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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cross-border divorces in the EU, 2010

As promised, I'm no longer writing long posts with a lot of news. Obviously people don't have the time to read all those articles I paste and anyway, observing the piracy-madness, I prefer to avoid quoting other sources too much.

So, what I wanted to talk about today are cross-border EU divorces. People in Bulgaria would probably know why I find this important, since we have one incident with children from Czech-Bulgarian marriage that turned very ugly. In the end, the children went back to their mother in Czech republic, the Bulgarian father probably wont see them again, even though he raised them for the past years, while their mother was working abroad. As for justice - there's none. And this is very very wrong!

I personally think that the institution of marriage is one of the most evil things human mind created. I know it's very beautiful, the white gown and the veil and the ritual, but life is more than that. Once upon the time, people lived 35 years averagely. Life was hard and usually they didn't even think to divorce, the only thing they thought was survival. But now the average life expectancy is 70-75, sometimes even more. In the rich countries, people are sexually active until they late 50s or sometimes 60s. If you marry someone in your 20s, this makes 30 or even 40 years spent with one person. That could be wonderful. But let's be realistic, you never know how this would end. And since the time when the society killed infidel women with stones is over, infidel men usually leave their families anyway, so...laws and regulations should follow that change. And marriage is something old and useless. It doesn't stop people from breaking up, it doesn't stop fathers from not taking care of their children or mothers from leaving. This signature - it's nothing!

If you want to make a church ritual, so be it. Once upon the time, that was enough to declare your love and decision to live with someone. Now, it is not. Now, you have to sign a contract. Sure, they don't call it like this, but it is a contract. Or maybe an informed agreement. Agreement that you give up part of your freedom to the state, so that they will regulate your relations with that other person. A person that you now love, tomorrow, who knows. But in the end, it's not love that should be regulated, no? What this agreement regulates is property and inheritance lines and children care. That's all. If that is all, then isn't it wiser that these things are regulated in an outside contract that the two sides will sign and the state will be left out of it?

I know a lot of people marry when they decide to have children. But I really don't understand why. Because usually the court gives the children to the mother, if she's not dangerous and the father has to pay (or the father pays to the court to give the children to him, which is even worst!). In that case, why there should be a court at all?Just put it in the law, that if the father puts his name in the child's birth certificate, then he has to take both financial and emotional responsibility for that child. And that's all. As for the property - you can always make an official (or private) will and everything will be fine. Marriage is not a need anymore. It's just an old and I think dying tradition.

Why I say all this? Because when the authorities make new laws, they should keep in mind how the traditions change and how the needs of people change. A number of things are no longer important, like alimony for example. I mean why would anyone have to pay to his wife (or husband) any money except for child support. Women are not kids who should be supported until they find another husband to take care of them! So this thing is simply wrong. On the other side, child support is much more complicated now. Fathers are no longer just a financial supporter, they must take real care of their children, to be a person in their life, not just a name. That's important, it must be part of the laws. But abusive fathers have no right to be near their children, no matter who they beat - the mother or the children. I think those important things should enter in the EU regulations. Not just in which country people to divorce, but also what rights should both parents have after the divorce. It's so sad when a father (or a mother) have no right to spend quality time with their child(ren). Like half of the time. It's simply right. And I sincerely hope that the EC would start acting adequately. The EC as well as the member states themselves. I mean, what difference makes from which country are the children, they are all children and they have similar rights and interests. That should be the important part, not ... to protect one of the parents just because s/he is your citizen. There are universal rights, we have to protect them. But at least, now we have a start. Maybe one day, we wont witness such ugly scenes like the one I have in my mind. The one in which the Czech mother takes her children while their screaming and crying and she takes them far far away, where the father won't ever see them and the court will agree with whatever she claims, just because its "us" vs. "them". Who are we, who are they? We're no longer enemies, we're no longer the others. We're part of one Union, where we're all equal. And that is what is important.

The other article is on EU citizens' initiatives. It's quite interesting article on the rules that a petition should respect so that the EC consider it. Interesting, I wonder why they made the rules so strict and undoable. Are they afraid of us citizens? I hope yes :)
  1. Brussels to table cross-border EU divorce rules
  2. EU to kick off citizens' initiative with tougher rules

Brussels to table cross-border EU divorce rules

24 March 2010
The European Commission will today (24 March) propose new rules to regulate divorces for international couples in a bid to prevent so-called 'forum shopping', where spouses seek to gain an advantage over their partner by filing their case in the country that best serves their interests.

International couples often find themselves in a legislative jungle when filing for divorce because national laws can conflict with one another.

Former spouses usually turn to their national courts in search of the most advantageous legislation, often at the expense of their partner.

As a result, "the spouse who has more financial resources is likely to gain an unfair advantage over the 'weaker' spouse," the Commission argues.

Under Commissioner Reding's proposal, couples will be able to decide jointly where they want to file for divorce. Couples could also agree a preventive arrangement even if they do not plan to separate, a step which could be beneficial for their children.

For when a couple cannot agree which national legislation should apply, the Commission proposes introducing a hierarchy, with the couple's country of residence at the top of the list.

If agreed, the new rules would affect around 32 million people living in the European Union. Of the 122 million marriages that take place every year, 16 million (13%) can be considered cross-border.

To be considered 'international' a couple must be either of different nationalities, or of the same nationality but living together either in a different EU country (for example, an Austrian couple residing in Spain) or separately in different countries (one partner living in Italy and the other living in France).

Faced with resistance from some member states - including Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic - the Commission has decided to go ahead with a group of vanguard countries.

Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Spain have agreed to proceed, making use for the first time of the 'enhanced cooperation' mechanism contained in the EU treaties (EurActiv 18/03/10).

The mechanism allows a group of at least nine member states to go ahead on a specific issue, leaving the others free to join in later if they wish.

In order to be applied, the mechanism needs to be supported by a qualified majority of member states in the EU Council of Ministers. The European Parliament also has to take a vote of approval. source


EU to kick off citizens' initiative with tougher rules

31 March 2010
A conspicuous amount of personal data will be required and specific conditions adhered to before citizens can propose legislation under the citizens' initiative introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, according to a new regulation seen by EurActiv, set to be presented by the European Commission tomorrow (31 March).

The principle of the new citizens' initiative is that "whilst it does not affect the Commission's right of initiative, it will, however, oblige the Commission, as a college, to give serious consideration to the requests made by citizens," reads the draft regulation, which the EU executive will make public on Wednesday.

Citizens will therefore be empowered to directly participate in the legislative process. The EU institutions hope the new instrument will help to address the democracy gap which they have put in the spotlight, especially by repeatedly saying 'no' in referenda on the Lisbon Treaty.

To do so, a number of conditions have to be met.

As already stated by the Lisbon Treaty, any citizens' legislative initiative has to be supported by at least one million signatories.

The one million signatories must come from at least one third of EU nations - nine countries as long as the bloc remains at 27 members.

Each citizens' initiative should be first registered and then subject to an admissibility check by the Commission, once the organisers have collected at least 300,000 statements of support. The EU executive will have to assess the admissibility of the proposal within two months.

The signatures can be collected "in paper form or electronically," provided that they respect a number of specific parameters. They must be gathered "within a period that shall not exceed 12 months," after which the process should start again.

If a citizens' initiative is presented according to the rules, the Commission will have to issue a communication within four months of submitting the initiative. But the EU executive is not legally obliged to trigger any legislative action in response to the collection of signatures.

Each signatory of a statement of support will have to provide a variety of personal data, including name, street address, email address, date and place of birth, nationality and personal identification numbers (passport; ID card; and social security). All this is needed to prevent fraud.source


Commission unveils workplan for 2010 and beyond - Tackling the economic crisis and its social impact are the European Commission's top priorities for the next year and beyond. But the EU executive's work plan was branded by the socialists as "a job-loss programme".

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On the air travel drama in the EU, 04. 2010

For the last few days, Europe is in complete chaos. People are stuck on all kind of airports around Europe and around the world, hotels abuse the situation and make sure they profit the most, trains are full, the drama is complete. We hear continuous voices about how the whole issues has been handled and ESPECIALLY on the closing of European airspace.
I can understand the frustration and the pain of so many people whose plans have been shattered and who have to survive stranded on places they no longer want to be, alone or with children, usually without money, trying to get from one point to the other, along with everyone else. It's hard.
What I cannot understand however is stupidity. Well manipulated one! Because suddenly everyone started blaming governments for their preventive and cautious measures. HELLO! YOU are ready to go trough a strip search or naked scanner just for the security of that air plane. Then how is it possible that you're unhappy with that measures? If chances are that every 5th plane will fall or endure dramatic failures during flight, will you go on that plane? If chances are that every 10th plane will fall?! Or ever 100th plane? Do you know how many flights are there in Europe each day? Thousands! So the chances that exactly your plane may be affected are quite BIG! And even if you're ready to risk, how could authorities be ready to risk it? If they allow air traveling and something like this happens, who will be the one to take the responsibility and go to court over his/her decision?!
I'm really amazed that people are ready so easily to sacrifice the security of their flights for REAL danger, when they are ready to submit to all kind of humiliating measures because of some virtual danger of terrorism.
And note - the volcano is still erupting, even more volcanoes joined yesterday (one in Kamchatka), meaning even more ashes in the air. Also note - the altitude of the ashes is >6km. Which means that they will be in the range of high altitude flights (which in Europe are most, I think). And that even if the planes fly higher, they will have to pass trough the ashes on ascent or descent meaning when the engines are going trough most strain. Does this sound safe?
And even if I'm wrong on this rough estimation, because I'm not a pilot myself or engineer, we know that British Airways did a test flight yesterday. I didn't hear of the results, but considering the fact that British Airports are mostly still closed, I think it's clear that the test flight didn't go so well.
So I personally cannot understand how could people possibly don't get it. And if that eruption is not going to stop, I think it's time air companies to consider re-routing of flights and then hiring buses or trains on their own. Because we know that Spain, South Italy, Bulgaria and Greece are ok for flying. Then it's nothing easier than just rerouting the planes to those airports and then taking another transport. It's not cheap, it's not quick, but if that volcano is not going to stop, then all those people have to have a safe way home. And since all of those countries are in the EU (and Serbia was kind enough to allow traveling only with IDs), it won't be too hard to arrange such trips. And it might be cheaper if governments regulate the prices of land-transport.
I can only hope that the situation will get better eventually, but not on all costs. I think it's crucial for us to take the moral of the situation and to make the land-infrastructure better, the engines of the airplanes tougher and everything else to ensure other similar situations won't affect us that much. Because the Earth is waking up, no matter how much they try to hide it. And in this case, it's up to us to find a way to survive without too much drama.

And yeah, finally. We heard that air companies voiced their concern and worries about over-reacting to the danger. They are worried mostly because of their missed profits, of course. But I wonder, do this concern has anything to do with the fact that oil companies lose ~$ 1mln. /a day (I think) because of the stopped flights. And I wonder why people's safety should depend on the whim of oil producers. I don't mind rich people, but I think human life is the most important!
Edit: Here's an article on the issue, it's not just me, obviously!

"There is a stark difference of opinion between experts in academia and airlines, but the European Union's top transport official said the EU would not compromise on safety. NATO took the threat seriously enough to limit military exercises after volcanic glass built up in fighter engines.

Few people dispute the damage that volcanic ash can wreak inside a modern turbofan engine, after a British Airways jumbo jet narrowly avoided disaster over Indonesia in 1982 when all four of its engines stalled at 37,000 feet due to ingested ash.

Volcanic ash contains minute particles of angular rock and silicates which can strip away the aerodynamic surfaces and instruments and deposit a glass-like coating inside the engine.

"

And here, you can find a stunning picture of the eruption!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

EU against pollution, 04. 2010

Today:
  1. Commission holds on to soil protection law
  2. EU considers changing REACH chemicals law
  3. Commission sees breakthrough on REACH chemicals law
  4. Parliament seeks compromise on EU air pollution law
Quote of the day: "But imagine what would happen if all over the EU the soils become infertile in the same time. I think that would be a HUGE problem - imagine all the farmers who won't have a job, all the production that we would have to import."

Commission holds on to soil protection law

17 March 2010
Amid resistance from EU ministers, Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has defended an EU directive on soil by claiming that national policies are not delivering and land management increasingly affects cross-border issues like climate change, biodiversity and water pollution.

Meanwhile, the Spanish EU Presidency said the bloc needed to "face reality" and recognise that there is not enough agreement between member states to proceed with the draft law.

Some delegations are already suggesting that after years of deadlock over the dossier, it is time for the EU to look at "alternative ways" of promoting soil protection without overtly focusing on legislation.

Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Malta continue to form a blocking minority in the Council on the grounds of respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and concerns over its expected cost and administrative burden.

While Potočnik stressed that "subsidiarity is not an excuse for non-action," he promised to shift the focus on to aspects related to the proposal in the months to come in a drive to get all member states on board.

While some member states have done "decent work," the agreed non-binding instruments on soil protection "have clearly not worked well," Potočnik declared, arguing that "eroding the Commission proposal would probably not bear fruit" either.

While some delegations stressed that as soil does not move between member states like air and water it should not be subjected to EU legislation, Potočnik argued to the contrary.

Responding to criticism of the potentially high implementation cost of the proposed directive, Commissioner Potočnik regretted that people see only the cost of action and stressed that "the cost of non-action is not seen, but is very high".

A Commission impact assessment shows that soil degradation in Europe costs €38 billion every year, Potočnik noted. source

My comment: It's somewhat strange that member-states don't get why soil protection is important. Bulgaria was the perfect example of what happens when the soil erodes. Here, the soil quality got very low some 20 years ago, because of the over-use of chemistry. A report stated that the soil will require ~ 20 years to heal. This information was never public, but it's true. In our case, the socialism came, the agriculture went to hell, so nobody felt the problem with the soils and now, when people start producing, they are more or less fine. But imagine what would happen if all over the EU the soils become infertile in the same time. I think that would be a HUGE problem - imagine all the farmers who won't have a job, all the production that we would have to import. And all the money that would be injected in fertilizers instead of science...

EU considers changing REACH chemicals law

23 March 2010
Parts of the 1000-page REACH chemicals regulation remain unclear and need to be amended in order to speed up the subsitution of hazardous chemicals with safer ones, Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said yesterday (22 March).

REACH implementation is "bad" and the current situtation is "non-sustainable," Potočnik told members of the press.

His comments come after a series of delays in beginning the authorisation process at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

The implementation of REACH and "the route to substitution" need to be speeded up, Potočnik stressed.

There are currently 29 substances on a candidate list of 'substances of very high concern' (SVHC), which are being considered for substitution, and another seven substances on a priority list. But there are none on the substitution list yet, Potočnik said, suggesting the numbers should be higher (EurActiv 15/01/10).

SVHCs include chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. They also tend to persist in the environment and accumulate in the body.

The 29 substances currently on the candidate list fall far short of the 350-odd substances identified for priority substitution on a 'REACH SIN List', drafted jointly by public interest groups and NGOs (EurActiv 16/09/08). The current list also fails to cover the 400-plus substances identified by a group of member states as meeting the official REACH criteria.

In a letter to the European Commission, the NGOs said it was "unacceptable" that the Commission has not yet taken action on the seven prioritised SVHCs recommended by the ECHA in May 2009.

The substances to be placed on the so-called "authorisation list" will in future only be used in the EU if "authorised" for specific purposes.

Under the REACH regulation, even if a substance presents a risk to human health or the environment, authorisation may be granted if the socio-economic benefits are proven to outweigh risks arising from its use and if there are no suitable alternatives.

Indeed, the main sticking point regarding the definition and use of the criteria seems to be between the Commission's environment and industry departments, EurActiv has learned.

The commissioner also reaffirmed his opposition to extending the REACH registration deadline of 30 November 2010 for chemicals that are produced in high volumes and are the most hazardous. EU industry has expressed concern about meeting the deadline.

According to the REACH regulation, failure to register by the deadline means that a substance cannot be used or put on the market. source

My comment: 1000 pages? ROFL! Did anyone EVER read all of them? I'm not overreacting, after all that document is supposed to be read not by lawyers with a lot of free time, but by the producers and the consumers. I think one of the main problem of the EC is that they can't figure what's their purpose. They seem to be obsessed with paper-wasting. And that's not what it's all about. You define the categories, you decide what are the requirements for each of them, you decide what exclusion mechanisms to allow and that's it. Everything else should be like patent applications - someone fills a form, someone judges and the chemicals is put in one of the categories. I can understand 100 pages document. But 1000 is way too much. And what I don't get is how it's possible not to ban chemicals that you know that are VERY dangerous, that they damage human body or the nature to a level that cannot be justified. What exactly means socio-economic benefits?! For me, the only reason to use a chemical that is hazardous is 1) if you cannot obtain its effect by any other ways 2) if you're able to secure that nobody will get hurt by your actions. Because otherwise, it looks like someone get a permission to kill, based on "socio-economic benefits".

Commission sees breakthrough on REACH chemicals law

31 March 2010
The European Commission said it broke a deadlock today (25 March) on setting the criteria for identifying hazardous chemicals, requesting companies to table plans to substitute them even if no alternatives have been clearly identified.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani announced today (25 March) that they have found a common approach to identifying and managing Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).

SVHCs include chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. They also tend to persist in the environment and accumulate in the body.

The agreement was announced during a visit by the two commissioners to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki.

The commissioners' "common interpretation of the REACH text" breaks the deadlock on substituting hazardous substances and represents a step change compared to the situation that prevailed under the previous Commission.

The agreement clarifies the authorisation procedure for hazardous substances on socio-economic grounds. Under the Commission's new procedure, "all available information is to be considered and will be used in a so-called 'weight of evidence approach'".

In addition, companies which have been unable to identify alternative solutions for a dangerous substance will have to show they have carried out in-depth investigations and must indicate a timeline within which alternative substances could become available.

According to the EU executive, implementation of the amended criteria will be subject to transitional arrangements. It will become mandatory for registrants two years after the entry into force of the agreed criteria, which will be stated in the revised Annex XIII of REACH.

Now that this deadlock has been broken, the Commission says it will shortly give "the long-awaited draft guidance on authorisation" to the ECHA to allow it to make progress on registering chemicals and managing Substances of Very High Concern.

The Commission also asked the European Chemicals Agency to add 106 more substances to the current candidate list of SVHCs, which may need to go through special authorisation procedures before being used.

A roadmap agreed by the EU executive and the ECHA is expected to bring the number of chemicals on the list of SVHCs to 135 by 2012.

source

My comment: Oh, well, that's some advance. But still, I think the EC should consider very carefully what exactly socio-economic benefits mean. Because it certainly doesn't sound good!

Parliament seeks compromise on EU air pollution law

22 March 2010

The European Parliament has reopened the debate on a revision of the EU's industrial air pollution directive, tabling a new proposal that seeks to compromise with member states by dropping controversial plans to introduce a 'European safety net' of minimum emission limits.

The proposal aims to closer align the Parliament's views with those of member states in order to reach agreement on the legislation, which will require some 52,000 industrial installations to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil or water.

The new Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) recasts seven existing directives, including the IPPC and the Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCP), in a bid to reinforce implementation and close loopholes that have allowed member states to abuse flexibility mechanisms.

Krahmer's new proposal scraps a flagship concept added to the draft law by MEPs at first reading, the 'European safety net', which would have created EU-wide minimum emission limit values that no operator is allowed to exceed.

The idea was fiercely opposed in the Council of Ministers by many member states, which do not want to see Brussels reduce their flexibility to issue permits.

In response to national concerns, Krahmer has tabled a modified proposal, which no longer requires minimum limit values as a general principle but on a sector-by-sector basis.

The European Commission would be tasked with investigating the implementation of best-available techniques in each sector and the environmental impact of the sectors. It could then adopt EU-wide minimum requirements for emission limit values, if the report deems it necessary to do so.

The new proposal will require the approval of a qualified majority of MEPs in plenary to be adopted as an official Parliament position. The Greens and Socialists have been supportive of minimum emission limit values, but the centre-right European People's Party group is more divided, with some members sharing their governments' opposition. source

My comment: Yeah, like we didn't see what happened with ETC under the "sector-by-sector" basis. Some got a lot of permits, some didn't. And in the end, we didn't see any improvements in those sectors that were favorised. When the idea of the free permits was to allow those heavy emitting sectors to invest in better installation with those money. But that didn't happen, right? So I doubt it will work in this case much better. Of course, if the directive was never implemented, despite the fact it existed, it doesn't make a lot of sense to make another one that nobody would ever implement. I think it's important to focus on the "best-available technology" principle. Of course, it's not realistic to expect everyone to use the best technology available, but I think it's very realistic to expect them to use some average best technology. Something that is not the best, but it's not the worst neither. Something that would guarantee an European-wide maximum of the emissions. And maybe to get bonuses for better technologies. That would help both those sectors and the science behind the technologies :) Nice, right?


EU clamps down on carbon market fraud -EU finance ministers approved on Tuesday (16 March) a directive to clamp down on VAT fraud in carbon markets by allowing member states to shift the levy to the end user.

New UN expert group to study ship emissions - The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) last week agreed to establish an expert group to prepare a feasibility study on market-based instruments to cut greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

Sweden eyes nuclear revival after 30-year ban - The centre-right Swedish government unveiled legislation on 22 March to allow the construction of new nuclear reactors, in a bid to replace the ten ageing ones that still produce about 40% of the country's electricity.

Czech energy giant slowly turning green - The Czech Republic's leading power company, ČEZ, has promised to turn to energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly projects, but local NGOs say it must still improve its green energy strategy.
Oil industry emissions 'underestimated', study warns - An underestimation of the expected surge in emissions from oil-based fossil fuels could undermine the EU's climate goals, the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) warned yesterday (18 March).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Environment in EU - free markets or free choice?, 04, 2010

Today:
  1. NGOs take Commission to court over biofuels reports
  2. EU to table nuclear waste treatment law
  3. Steel, cement to cash free emission permit billions
  4. EU report favours trading for air pollutants
"Quote of the day:It's as simple as this. It's not the markets that should be free, but the consumers. And if a product violates their choice, that product should be regulated. How this applies to biofuels?..."

Happy Easter, everyone!

NGOs take Commission to court over biofuels reports

10 March 2010
Four environmental groups have sued the European Union's executive for withholding documents they say will add to a growing dossier of evidence that biofuels harm the environment and push up food prices.

The lawsuit, lodged with the EU's General Court, the bloc's second highest court, alleges several violations of European laws on transparency and democracy.

The suit was filed on 8 March by ClientEarth, Transport & Environment, the European Environmental Bureau and BirdLife International.

"That the Commission should choose to deny our rights on such a critical issue as the science underpinning our climate policies is astounding," said Tim Grabiel, staff attorney at ClientEarth.

At stake is the EU's commitment to its goal of getting a tenth of its road fuels from renewable sources such as biofuels by 2020 - a target that has spawned an EU industry worth around five billion euros ($6.8 billion) a year and a big market for imports from Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The four groups first sought access to the documents on 15 October 2009, and said the European Commission missed a legal deadline to release them under freedom of information laws on 9 February. Some reports have been released, but not all.

A similar request by Reuters has led to the release of 118 reports and e-mails, which reveal worries within the Commission that the EU set its 10% goal before fully assessing the impact of biofuel targets.

Some of the documents raise the prospect of higher EU farm incomes, but cite concerns that plant-based biofuels could create food shortages for the world's poorest.

Others suggest biofuels can drive up demand for land, encouraging farmers in tropical areas to expand cropland into sensitive areas such as wetlands and rainforests - which would have a detrimental environmental impact.

Burning forests can release so much CO2 as to cancel out any benefits sought from the biofuels.

One leaked email says that taking account of biofuels' full carbon footprint could "kill" their role in the EU.

"Current EU biofuels policy guarantees that Europe will use lots of biofuels, but it doesn't guarantee reductions in greenhouse gas emissions - in fact it seems likely it will make things worse," said Nusa Urbancic of transport campaign group T&E.

"The first step to fixing this broken policy must be full transparency about what the true impacts are," she said.

The Commission was not immediately available to comment, but has previously said it is working very seriously to understand the indirect impacts of biofuels. source

My comment: Of course they won't release the documents, they are not (that) crazy. The biofuel's bomb exploded before anyone could react and now they are still thinking how to manage the situation. Because when they set up the biofuel's goal, they thought that will be the panacea of the emission's curbing, which was premature, but sounded good to everyone - it satisfied poor countries, because they could grow and sell the plants easily, it satisfied rich countries, which would reduce their emissions without changing their lifestyle, it satisfied environmentalists, because the process of growing plants is as green as it can get. The bad news came later, when people figured out that it's not the "greenness" that counts, but the actual emissions, the land use, the over-all impact on the global economy and ecology - complicated stuff that nobody seemed to care at the time. But now it's too late to say "No", because big agriculture countries already smelled the money and are desperate to get them. So desperate, they are likely to put pressure wherever the EU is likely to give up. Anyway, for me the question is even deeper - it's about how much we're willing to sacrifice for the economy. Because the purpose of WTO is to protect economy in its purest form - free markets, free trade, free people (whatever that might mean). But in reality, that freedom cannot be absolute. It's the old argument about drugs - should drug's safety be regulated, or we should leave that to companies who would prefer to have safe and happy customers and otherwise would be sued. Well, I think drugs' safety should be regulated. The times are way different, many drugs may not have immediate negative effect or toxicity, sometimes that can be seen years later or generation later. Such negative effects can be assessed only with mice or other test animals that have short enough life. And this is not something that every citizen can do. Neither s/he should do it! The same line of thought can be followed to any product. WTO wants markets free of regulation, but if something is dangerous or have unwanted effects, that product have to be regulated in a way that people would have optimal choice. The same goes for GMO - the problem is not the technology, the problem is that once you start growing them, it's very hard to stop and they may and likely will contaminate the soil of the whole region. Thus you violate the consumers rights! It's as simple as this. It's not the markets that should be free, but the consumers. And if a product violates their choice, that product should be regulated. How this applies to biofuels? Well, the reason why EU set those goals for the biofuels was to achieve emissions reduction. If that reduction is not realistic or untrue, then that goal should be changed, because it doesn't correspond to the "consumers" desires. If EU citizens want the EU to curb emissions, then the means should correspond to that goal. The moment they stop corresponding, those means should change. And no WTO should be able to prevent the EU from achieving that goal. So in short, we have to review our principles. What do we consider fundamental - free markets or free will. Because if it's free will (choice), then the free markets will follow and obey that free will. Meaning if a product violates the free choice, that product cannot and should not be enforced to consumers and the producers should find a way to produce something the the consumers actually want. And as much as I like Brazil, I think they should obey the free choice of Europeans - after all, if I don't want a car they produce, I won't buy it and nobody can convince me to do it, because of the free markets. It should be the same with the EU as a whole.


EU to table nuclear waste treatment law

11 March 2010
The European Commission will table legislative proposals on the treatment of nuclear waste by the year's end, its president José Manuel Barroso announced yesterday (8 March) during a major OECD-hosted conference on civil nuclear power in Paris.

Speaking at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Barroso said the treatment of radioactive waste was a major issue of public concern which must be dealt with.

The new law would set standards for waste management that all member states would have to follow.

Moreover, the Commission president said he would start pressing for European safety standards for nuclear plants to become binding worldwide.

Barroso stressed that last June the EU became the first major regional actor to give legal force to the main international nuclear safety standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Others must now follow suit," he said.

The IAEA's standards, called Fundamental Safety Principles, include the safe construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear reactors, management of nuclear waste and level of preparedness for radiation incidents.

The French president said he wants to allow nuclear developers to get carbon credits under a post-Kyoto Protocol regime from 2013. The UN's Clean Development Mechanism in its current form does not allow developed countries to gain certified emission reductions (CERs) by funding nuclear projects in the developing world.

Critics said Sarkozy's initiative was aimed at clearing the way for French technology to be sold to other countries. France has one of the world's leading nuclear industries, and generates around 80% of its electricity needs from its 58 reactors. source

My comment:"Moreover, the Commission president said he would start pressing for European safety standards for nuclear plants to become binding worldwide." ROFL. Ok, why should they follow? Not that I disagree with the standards, it's just the logic of the statement. As for nuclear energy I'm entirely pro-. The only thing is that I hope the standards are done in a way that won't exclude other major producers just for the fun of it. For example, in Bulgaria there was a major drama over the construction of our next nuclear plant by Russian technology. The question is where's the problem - the actual technology (whose safety only a specialist can assess) or the country it's coming from. What I want to say - the standards shouldn't depend on nationality, only on technology. If something is safe, it should be safe not because it's French, but because it's safe.

Steel, cement to cash free emission permit billions

09 March 2010
The ten companies holding the largest number of surplus emission allowances under the EU's cap-and-trade system stand to make a profit of 3.2 billion euros in the 2008-2012 trading period, according to a new analysis of EU data.

The research, published on 3 March by climate NGO Sandbag, compared the emissions allowances that different companies had received under the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) with their actual emissions. It found that the overly generous free allocation of permits, compounded by a drop in production following the global downturn, had added significant assets to many companies' books.

According to the report, steel giant ArcelorMittal alone could cash over €1 billion from unused EU allowances by 2020. Taken together, the top ten companies, dominated by steel and cement firms, shared 35 million surplus permits in 2008, worth around €500 million at current carbon prices.

Sandbag warned that the large profits made by a few companies "raise questions as to whether EU companies are operating within a level playing field". It pointed out that the surplus permits held by steel and cement companies were counterbalanced by the power sector, which is required to deliver the majority of emissions reductions under the trading scheme.

RWE and E.ON, the two utilities most short of permits, had to make more emissions reductions or pay for more allowances than the required net reductions of the entire scheme in 2008.

The recession meant that the carbon cuts required under the EU ETS were achieved, but the scheme failed to fulfil its original purpose of providing incentives to develop low-carbon technologies, Sandbag warned.

ArcelorMittal spokesperson Jean Lasar said the company had set a target to reduce its carbon emissions by 8% by 2020 and was working on developing new technology that is capable of reducing emissions considerably.

But Sandbag's Pearson warned that the problem of surplus credits is part of a bigger debate about where the EU's climate policy should go. She said the findings justify increasing the EU's 20% emissions reduction target to 30% by 2020 to ensure a higher cap under the EU ETS.

In addition, the NGO called for access to international offset credits to be limited and permits held by member states in their new entrants' reserves to be cancelled. source

My comment: First, I think it's crazy to give free permits to emissions-intensive sectors. Especially if you give to some, but not to all. And the next question is "can such unfair distribution be considered for subsidizing some industries"? If you ask me - yes. If you ask the EC, I'm sure they are very sorry about the stupidity they did satisfying those "requests". I hope they consider what they've done before taking any new actions. And yeah, it's completely unfair to reset the emissions that new memeber-states accumulated. Why? Because those are the rules the EC set. They are obviously bad - credits should be assigned by level of energy intensive production and GDP and capability of those sectors to reduce their emissions (countries with lower GDP should have the same strain to reduce emissions as those with big - obviously a factory in France can more easily reduce their emissions than the same in Latvia). And of course, there should be a maximum of emissions that will ensure that even the countries with such credits won't pollute too much. It's not simple and I don't claim I thought of everything but it's doable and the EC should come up with better rules of the game, not to try to screw those that profited from the rules. And the best way to do that will be to make all the emissions credits paid. You want to emit, then pay. If you don't want to emit, then don't pay.

EU report favours trading for air pollutants

15 March 2010
After having embraced carbon trading to fight climate change, the European Commission is now eyeing an EU-wide trading scheme for sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) to improve air quality.

A draft study assessing the environmental and economic impacts of such a system was recently made public.

SO2 and NOx are atmospheric pollutants that cause acid rain, smog and related respiratory health problems. They are typically byproducts of fossil fuel combustion in the chemical and power sectors.

But EU employers' association BusinessEurope has warned that an an EU-wide trading scheme "cannot be the way forward" as these pollutants are already dealt with under existing EU directives.

"An EU-wide trading scheme would bring double regulation and unnecessary costs," the association warned in a letter to the European Commission.

The report, compiled over the past 12 months by Entec UK Limited, an environmental and engineering consultancy, concludes that "most trading scenarios" would be less costly than a planned industrial emissions directive (IED), which was used as the reference scenario for the study.

"This is because under trading, there is access to a wider range of cost-effective abatement options across member states and installations within the trading zone," the study notes.

Such a system would also be cheaper than the current Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive, the Commission observes.

SO2 and NOx emission trading schemes could potentially replace the proposed IED for the pollutants concerned in certain sectors, according to the Commission. The scheme could also replace the individual permitting system based on Best Available Techniques (BATs) laid down in the 1996 IPPC Directive, which is currently under review. source

My comment: I think that BAT + trading scheme would be quite good actually. What's even better NOx gases also play a role in the warming of atmosphere so it makes sense to regulate them even if it wasn't for air quality. For SO2 they claim that blocks sunlight so its reduction might actually increase warming, but after all, it's not all about the temperature. It's about having better air to breath. So, I support the idea.

More:

EU confirms support for bluefin tuna trade ban "European Union ambassadors agreed to propose protecting bluefin tuna as an endangered species on Wednesday (10 March), a move that would effectively ban international trade in the species."-
World nations reject ban on bluefin tuna - "Governments(Japan, Canada and several Arab League) attending the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have rejected an EU-backed proposal to ban trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna to give the species time to reproduce." - Well, we say how they regulated it so far, right? It obviously didn't work well, otherwise the bluefin tuna won't face extinction. In which case, the EU should protect the bluefin tuna.

West worries about Russia turning to coal
"European efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions could be undermined by Russian plans to dramatically increase energy production from coal, Western experts said in Brussels yesterday (9 March).
To be able to honour its gas export contracts, Russia has to turn to coal, said Kevin Rosner, senior fellow at the US Institute for the Analysis of Global Security." -
EU plans centralised CO2 auctioning from 2011 "The European Commission is considering auctioning emissions permits over centralised platforms from 2011 and might cancel auctions if carbon prices are "abnormally low," according to two leaked documents." -
EU CO2 tax proposal due in April "The EU's new taxation commissioner, Algirdas Šemeta, will revive debate on harmonised minimum CO2 tax rates on fuels at EU level, and plans to table fresh proposals as early as next month, it has emerged." -
 

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