replace the current plan in 2013. source

My comment: Well, I had the unique experience of sending my DNA for profiling, I can tell you what a hell is doing it. National posts don't want to send it since it's biomaterial, they want certified organisation to guarantee for the probe, which is ridiculous in the case - the probe is personal, you take it from yourself and send it. Well, more or less it is a nightmare. And what is important is that such bio sample are being gathered more and more often. This issue is not fading, it's just starting to burn! So I approve the European agency and I hope that soon enough, we'll be able to send bio probes securely (and for no additional cost!) to certified agencies and companies that will work with it and keep the results private. Yes, this is certainly something good.

EU nations seek changes to 'micro-enterprises' plan

22 September 2009

Enterprise ministers from across Europe look set to amend a European Commission proposal to exempt small businesses from burdensome accounting rules.

However, a wide variety of positions are likely to emerge when member states thrash out their differences in a public debate on the issue on Thursday (24 September).

While there is consensus on the need to cut red tape for Europe's smallest enterprises, practical difficulties relating to ditching accounting requirements have been highlighted by governments.

One objection is that giving national ministers the power to exempt so-called "micro enterprises" from the 4th and 7th European accounting directives would effectively mean falling back on national company law.

This runs counter to the EU's broader goal of encouraging greater use of the internal market by SMEs, but is in line with the desire to cut red tape – an issue that European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has pledged to make a priority of his next five year term (EurActiv 21/09/09).

Squaring these conflicting priorities will be a challenge for ministers, many of whom are also concerned that reducing the administrative burden on small firms could make it more difficult to collect statistics.

The reduced transparency that would follow the scrapping of accounting requirements is seen by some as too high a price to pay for the reduction in red tape.

Annual accounts provide governments with a clear picture of business activity in the micro-enterprise sector and are also used by tax authorities. Alternative methods of collecting this data will be examined on Thursday, but this again risks adding a new layer of red tape for SMEs.

Some member states have indicted that they are willing to support the plan, despite being reluctant to implement it in their own countries.

The EU executive's suggestion that scrapping accounting rules will be optional is sparking concerns of a regulatory "race to the bottom". Member states that prefer not to implement the proposal believe they will be forced to do so in order to compete with European neighbours.

However, micro-enterprises tend to operate locally and are generally not involved in cross-border trade.

The precise shape of the European Council's view on the matter is unlikely to become clear until December, when the Swedish EU Presidency publishes its conclusions. source

My comment: More here. I still don't understand what is the point here, so I'll just keep quite on this. I mean, the SME should have financial account in all the cases. Then what are they supposed to cut? Weird. It's probably not passing anyway.

 

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