Issue 21

Newsflash

March 2013

Europe’s biggest CO2 emitting company, RWE, have given up on their renewables targets while cutting investment plans for renewable energy. Financial constraints have been blamed for these measures which have been caused by a number of recent changes to the energy market including the phasing out of nuclear power, photovoltaics driving gas-fired power stations out of the market, and decrease in wholesale energy prices.

In a speech at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, Janez Potočnik has stated his desire to publish a green paper on Phosphorus, particularly in relation to its future scarcity, contamination, and price swings. His speech said that “phosphorus is currently not in short supply but over time it will become scarcer, more expensive to mine and more saturated with contaminants.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has challenged the way the EU deals with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) claiming that a risk assessment approach would be more appropriate. There are currently two strands of thinking when dealing with dangerous chemicals such as these, the hazard-based approach, which is the current strategy used by the EU, or a risk-based policy which is now being put forward by EFSA. The hazard-based approach follows the idea that a hazard only becomes a concern once the exposure level goes above a certain level.

A new green paper has been launched by the European Commission aimed at finding policy options to tackle the problem of plastic waste. The Commission has confirmed that nothing will be proposed before 2014, when EU waste legislation is due to be revised. The consultation takes the form of a questionnaire with 26 questions that contain nearly identical policy options to the consultation conducted in 2008.

Saving Energy, a report released last month by ECOFYS, has found that energy saving benefits have been underestimated as they not only bring direct cost savings but also indirectly reduce energy prices. It is estimated that the indirect impact on energy prices will be equal to the direct impact of the energy savings. In other words, for every €1 of energy cost saving an additional €1 could be saved due to lower energy prices. Net direct savings are predicted to total €107 billion annually by 2020, which will amount to a total net saving of €200 billion per year.

A proposal by the European Commission to instate a two-year ban on the use of pesticides, which are linked to the decline of bee populations, has been rejected by member states with only 13 of 27 nations voting in favour of the ban. Those who voted against the Commissions proposal included the Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia while Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta, France, Sweden, Latvia and Cyprus supported the ban.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has commissioned another CO2 estimate of its sectors emissions, putting a decision about market-based measures for cutting CO2 on hold. IMO have already received two estimates, the most recent in 2009 finding that shipping was responsible for 2.7% (870m tonnes) of global emissions with exhaust gases cited as the primary source of GHG emissions from ships.

A recent study titled “The Economic benefits of the Natura 2000 Network” has concluded that the Natura 2000 network, an EU wide network of nature protection areas, is worth €300bn a year, the equivalent of 2-3% of EU GDP. This is far over the €6bn per year member states have to spend on maintaining and restoring it, helping strengthen the case for continued or increased funding of nature protection.

Citizens who have been negatively affected by a project built without an environmental impact assessment (EIA), could be due compensation according to a ruling by the EU court. The court was assessing a case brought forward by an Austrian woman who is living next to Vienna airport. She is seeking compensation for the decrease in value to her property caused by noise pollution that has increased as the airport has been expanded. Austria joined the EU in 1996 and is therefore required to submit an EIA to establish whether projects are likely to have significant effects on the environment.

The system used for advisory expert groups for the European Commission is due to be reformed in order to reduce the emphasis towards business interests. Last year DG ENTR conducted an analysis on the balance of stakeholders and identified nineteen groups where industry was over-represented, this has resulted in number of actions being taken. Firstly, they have modified thirteen groups as result of a single call for expressions of interest resulting in fifteen new, non-industry members, being appointed.

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