Issue 26

Early September 2013

Member states must begin to monitor levels of three pharmaceutical substances in water by September 2015, under a new directive published this week following its adoption in Parliament and Council in July 2013.

Europe recycles 71.7% of its paper and cardboard according to a report published by the European Association of Paper industries. Nevertheless, landfill and incineration rates for other types of waste remain high across the continent.  Whilst, paper recycling rates rose some 30% over the past 20 years, to 71.7% in 2012 making paper the most recycled material in Europe. Paper fibre was reused on average 3.5 times a year in Europe compared to 2.4 times in the rest of the world now.

Spain has agreed to speed up environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures as part of a drive to cut administrative burden on businesses. Under draft legislation tabled on Friday, the duration of EIA procedures would be reduced from two years now to just four months. The European Commission has also proposed to simplify and shorten procedures at EU level.

A European Commission consultation has opened on the future of energy labelling and ecodesign directives in the EU. The consultation which will be open until the 30th November is expected to feed into an evaluation of the effectiveness of the two directives. Stakeholders are being asked to give their views on the rules’ effectiveness and options to improve them. The consultation considers the introduction of new energy classes to reflect constant advances in product design. through a new A++++ grading.

In response to a European Commission Green Paper consultation on post 2030 energy targets many European governments have expressed unease about the effects of low-carbon policies on economic competiveness, and about the impact of renewables’ variability and subsidies on energy markets.

The European Parliament’s internal market committee (IMCO) is due to vote in favour of the compromise between Council and Parliament adopted at the end of the Irish Presidency of the EU in June. The committee vote is one of the last legislative hurdles before the procurement package becomes law. The package put forward by the European Commission at the end of 2011 consists of three directives.

A first step has been taken in identifying areas in Europe where soil biodiversity is most under pressure. A JRC co-authored article states that in 56% of EU territory there is a varying degree of potential threats, with intense land exploitation estimated as the main pressure on soil biodiversity. Life within the soil is vital for ecosystem services, but the current levels of below-ground biodiversity are poorly known.

World Water Week took place in Stockholm last week. During the week the presence of harmful chemicals, not only in consumer products, but also in the waste water as a result of the production process was discussed. The elimination of these harmful chemicals retrospectively from water is no longer sustainable from an energy, economic or technical point perspective.

Zhou Shengxian Minister of Environment Protection of the People’s Republic of China, and Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for Environment met in Beijing on 19 July 2013 for the EU-China Environmental Policy Dialogue. The two exchanged views on the latest progress in the field of environmental protection and acknowledged respective efforts to address key global environmental challenges. They discussed how to properly handle the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection.