Engineering at the nanoscale brings the promise of radical technological development — clean energy, highly effective medicines and space travel. But technology at this scale also brings safety challenges. Nano-sized particles are not inherently more toxic than larger particles, but the effects are complex and vary based on particle properties as well as chemical toxicity. This Report brings together the latest science on environmental safety considerations specific to manufactured nanoscale materials, and some possible implications for policy and research.
Researchers have modelled the exposure to multiple hazards across different regions of Europe in relation to heat, cold, drought, wildfire, flooding and wind. The study indicated that, over the next century, environmental hazards are likely to increase, particularly along coastlines and on floodplains, and that south-western Europe is likely to be the worst-hit region.
A survey of deepwater fisheries off the coast of Greenland which used traces of fish DNA has produced similar results to trawl surveys and fishing catches. The ‘environmental DNA’ (eDNA) technique can therefore complement trawl data, the researchers say. It may be particularly useful for surveying large species — which can often avoid bottom trawls — or cryptic species1 in inaccessible ocean areas.
A new study has estimated how changes to climate might affect the value of European farmland. Based on data for over 41 000 farms, the results suggest that their economic value could drop by up to 32%, depending on the climate scenario considered. Farms in southern Europe are particularly sensitive to climate change and could suffer value losses of up to 9% per 1 °C rise. The researchers say policy, on water and land use, for example, will be crucial to help farmers adapt to climate change and mitigate economic losses.
Nanoparticle release from self-cleaning cement: new study considers how much escapes into the environment, and how
New figures on how much titanium dioxide nanomaterial (TiO2-NM) could be released into the environment from photocatalytic cement — a new type of self-cleaning cement — are presented in a recent study. Based on experimental test results, the researchers estimate that between 0.015% and 0.033% of photocatalytic cement’s TiO2-NM content could potentially escape over several years of cement use, depending on the level of cement porosity. The study could help inform environmental risk assessment of TiO2-NM, as well as safer design of nano-products (i.e. commercialised products incorporating nanomaterials).
Natural water-retention measures, which ‘keep the rain where it falls’, have great potential to be used as part of flood-risk management plans. But their benefits for downstream urban areas can bring costs to the upstream agricultural areas where they are installed, a recent analysis explains. The researchers behind this analysis suggest that we need new and/or improved policies and institutions to oversee the trade-offs and benefits for agriculture and flood management, and a better scientific understanding of the measures’ likely impact on urban flood risk.
Traditional, high-nature-value (HNV) grasslands are at risk of being abandoned by farmers in the future — in turn, risking the wildlife they support, warns a new UK study. Farmers interviewed by the researchers had weak motivations to protect grasslands, as they felt that financial incentives for conservation are low and that traditional management practices are inconvenient. More dialogue between farmers and conservationists could be part of the solution, the study suggests.
Algal blooms in inland and marine waters could be detected and monitored more accurately in future, thanks to a new assessment method. Scientists have developed a new algorithm for sensors which identify emerging blooms of cyanobacteria based on the behaviour of light reflected by the algae’s pigment. Importantly, the algorithm may reduce uncertainty in estimations of algal concentrations by distinguishing between two different types of pigment.
Which new low-carbon technologies can be developed and commercialised quickly? New research offers analysis
A new study provides clues as to which innovative low-carbon technologies will successfully get onto the market quickly. The historical analysis of 16 energy technologies — from steam engines to wind power — found that the average length of a product’s ‘formative phase’ is 22 years. This important period of innovation in a technology’s development is shorter for products which do not need extensive new infrastructure or changes to user behaviour. The findings could help policymakers identify new technologies that can be deployed more rapidly to meet short-term environmental targets.
Statement following the working dinner between President Juncker and Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki
European Commission - Statement Brussels, 9 January 2018 The following joint statement was issued by President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki following their working dinner in Brussels on 9 January 2017: "The Prime Minister of Poland and the President of the European Commission had a wide...
Statement by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the passing away of Peter Sutherland
European Commission - Statement Brussels, 7 January 2018 "I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Peter Sutherland, former European Commissioner, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and Attorney General of Ireland. In every sense of the word Peter Sutherland was a true European.
European - Statement Commission Brussels, 21 December 2017 The European Parliament and the Council today reached a provisional agreement on the effort sharing regulation - a major Commission proposal for implementing the EU's 2030 climate target.
Relative environmental impact of nanosilver in products may be marginal compared with impacts of other components
A new study has analysed the environmental impact of 15 products containing nanosilver, highlighting the contribution of this novel material to the items’ overall environmental burden. The findings show that nanosilver impacts, such as fossil fuel depletion and human-health impacts, are relative to content, and can be marginal when considered in the context of the product’s other materials. Based on their results, the researchers recommend considering the overall impacts and benefits of nano-enabled products in evaluation and environmental guidance on their development.
A new study has, for the first time, estimated total anthropogenic releases of mercury over the last 4 000 years, up to 2010. Overall, the study estimates that a total of 1 540 000 tonnes of mercury have been released; three-quarters of this since 1850, and 78 times more than was released through natural causes over this period. Therefore, human activity has been responsible for a significant level of contamination, and this inventory can be used to inform and assess mitigation measures. The publication coincides with the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and the new EU Mercury Regulation1, which prohibits the export, import and manufacturing of mercury-added products, among other measures.
Researchers have shown that emissions from vehicles can react with emissions from urban trees and other plants, resulting in a decrease in air quality in cities in summer; this reduces the otherwise positive impacts of urban vegetation. The study, conducted in Berlin, showed that during a July heatwave, 20% of ozone concentrations were due to emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from vegetation interacting with other pollutants. To reduce this effect, lowering emissions of these other pollutants is crucial.
Remarks by President Jean-Claude Juncker following the European Council meetings of 14 and 15 December 2017
European Commission - Speech Brussels, 15 December 2017 Ladies and Gentlemen, When I first met Jüri, I said to myself that this is the beginning of a great friendship. That is exactly what happened, and like our President I wanted to pay tribute to the Prime Minister, to the...
A more united, stronger and more democratic Union: Joint Declaration on the EU's legislative priorities for 2018-2019
European Commission - Press release Brussels, 14 December 2017 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signed today the new Joint Declaration on the EU's legislative priorities for 2018-2019, alongside President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani and holder of the rotating Council Presidency and Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas.
European - Statement Commission Brussels, 14 December 2017 The European Parliament and Council today reached a provisional agreement on a key legislative proposal for implementing the EU's 2030 climate objectives – on accounting of emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).
European - Press release Commission Paris, 12 December 2017 Two years after the Paris Agreement, the EU is firmly in the lead in fighting climate change. To that end the Commission announced a series of initiatives for a modern and clean economy at the One Planet Summit in Paris today.
European Commission - Fact Sheet Paris, 12 December 2017 Two years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the EU remains fully committed to reducing its domestic emissions by at least 40% between 1990 and 2030. We are on track to meet our 2020 target and close to finalising our...