Issue 39

February 2015

EU member states look set to approve the European Commission’s 2015 work programme, including its controversial decision to withdraw or modify major environmental policy proposals.

In a draft agreement for the General Affairs Council on 10th February, a list of proposed "withdrawals and modifications” were tabled and did not criticise the Commission’s approach or any individual decision.

Five out of seven political groups, representing over 60 per cent of MEPs in the European Parliament, have shown they are against the European Commission’s proposal to withdraw environmental legislation from its 2015 Work Programme through group resolutions prepared earlier this week.

EU foreign and European affairs ministers said they do not want the European Commission to axe its proposed Circular Economy package but still backed a decision on Tuesday (10 February) to do just that.

Meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, the ministers from the 28 EU member states rubberstamped the Council’s decision, which includes provisions to roll back proposed environmental legislation.

Environmental campaigners Monday night wrote to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a last ditch effort to save the waste, recycling, landfill and incineration laws from the axe. 

Germany and the UK drove EU wind power capacity increases last year, but other traditionally strong markets saw sharp declines in the wake of subsidy cuts, new figures indicate.

The two countries installed around 60% of all new wind power capacity in the EU in 2014, increasing the industry’s concentration in a few countries.

Lack of power interconnections and badly located renewable energy capacity have cost the EU $140bn (€122bn), according to the World Economic Forum.

Low interconnection capacity and poor cooperation between countries on renewables cost $40bn, a report published during the forum’s annual meeting in Davos on Tuesday indicates.

Countries’ wish to maintain national sovereignty over energy policy and market problems such as generous solar incentives in Germany have led to suboptimal deployment of renewable energy resources, according to the study.

Four major offshore wind developments have been hit with a legal challenge because of their proximity to seabird colonies.

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) is seeking a judicial review of the Scottish government's decision to grant planning consent for four offshore wind farms of Scotland’s east coast.If the decision is allowed to stand it could have “serious implications” for wildlife protection in Scotland and beyond, the NGO said.

The projects backed by EDF, Repsol, SSE, Mainstream and Fluor have a combined capacity of over 2GW.

The European Commission foresees an important role for shale in achieving EU energy security, the climate and energy commissioner suggested on Friday as he outlined his energy union plan.

The Commission will publish a policy paper on promoting domestic energy sources, including progress on shale gas, as part of its new energy security strategy, Miguel Arias Cañete told a ministerial conference on the energy union in Riga.

The Commission launched work on the Energy Union; a fundamental step towards the completion of single energy market and reforming how Europe produces, transports and consumes energy. The Energy Union with a Forward-looking Climate Change Policy is one of the key political priorities of the Juncker Commission. After more than 60 years from the founding of the Coal and Steel Community, the Commission today drew a plan for reorganising European energy policies and kicked off work for European Energy Union.

Operators of medium combustion plants should be given more lenient air pollution caps and extended compliance deadlines, an MEP leading work on a new pollution law has proposed.

Medium combustion plants should be divided into three categories according to their thermal input with less stringent air pollution limit values applied to smaller installations, according to EPP group MEP Andrzej Grzyb.

Fewer new measures will be needed to meet the EU’s 2030 air pollution targets than expected when the EU’s clean air package was proposed in 2013, new figures for the European Commission indicate.

There is greater potential to reduce PM2.5 emissions in particular, which also makes it easier to reduce emissions of other air pollutants, consultancy IIASA said.