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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Environmental news from EU - biofuels wars in action

  1. Commission sued over biofuels as suspicions mount
  2. Finance sector says ready to invest in CCS
  3. REACH register to ensure traceability of nanomaterials
  4. MEPs re-allocate crisis funds to energy efficiency
  5. EU tweaks CO2 emissions cap for 2013 

Quote of the day: And it's hard to imagine why some officials will consider this important enough to keep it a secret. And as Wikileaks showed, even the best guarded secrets get revealed eventually. So for me, this attitude of the Commission is very strange and should be properly addressed in court.

Commission sued over biofuels as suspicions mount

21 September 2010
Europe's biofuels policy could cause unwanted side-effects equal to as much as 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases - roughly the annual emissions of Russia or India, official reports warn. That means biofuels could produce more carbon emissions than gasoline over a 20-year time frame.
The impact assessment emerged as climate campaigners sued the European Commission on Monday for withholding a different tranche of data on the negative consequences of fuels from crops such as maize, wheat and palm oil.
The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) said somewhere between 201 million tonnes and 1.092 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases would be released into the atmosphere due to the complex impact of "indirect land use change" from biofuels.Those estimates were based on a scenario in which Europe's traffic burns no more than 7% of biofuels in diesel and gasoline by 2020.
But new strategy reports from the majority of the European Union's member states show they are actually intending to burn somewhere between 9 and 11% biofuels, implying that the real side-effects could be as high as 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.
A Commission spokeswoman said seven of the 27 national plans were still missing, so an accurate assessment remains impossible. EU targets have been set for renewable energy in transport, but not specifically for biofuels, she added.
EU sources said Commission energy officials had fought to withhold the new work by the JRC for weeks, but relented on Friday.
The Commission research centre (...) has found that over 20 years the European biofuels policy might actually lead to an increase in emissions - by 21% compared to gasoline, based on data from the executive's own agro-economic experts.Another scenario paints a vision of 36% emissions savings on average compared to gasoline over 20 years, this time using figures generated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington.
My comment: Do you notice the 50% difference between the Commission research center experts and those of Washington experts. I don't think this number is random. It's well known that USA is one of the biggest maize producers, and since this is one of the main biofuels cultures, it makes sense that they will want to present it as the most efficient option. What I can't understand, however, is why the Commission tried to keep that data away from the public. It's not like anyone has doubts how difficult is to find the balance with biofuels. A lot of researches already argued that biofuels are not as good as we first thought and that in fact, they will hurt a lot more than they will help. At least in this form. So this is not something new. And it's hard to imagine why some officials will consider this important enough to keep it a secret. And as Wikileaks showed, even the best guarded secrets get revealed eventually. So for me, this attitude of the Commission is very strange and should be properly addressed in court.
But I also agree that in the current plan, the EC is speaking of "renewable mix" and not directly of biofuels. So there is place for maneuvering when it comes to biofuels. The biggest problem is not internal, but external. On the last meeting when the EU tried to impose some sustainability requirements on biofuels, Brazil made a great show (or threw a tantrum to be precise) and this is the biggest stumbling block in front of any sensible policy in that area. The fact that biggest producers don't want someone to impose them sustainability criteria. They claim they can and should impose them internally, but nobody actually trust them to do so. That's why I think that the public awareness should be directed at total denial of biofuels in their current form. For me, the most logical way is not to rely on biofuels at all, instead to produce biofuels only from garbage and left-over materials and the rest of the mix to come from renewables and nuclear energy. This is perfectly doable and if done properly it could avoid the diplomatic crisis with Brazil. That is, if they put biofuels not produced from left-overs outside of renewables frame as a whole. But they probably won't, because then, they'll have to deal with USA as well. And that will be tough.

Finance sector says ready to invest in CCS

22 September 2010
Private sector banks are ready to put money into carbon capture and storage projects (CCS) if they are viable without public funding, according to a new report released on Monday (20 September). 
Two research organisations, the Climate Group and the Ecofin Research Foundation, have gauged the views of 30 private sector capital providers on CCS.
They found that there is money available for CCS projects if they can compete with other forms of energy generation without public funding. Moreover, the project must have sponsors with an established track record in managing complicated construction projects and a performance guarantee across the whole capture and generation chain, they said.
Specialist equity is unlikely to be involved in financing CCS projects due to low expected returns or risks linked to high technology, according to the report. Bond or equity holders from big pension funds and insurance companies, on the other hand, said they were comfortable with corporates using their balance sheets to finance CCS if the scale is limited to a small percentage of the group's assets.
"We were surprised at the level of engagement from senior decision-makers in financial institutions and their readiness to consider funding CCS," said Chris Rowland, director at the Ecofin Research Foundation.
The findings of the report indicated, however, that private funding will only be sufficient for two CCS demonstration projects. This would leave Europe far behind its goal of a comprehensive network of projects that can test the whole range of CCS technologies in a variety of geological environments.  source
My comment: As you very well know, I'm very much against CCS. I find it very irresponsible instead of trying to limit our emissions, to bury them. So I sincerely don't wish well on those projects. I mean, every investment in non-military technology is good, but there's no need of so many demonstration plants just to invest in the technology. For me, this is misuse of public money. So sure I prefer private investors, as long as they are not pension funds. Also, note the following news:
Netherlands stops Shell's CO2 storage project. - The Dutch government said Thursday it will not allow oil giant Shell to store millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide in a depleted gas reservoir under a small town, upholding the fears of townspeople.
Under the scheme, set to have started in 2012, the CO2 was to be carried by a pipeline, compressed, and injected into a depleted gas reservoir 1,800 metres (5,900 feet) under ground.
Shell has said the CO2 will dissolve or form minerals over time.
The ministry (...) insisted it was "safe".
- I can't agree with this more. I mean, how do they know that the CO2 will dissolve or form minerals over time? How much such processes they have seen and/or controlled, to be sure how much strain the underground reservoir can hold until it starts giving defects? Soon a project for geothermal energy was stopped because it produced earthquakes, storing stuff underground is not a piece of cake. We don't know that well Earth soil and its structure. This is precisely why I do believe the Dutch government did well. And that is one of the reasons why I think CCS is inviable. We just have to find another way.
Also on the subject: 
Commission adopts €4bn plan for renewables, CCS - The European Commission adopted a proposal on Wednesday (3 November) to give four billion euros of funding to cutting-edge climate technologies such as renewable energies and carbon capture and storage (CCS).- boys and girls, those are OUR money they are spending. And they spend them very unwell. We can only hope that by the time the projects get approved, the CCS will be proven as a bad idea. 

REACH register to ensure traceability of nanomaterials

15 September 2010
Ahead of a regulatory review next year, the Belgian EU Presidency is proposing to create a specific register for nanomaterials under the bloc's REACH chemicals regulation and wants to make it mandatory to label their presence in consumer products.
The Belgian minister said there was "no need to be alarmed" about the increased use of nanomaterials in consumer products that are sold in European markets without any assessment of the risks beforehand.But he stressed that "it is our duty to apply due minimum of care and caution" and manage risks to health and the environment.
He also argued that "the current development approach for nanomaterials without prior notification of their presence or labelling of their characteristics or potential toxicity is not acceptable".
Magnette sought to strike a balance between calls for a moratorium on nanomaterials based on the precautionary principle and arguments from industry groups, which say their potential risks to human health are have not been proven.
The only realistic way to make nanomaterials acceptable to the wider public is to reduce uncertainty about their effects, he said. After a first review in June 2008, the Commission will conduct its second regulatory review of nanomaterials by the end of next year (EurActiv 19/06/08EurActiv 13/10/09).
Maila Puolamaa, chemicals policy officer at the European Commission's department for enterprise and industry, said that the review will focus on the inclusion of nanomaterials under the REACH regulation on chemicals.
Issues to be addressed include simplified registration for nanomaterials produced in quantities of less than one tonne per year and notification of all nanomaterials placed on the market on their own, in preparation or in articles, she said.
All aspects related to existing environmental legislation on water, waste and air - as well as worker safety - will also be addressed, Puolamaa added.
The results of the assessment will be included in the 2012 REACH review.
My comment: It was about time to act on this. Though 2012 for me is kind of far. Nanomaterials are already in wide use, especially in cosmetics. That makes them potentially very dangerous, because they come in contact with human skin and can enter the human body without any problem. So, the EC once again is sleeping and that's not good. I mean why wait a whole year, make the industry at least label nanomaterials so that consumers know what they buy and what they use. But, of course, that will meet a heavy resistance from Germany and France, so forget about safety, we're the perfect lab rats. As for REACH, check out this:
'Unaware' French firms set to miss REACH deadline - The EU's REACH regulation requires companies to register all their dangerous chemical products and those they use in large quantities by 30 November. Yet in France, some manufacturers run the risk of missing the deadline as they are unaware that the law applies to them. - Unaware?! Hello! So, let's sum it up: companies from other parts of Europe know what to do and bother to submit documents, but those in France are unaware?! Is it just me, or they are fooling with us? Rule are for everyone!

MEPs re-allocate crisis funds to energy efficiency

06 September 2010
MEPs voted last week (2 September) to use €115 million of unspent recovery plan money from the EU's recovery plan on projects to improve energy efficiency in the regions.
The European Parliament's industry, research and energy committee gave its unanimous blessing to European Commission proposals to use unspent money from the European Energy Recovery Programme (EERP). The initiative will create a dedicated financial instrument to support regional and local projects in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Since the programme started in 2009 with a budget of €3.98 billion, money has been allocated to energy interconnections, offshore wind and carbon capture and storage (CCS; see EurActiv LinksDossier) demonstration plants as a priority.
But the Commission now estimates that €115 million will go unspent until the end-of-year deadline, which can be freed for energy efficiency and renewables projects.
MEPs argued that the instrument will create new jobs in regions, which will make them more attractive places to live and aid social integration.
Under the plan, eligible projects will need to have a rapid and significant impact on economic recovery, boost energy security and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Such projects could involve combined heat and power (CHP; see EurActiv LinksDossier) and district heating networks, grid-connected decentralised renewable production amd clean public transport and electric vehicles, as well as electricity storage solutions, smart metering and smart grids, MEPs said.
The new rules will go some way towards correcting the bias towards fossil-fuels that MEPs had detected in the programme. Along with CCS, they had insisted on including energy efficiency and smart cities.
The fund will be managed by public financial intermediaries in order to maximise short-term impact.
The Parliament as a whole will vote on the rule changes in October.source
My comment: WOW, now that is a good news. I think that efficiency should have been on their priority list from the beginning, but this might correct their error a little. I can only hope this gets properly voted, accepted and we'll be able to soon use those money for energy efficiency (Update: It was voted, see: EU cuts deal on using crisis funds for energy efficiency). I think it's unbelievable how much money and power we can save only trough efficiency, so I can't even start to comprehend why the EC left efficiency outside of their plans. It's very easy to spot the conspiracy in this, I mean if we stop consuming, they cannot charge us for our consumption, right? What they fail to understand is that we're talking about a complete change in our philosophy in life and in the philosophy of production. Until now, products have average life-span of 2 years (cars excluded). The idea is simple - the more you buy, the more you stimulate the industry and everyone is happy. However, this cannot continue, not any longer. So maybe finally we'll get back to the strong and nice products, meant to work longer and to consume less. As I said it countless times, we don't need to be miserable in order to be "green". Only the products philosophy should change. 
More on the subject:
Electricity: The looming power struggle for water - Competition between electricity and water demand is climbing up Europe's agenda as climate change is set to further deplete freshwater supplies. Concerns are now being raised that EU renewable energy policies and electric cars could further exacerbate the problem. -  Why I paste this here is not because I believe that we should go back to fossil fuels to save water, that's not serious. But you can read in that article how much resources go into electricity production. For me, the only way to avoid problem is to minimize the use of those resources. And that's perfectly doable, it just requires a change in our mind frame. If you think about how little your laptop consumes as compared to a desktop, or your air-conditioning compared to the older types of heating, you'll know what I mean. 

EU tweaks CO2 emissions cap for 2013

25 October 2010
The European Commission has revised the EU's greenhouse gas emissions cap under its emissions trading scheme for 2013 in order to accommodate new sectors such as aluminium and petrochemicals.
The new cap announced on Friday (22 October) was set at 2.039 billion tonnes. It exceeds the 1.927 billion allowances set last July as it takes into account the extension of the scheme's scope post-2012.
The emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), the EU's flagship climate protection instrument, was extended to include new sectors like aluminium, ammonia and petrochemicals as well as new greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide (N2O) and perfluorocarbons from 2013.
Factories carrying out activities in these areas will therefore join around 11,000 industrial installations and power plants that are already required to purchase emission permits for each tonne of carbon they emit.
The cap will be lowered annually by 1.74% of the average annual total allowances in the second trading phase between 2008 and 2012. In absolute terms, this now translates into a reduction of 37,435,387 per year, the Commission said.The cap still excludes aviation, to be included into the scheme from 2012, for which a separate cap will be set.
My comment: Well, nice to hear more industries were included, but not so nice that once again the limits are being extended, expanded and so on "fine-tuned". You cannot achieve progress if you don't introduce obstacles. Obviously, the EU wants to change things, but not so quickly and not so dramatically. And in the end, the change will come from technology requirements, not so much from political ones. Oh well. 


Farm waste: Worth its weight in gold? - Collecting agricultural residues could prove a lucrative business for Europe's farming sector if EU policy were to offer the right incentives for using biomass to produce biofuels.
Harvesting agricultural residues that are normally left to rot in fields and turning them into next-generation biofuels could generate up to €31bn for the EU economy per year by 2020, according to a new study released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week (14 September).
Moreover, it could revitalise the ailing farming sector by generating up to a million man-years of employment across the 27 member states over the next decade, most of them in rural areas, it said.
EU moves to protect wildlife from wind turbines - The European Commission has issued guidelines on how to design wind farms so that they do not disturb birds and bats living in the EU's 'Natura 2000' network of protected sites.
But the Commission adds that there is a need for a case-by-case assessment of projects. This is because the impacts of erecting wind turbines in a specific natural environment depend greatly on the native wildlife as well as the design of the wind farm.
Rising tide of drugs, medicines polluting EU waters - Europe's freshwaters are increasingly filled with pharmaceutical residues and other micro-pollutants, which are potentially harmful to human health and the environment, according to Friedrich Barth from the European Water Partnership (EWP), an industry-backed group.
The chemicals can range from pesticides to flame retardants, steroids and hormones from birth-control pills.
They also include residues of antibiotics, anti-depressants, tranquilisers and cancer treatments, which find their way into the water cycle via different pathways.
Some of these pollutants might be carcinogenic or have environmental effects.
EU to propose burying nuclear waste as safest option - The European Commission will promote underground storage as the safest option for storing nuclear waste, according to a leaked proposal which has already irked environmentalists.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Experts:European scientist - lazy?!, 2010

Expert: ‘Lazy researchers to blame for declining EU science optimism’ - Responding to the publication of a survey on EU attitudes to science and technology, experts blamed "lazy" researchers for failing to promote their projects, leading to a declining sense of optimism about the positive influence of science in Europe. - IDIOTS! Seriously, what the hell means this?! Researchers are not supposed to work to promote their research but to research it! And since the money are so limited, how are we supposed to promote our research? This takes money after all. It takes time. And when you work on EU project, you're supposed to account for almost every second. It's not about laziness, it's about stupid system that encourages "accountability" in the sense of producing paper-waste for other people to read, to judge and to account. And in the end, not everyone can promote. Not everyone is a showman or showgirl. In most cases, people barely find the time to do the research and to finish all of their projects, because of course, to guarantee a decent salary, you have to be on more than one project. It's hard. And what's even harder is to promote your science to non-specialist. I tried that and I failed. And I consider myself to be funny and social person!
Today (only 4, but a lot of comment on the scrap-articles):
  1. EU governments seen opposing GM crop proposals
  2. Thales Alenia wins Iridium deal for 81 satellites: company
  3. New project aims for fusion ignition
  4. Kroes to beef up scrutiny of EU digital industry
 Quote of the day: most countries actually posed bans on GMOs, so they are against current European regulations. And yet they don't want the new one, which legalize what they do anyway. It's absurd, but yet - true! Better collective irresponsibility, than subjective responsibility.

EU governments seen opposing GM crop proposals

30 July 2010

European Union governments have signalled their strong opposition to proposals allowing member states to decide whether to grow or ban genetically modified (GM) crops, a Belgian EU Presidency source said on Thursday (29 July).
Several EU governments have already criticised the proposals, and last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel attacked the plans as a first step towards dismantling the bloc's single market.
A first meeting of EU government officials to discuss the proposals in Brussels on Tuesday confirmed the widespread opposition to the plans.
Some officials agreed with Merkel's view that the proposals would undermine the bloc's internal market, and others said they would leave the EU and its member states open to challenges in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a second EU source in the meeting said. source
My comment:Why do you think they oppose it? Not because a country may decide they want to or not want to grow GMOs! They fear sanctions of WTO if they decide against it!!! They fear the integrity of the open market! I just want to throw up. Sometimes I'm amazed by people's stupidity. Because most countries actually posed bans on GMOs, so they are against current European regulations. And yet they don't want the new one, which legalize what they do anyway. It's absurd, but yet - true! Better collective irresponsibility, than subjective responsibility. 
Not related to the article but I will soon blog about new evidences of GMO crops in some of the other blogs, so watch out.

Thales Alenia wins Iridium deal for 81 satellites: company

June 2, 2010
Thales Alenia Space has won a contract worth 2.1 billion dollars (1.7 billion euros) for a giant programme to build 81 communications satellites for US group Iridium, Iridium said on Wednesday.
The European group beat US company in bidding for the work.
The chief executive at Iridium Matt Desch said that the project marked a turning point in the history of the US company.
The privatised French export-credit guarantee company Coface is to underwrite 95 percent of dollar-credit facilities totalling 1.8 billion dollars.
Thales Alenia Space is 67-percent owned by French group Thales and 33 percent by Italian company Finmeccanica.
The contract is for 72 satellites to be launched into low orbit from 2015, and nine replacement satellites to be held ready on earth. They will carry upgraded third-generation class mobile communications services.
(c) 2010 AFP source
My comment: Cool! Seriously cool and that's a great victory for the EU. It's not so much that I dislike Lockheed Martin, I just don't like how in some sectors, there's no way for EU companies on the US markets. And that's hardly fair. So this is definitely a victory.

New project aims for fusion ignition

May 10, 2010 by David L. Chandler
Russia and Italy have entered into an agreement to build a new fusion reactor outside Moscow that could become the first such reactor to achieve ignition, the point where a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy. The design for the reactor, called Ignitor, originated with MIT physics professor Bruno Coppi, who will be the project's principal investigator.
The concept for the new reactor builds on decades of experience with MIT’s Alcator fusion research program, also initiated by Coppi, which in its present version (called Alcator C-Mod) has the highest magnetic field and highest plasma pressure (two of the most important measures of performance in magnetic fusion) of any , and is the largest university-based fusion reactor in the world.
It will be much smaller and less expensive than the major international fusion project called (with a chamber 6.2 meters across), currently under construction in France. Though originally designed to achieve ignition, the ITER reactor has been scaled back and is now not expected to reach that milestone.The Ignitor reactor, Coppi says, will be “a very compact, inexpensive type of machine,” and unlike the larger ITER could be ready to begin operations within a few years. Its design is based on a particularly effective combination of factors that produce especially good confinement of the plasma and a high degree of purity (impurities in the hot gases can be a major source of inefficiency).
Coppi plans to work with the Italian ministry of research and Evgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, to finalize the distribution of tasks for the machine, the core of which is to be built in Italy and then installed in Troitsk, near Moscow, on the site of that institute’s present Triniti reactor. Velikhov, as it happens, is also the chair of the ITER council.
source My comment: Wow! I wish them luck. Seriously, this is a great endeavor, especially since ITER was basically murdered. It's amazing how well the LHC project functioned to produce the biggest accelerator on Earth, especially if we compare it with ITER where bunch of very suspicious factors led to its scientific annihilation. And this is not how science is done. So, it's cool to see alternative projects, backed by governments and going further than the mainstream project ever will. God Speed!

Kroes to beef up scrutiny of EU digital industry

24 June 2010
The European Commission will ensure that devices with always-on connectivity, like Apple's iPhone, don't lock consumers in to proprietary technology, Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner for the 'Digital Agenda', told EurActiv in an exclusive interview. A yearly scorecard will measure the industry's progress.
The commissioner said one of her main priorities will be ensuring that new market trends in digital consumer goods do not lock buyers into supporting monopolies.
The lack of interoperability information was at the heart of one of her most high-profile battles with ICT giant Microsoft, which cost the company a $1.3 billion fine in 2008."This is not just about Microsoft or any big company like Apple, IBM or Intel. The main challenge is that consumers need choice when it comes to software or hardware products," the commissioner insisted.
Kroes said she plans to ask big market players' to start licensing information that for the moment they are not making available at all. Those same players have cast doubt on whether the commissioner will go so far.Commenting on previous efforts to introduce a European Interoperability Framework (EIF), CompTIA, a global ICT industry group with companies such as Microsoft among its members, said it was ''concerned about the proposal's promotion of ICT standards and development models that reject valid intellectual property".
"Any company which holds a significant market position and acts against interoperability should know that the Commission is ready to act to defend the interests of European consumers," the commissioner insisted.
 sourceMy comment: Good, good. It was high time for all of us to stop being kept hostages to the so called "intellectual rights". So, big companies have the right to mass buy patents and to sue anyone that intends to use them, but consumers should behave and use only their proprietary softwares? No, sir, I don't think so. Precisely this behavior is what turns off people from the big guys and make them use pirate software. It's not so much about the money, not always, at least. It's about the freedom to do whatever you like. For example, my new gadget has options I don't like, well, I will patch its firmware to whatever floats my boat. Because I gave already money for it and I require from it to serve my purpose. That's why, I think companies should come with brand new ideas of monetizing their business. Because the old models are simply old and not working in digital age. 

EU urged to fund research in Africa - 28 October 2010 - European development funds should be tapped to build research labs and bio-banks in Africa, according to a leading African research expert. Scientists are also urging policymakers to invest in Europe's own scientific infrastructure in order to maintain global competitiveness. - Oh, yeah? Why?! I like Africa, but for me, that sounds almost like European development funds should be provided to China. It sounds ridiculous. Ok, I agree that if Europe wants to end the impoverishment of Africa we must seek to educate people, but how do you build labs if children don't even go to school. Or we do not discuss that Africa. Well, I don't see why Europe should support already rich country. Or why we should support the outsourcing facilities of big companies. I simply am not convinced that by building labs for biotech corporations, we'll help local population to get a better life.

Commission gives €1.4bn to ITER nuclear fusion project - With EU governments unwilling to fill the funding gaps in the multi-billion international nuclear fusion research project ITER, the European Commission is proposing to put an extra 1.4 billion euro on the table to honour the bloc's international commitment.

R&D chief sounds innovation emergency bell - 04 November 2010 - R&D investments in Europe were less affected by the crisis than in the US but EU firms are lagging behind their rivals in key sectors for innovation, the European Commission warned on Tuesday (26 October). - What a surprise. So you don't invest in real research, but in lies like "social innovation" and so on and then you complain that we lag behind USA and probably China. Well, this is what in physics we call action-consequence. Because let's face it, to do real research you need money. You either get them from private companies and corporation, or you get them in the form of local and EU subsidies/grants. And in time of "crisis", we saw a huge cut in the subsidies part. So how do you want researchers to work if you don't pay them? I don't know, would EU bureaucrats works without salary? I doubt it. 
And again from this article: "On the same day of the scoreboard's publication, the European Space Agency signed a contract with industry worth €194 million, seen as a major step in making the project a reality." Yeaaah!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Carbon tax - dream or nightmare, 2010

  1. EU carbon tax proposal delayed
  2. Commission proposes phasing out coal subsidies
  3. EU sees solar power imported from Sahara in five years
  4. Oil nations block switch to 1.5°C climate goal
  5. EU agrees on carbon permit auction rules from 2013
  6. Debate on CO2 target exposes rift among EU businesses 
Quote of the day: The actual point is that we must change our perception of resources. For the moment, the air is considered to be free. But it is not. This might sound scary or confusing in the beginning, but think about it like this. Is the water free?

    EU carbon tax proposal delayed

    25 June 2010
    Proposals for a European carbon tax have been kicked into the long grass following a debate between EU commissioners, who face divisions between member states whilst the effects of the financial crisis are still being felt.
    A suggested tax of 20 euros per tonne of C02 contained in fuels had been made by Taxation and Customs Union Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta at a 23 June meeting of the 27 EU commissioners in Brussels.
    But it has now been put back indefinitely after Šemeta was asked to investigate the economic impact of the tax.
    The commissioners agreed that an updated impact assessment taking into account the economic downturn is required before going any further.
    If proposed, the revision of the Energy Taxation Directive would be a means of shifting taxation from labour to carbon in order to raise state revenue during a time of low consumer demand, with several member states currently surpassing the budget deficit rules.
    Without a specific deadline being set for the Commission's impact assessment on the tax, the issue has effectively been put on 'stand-by' until the effects of the financial crisis subside.
    sourceMy comment: I don't think that imposing CO2 tax only to fill in the coffins is a good motivation. Because this shifts the problem - from environmental to financial. When this is not the point. The actual point is that we must change our perception of resources. For the moment, the air is considered to be free. But it is not. This might sound scary or confusing in the beginning, but think about it like this. Is the water free? In principle it is. If you find water somewhere in the wood, you can drink it or do whatever you see fit with it and nobody will come and charge you about it. When the water comes to your home or office, however, it is a service and you pay for it. It's the same with air in general and CO2 in particular. Here the problem is not how much you can take, because there is plenty of air for the moment. The problem is how much you can pollute in the form of hard pollution and greenhouse gases exhaust. It's simple mathematics. When something becomes limited, you pay for it. Air is still unlimited, but CO2 levels go higher and higher and that cannot go forever. Thus, big consumers should pay. For me, this is the clear philosophy. In principle, everything is free, but the more limited it is, the more precious and price-ious it becomes. And thus trying to introduce carbon tax only for the money is wrong. There isn't vision. There isn't a goal! And politics should be about goals. Finding money is very cheap goal. It will easier to find the money if you tax prostitution and drugs.

    Commission proposes phasing out coal subsidies

     22 July 2010
    Europe's unprofitable coal mines will have to be shut down within the next four years before state subsidies are halted, the European Commission said yesterday (20 July).
    The EU executive presented a proposal for a new regulation that would allow member states to grant operating aid to coal mines only if they present plans to close by 15 October 2014.
    The subsidies would have to be gradually reduced by at least 33% every 15 months and paid back to the state in case the mine fails to close on time.
    The new regulation is to set up a transition regime as the current coal regulation expires at the end of the year. The new rules would allow the hard coal industry to receive closure aid but they would no longer be granted aid for investment or accessing coal reserves.
    The aim of the regulation is to bring to an end decades of repeatedly extended subsidy schemes to maintain uncompetitive mines, instead directing state aid towards paying for the social and environmental consequences of closures.
    Member states would have to complement any decision to grant closure aid with a series of measures to compensate for the negative environmental impact of aid to coal, for instance in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy or carbon capture and storage. source
     My comment: Coal are very painful question. Mostly because a big percentage of Europe use them for heating and electricity. What articles usually fail to mention is that not only Central Europe use them, but also UK. Which can easily explain why coal mines get all kinds of aid and they never close. For me, this is also a question of vision and will. I don't mind coal, the problem is that we relied on fossil fuels for heating for so long. It's time to change. And we have that opportunity now. More and more countries install nuclear or renewable powers. All it takes is one clear decision on coal and they'll be in history. And once we stop burning them, who knows what kind of cool uses we can find for them. Because look at oil - we use it in almost every stuff we have! And it's fossil, just like coal. So maybe by closing that door, we will open another. All we need is one decision.

    EU sees solar power imported from Sahara in five years 

    23 June 2010
    Europe will import its first solar-generated electricity from North Africa within the next five years, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in an interview on Sunday.
    The European Union is backing projects to turn the plentiful sunlight in the Sahara desert into electricity for power-hungry Europe, a scheme it hopes will help meet its target of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources in 2020.
    He said those initial volumes would come from small pilot projects, but the amount of electricity would go up into the thousands of megawatts as projects including the €400 billion Desertec solar scheme come on stream.
    The EU is backing the construction of new electricity cables, known as interconnectors, under the Mediterranean Sea to carry this renewable energy from North Africa to Europe.Some environmental groups have warned these cables could be used instead to import non-renewable electricity from coal- and gas-fired power stations in north Africa.
    He said he believed it was technologically possible to monitor electricity imports to the EU and establish if they come from renewable sources or fossil fuels. The Desertec consortium includes major firms such as Siemens, RWE and Deutsche Bank. They are expected to seek public money for the project.
    Oettinger said the EU's assistance was likely to include help coordinating stakeholders, updating regulations to allow the imported electricity to move across European borders, and financing feasibility studies.
    On the prospect of EU subsidies, or the European Commission permitting state aid to firms involved in the project, he said that would become clear once the consortium has presented a detailed business plan.
    sourceMy comment: I'm not quite sure how much I support this project. From one side, it's great to have all that electricity coming from renewables. From the other side, it really pose the question of how they will guarantee it's from renewables and how the EU will subsidize local African government and with what consequences. Because admit it, Africa is not the safest place to hide - it's pretty turbulent. How the EU can guarantee stability? Could this be done without interfering with sovereignty of countries? I doubt it. And this question is very important, because Europe has exploited Africa for so long. We should stop that and we have to start the fair trade!
    Not to mention the environmental impact on the desert. The desert is not empty, it's unique biosphere and this should be kept in mind too. I'm not saying not to do anything on it, just to make it moderately and carefully.

    Oil nations block switch to 1.5°C climate goal

    11 June 2010
    Two weeks of climate talks in Bonn saw developing countries launch a new push to agree on stricter targets for halting global warming, only for the deal to be killed by Saudi Arabia. The blow came as new data showed that loopholes in pledges would allow rich countries to increase their emissions.  
    Support for a 1.5°C target was on the rise in Bonn, where developing countries demanded a scientific review as the basis of increased climate ambition.
    In Bonn, a group of developing countries therefore asked the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to compile an assessment of the latest science to expose any potential gaps that need further evaluation.
    However, the attempt to go ahead with the review was blocked by Saudi Arabia, with the support of fellow OPEC nations. Among their reasons for opposing the review were claims that there is not enough peer-reviewed literature out there for the process to uncover scientific gaps. After two days of heated debate, the discussion was eventually referred to the Cancún climate conference in December.
    Adding further fuel to concerns were new reports that loopholes in emissions reduction pledges made so far could in fact allow developed countries to increase their emissions.
    Climate campaigners warned that new rules in the making on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) would seek to exaggerate actual emission reductions. source
    My comment: This one is old, but the role of Saudi Arabia just cannot be ignored and forgotten. So, first they want us to pay for the oil we don't use (google it), now they stop any progress citing lack of peer-reviewed literature?! Well, pay experts to create peer-reviewed literature then! What I want to say is that if you hire enough experts and tell them to research the issue, they will eventually publish their results and if they are good, they will be peer-reviewed. That's the normal process. But if scientists are not hired on projects, they cannot publish. It's absurd how arrogant Saudi Arabia is getting.

    EU agrees on carbon permit auction rules from 2013

    16 July 2010
    European Union governments on Wednesday unanimously agreed detailed rules for auctioning carbon permits in the third phase of the bloc's emissions trading scheme from 2013, the European Commission said yesterday (14 July).
    The draft rules will see the creation of a central platform to sell the majority of EU carbon permits from 2013, but also allows countries to opt out and hold their own auctions.
    Neither the number of permits nor the auction dates have yet been determined, though the details of individual auctions will be published almost a year in advance, the Commission said.
    The rules also cover the aviation sector, which will have to buy 15% of its permits at auction when it joins the EU scheme from 2012.The Commission will now submit the draft regulation to the European Parliament and the Council for a three-month scrutiny period.
    In the $100 billion trading scheme's first two phases (2005-2012), most permits were given to industry for free, but starting in phase three (2013-2020) the majority will be sold to firms through auctions, the details of which have been delayed for months due to disagreement amongst member states.
    Britain and Germany, which currently auction a portion of their permits to industry, were among at least four nations calling for the opt-out clause. source
    My comment: More (EU sets 2013 cap under emissions trading scheme). I don't completely get it how you can have both centralised and local trading of allowances, but I guess in the EU they found a way. My personal opinion is that this compromise is stupid and will lead to fraud.

    Debate on CO2 target exposes rift among EU businesses

    20 October 2010
    Environment ministers yesterday (14 October) postponed a decision on whether the EU should raise its 2020 emissions reduction target, in a debate that brought to the surface a division between businesses.
    Meeting in Luxembourg, the 27 EU environment ministers requested the European Commission to present further analyses of the consequences for individual member states of moving beyond the EU's existing 20% CO2 reduction goal for 2020.
    The debate surrounding upgrading the European Union's target has divided EU member states, as some say that 20% simply represents business as usual as emissions have already fallen by 17% in the downturn. Meanwhile, others say higher goals are a liability in terms of competitiveness unless other major economies adopt similar targets.Maybe more surprising is that the same contrast is now evident among businesses as well.
    But at the same time, 29 major companies issued a joint declaration urging the EU to up its target on emissions cuts to 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, sparking comments that BusinessEurope should not speak for the whole business community when it comes to environmental matters.
    The businesses, including BNP Paribas, GE Energy, Marks and Spencer, Nike and Vodafone argued that a higher emissions reduction target would not only bring the benefits of lower emissions but also "spur innovation and investment thus creating millions of new jobs in a low carbon economy".source
    My comment: Haha. Fuuun! Really, I find this very very good change in the public attitude towards the reduction goal. After all, we already decrease those emissions, why not at least put something challenging ahead of us. And as the business very rightfully pointed, this will really spur innovation.

    EU orders industrial tuna fishing ban until year's end (10 June 2010) - In the wake of huge depletion in stocks of bluefin tuna, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki decided yesterday (9 June) to ban large-scale bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic. The ban has already come into effect. -
    MEPs want curbs on illegal e-waste shipments - The EU needs to increase checks on electronic waste exports to avoid illegal dumping and stop the shipment of valuable and sometimes rare raw materials outside the bloc, MEPs in the European Parliament's environment committee said, voting to update EU rules on the disposal of waste electronic equipment yesterday (22 June). -

    Chinese firms cashing in on EU carbon trade - European industries are subsidising direct competitors in China and India by buying international credits to offset their carbon dioxide emissions, an NGO said in a new report.
    EU companies spent around €860 million last year buying 78 million international offset credits (CERs) in order to meet their emission caps under the EU's cap-and-trade scheme.
    The credits, issued under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), are designed to allow companies to meet their targets more cost-effectively by financing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

    Parliament approves Industrial Emissions Directive - The European Parliament yesterday (7 July) endorsed a new directive strengthening pollution limits that industrial installations will have to comply with.
    The new law sets stricter limits on the pollutants that industrial installations are allowed to spew into the air, water and soil. It limits atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and dust, which are responsible for acid rain and smog and cause respiratory diseases like asthma.
    Installations will have until 2016 to comply with the stricter limits. The measurement stick is the implementation of "best available techniques" (BATs), or the most effective technologies that can provide high levels of environmental protection while balancing cost and benefit.
    Member states will, however, be able to deviate from the standard for certain technical reasons or local circumstances if they can prove that the costs of implementing the standards would be disproportionate compared to environmental benefits. - this is not very categoric but I guess it's best we have for the moment.


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