European Commission Presents 20 20 Package
The European Commission has proposed a package of measures to combat climate change, including national targets for the use of renewable energy and the obligatory purchase by companies of carbon dioxide emission permits.
The Commissions proposals must receive approval from all 27 European Union Member States and the European Parliament in order to take effect.
The package adds up to a detailed roadmap to bring about the political vision agreed in 2007: to bring about a 20% cut in the EU's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and be ready to step up to 30% with an international agreement.; and to reach 20% of energy use through renewables by 2020.
The European Commission package includes:
- An updated Emissions Trading System to create a borderless ETS to drive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from big industrial emitters;
- Specific, binding national targets so that member States know exactly what they have to do outside the ETS, in sectors like transport, buildings, agriculture and waste;
- A new approach to actively promote renewable targets, again including binding national targets;
- New rules to stimulate carbon capture and storage, tomorrow's technology to cut emissions;
- New state aid rules;
- A comprehensive and sustainable system for the certification of biofuels and for domestic and imported biofuels alike, and the promotion of the rapid development of second generation biofuels.
However, despite the many warnings that have been issued recently, the Commission sticks to its goal of boosting the use of biofuels, most prominently through a 10% biofuels target for the transport sector by 2020.
President Barroso stated that Europeans would each pay three euro a week under the plans. "The additional effort needed to realise the proposals would be to less than 0.5% of GDP by 2020. This amounts to about 3 a week for everyone. ... The cost of inaction is more than ten times that."
EU Energy Commissioner Adresses Peak Oil
EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has drawn attention to the issue of dwindling oil reserves coupled with rapidly growing and unprecedented global demand. His comments were made in the run-up to the publication of a widely-anticipated package of Commission legislative proposals on energy and climate change.
Peak oil is the point in time at which the maximum global petroleum production rate is reached, after which the rate of production enters its terminal decline. Piebalgs warns that global energy demand is expected to more than double by 2030, and questioned whether the provision of oil can "keep up" with demand in this period. Piebalgs argues that while tackling climate change is crucial, policymakers should not lose sight of the issue of security of fossil fuel supply. The combined challenge of climate change and supply security leads to the conclusion that the EU cannot hang on to its old, fossil energy system, he says.
Piebalgs is referring to varying predictions about when the oil production peak will be reached, with some experts saying it will be in 20 years and others arguing that the world is already at peak production.
For more information about Peak Oil, please visit the website of Richard Heinberg.
Russian Environmentalists Protest Nuclear Waste Ship
Activists from Russian environmental organizations have protested the arrival of 2,000 tons of uranium tailings from Germany in St. Petersburg.
The load of uranium tailings - which Russian legislation classifies as waste, but which the nuclear industry classifies as raw material for reprocessing - has been followed by protestors at both land and sea.
The waste is from the joint German-Dutch nuclear fuel giant Urenco, which in 1996 signed a deal with Russia to import some 100,000 tons of uranium tailings by the year 2009, of which 80,000 tons has already been imported. EU countries by and large do not classify uranium tailings as radioactive waste, but the United States does.
Grey areas in Russian legislation allow the waste to come into the country by classifying the material as the stuff of reprocessing, though remarks from Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Russias nuclear power agency Rosatom, make it clear enough that Russia regards the material legally as waste as well.
For more information about nuclear energy, please read our statement on nuclear energy.
French President Aims to Ban GM Maize
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that France will invoke an EU safeguard clause enabling it to suspend the marketing and growth on its territory of a genetically modified (GM) crop that has EU-wide authorisation.
The crop in question is a variety of maize, MON 810, produced by the American GM company Monsanto. The strain contains a gene allowing the maize to defend itself against the European corn borerexternal which regularly destroys maize harvests all over Europe. MON 810 has so far been the only genetically modified crop to have market authorisation in France, one of Europe's largest maize growers.
The decision came after France's 'Provisional High Authority on GM Organisms' presented, at the beginning of this month, the conclusions of its study on the effect of the MON 810 crop on health and the environment. The committee, composed of 15 scientific experts, announced that it had found new scientific facts relating to a negative impact on flora and fauna. These include cross-pollination of GM and non-GM fields at local level and negative effects on insects, a species of earthworm and micro-organisms.
Under EU law, the Commission has 60 days to decide on the validity of the new scientific evidence discovered by the French committee on GMOs. All the commissioners are set to debate GMOs in early February 2008 to clarify the EU executive's policy stance on the issue.
Sierra Club Files Lawsuit Against Shell
The Sierra Club, the largest and oldest U.S. environmental organization, has filed a federal lawsuit against Shell Oil Co and subsidiaries over pollution at a refining and chemical plant complex along the Houston Ship Channel.
Shell could face a maximum fine of $32,500 for each of an estimated 1,000 incidents between 2003 and 2007 when the Deer Park, Texas, refinery and chemical plant exceeded levels of pollution allowed under permits issued by Texas regulators.
Shell has been cited by regulators and paid fines for some of the incidents, but the fines have not been enough to stop preventable pollution. Pollution from the refinery and chemical plant is regularly pushed by prevailing Gulf Coast winds to neighborhoods along the ship channel.
A University of Texas study released in 2007 found a possible link between childhood leukemia and living within 2 miles of the Ship Channel's refinery row.
"Shell is paying to pollute. Shell is factoring these fines into its costs of operating these facilities," said Joshua Kratka of the National Environmental Law Center, which represents the Sierra Club and Environment Texas in the lawsuit.
The Sierra Club lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas under the U.S. Clean Air Act which allows citizen lawsuits to gain enforcement of the act's provisions.
Biodiversity and Sustainable Consumption
What biodiversity implies for sustainable consumption and thus what sustainable consumption can do for biodiversity is an issue neglected so far in both, the biodiversity and the sustainable consumption discourses.
A new publication by the Northern Alliance for Sustainability (ANPED), Biodiversity and Sustainable Consumption: A Qualified Analysis and Unqualified Suggestions, compares the place biodiversity and consumption hold in the overall sustainable development discourse, and focuses on the known reasons for biodiversity loss, asking how they could be influenced, in particular by sustainable consumption.
It concludes that the sustainable consumption debate, in order to accommodate biodiversity issues, must be broadened as compared to its current state. At least as much so, the discussion about biodiversity policy must no longer be restricted to the levels of nature protection efforts, but should instead address the hierarchy of drivers behind the pressures leading to biodiversity loss.
EU Changes Mind on Biofuels Targets
A European drive to run vehicles on biofuels instead of petrol and diesel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to be reviewed after concerns about its environmental impact.
EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas says a European target to boost biofuel production risks causing more damage than the EU has realised. He insists, however, that biofuels still has benefits, and their impact on food supplies and biodiversity can be limited by the introduction of strict sustainability standards. "We have seen that the environmental problems caused by biofuels and also the social problems are bigger than we thought they were," Dimas told the BBC. He says the EU will "move carefully" on the issue. "We have to have criteria for sustainability, including social and environmental issues, because there are some benefits from biofuels." According to Dimas, if sustainability cannot be achieved, the EU target will not be met.
The EU has pledged that biofuels, such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel, will make up 10% of transport fuel by 2020.
EU officials will propose a ban on imports of certain biofuels, according to a draft law. If approved by European governments, the law would prohibit the importation of fuels derived from crops grown on certain kinds of land including forests, wetlands or grasslands into the EU. The ban would primarily affect palm oil and possibly the Latin American imports. The draft law would also require that biofuels used in Europe deliver a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings. That level is still under discussion.
Currently, most of the crops for biofuels used in Europe consist of rapeseed (canola) grown in parts of Europe. Europe also imports some palm oil from Southeast Asia, soy from Latin America, ethanol from Brazil, and produces some ethanol domestically using wheat and sugar beets.
Certain types of fuels, particularly those made from agricultural wastes, still hold potential to improve the environment, but governments will have to set and enforce standards for how the fuels are produced. With its new proposal, the EU appears to be moving ahead of the rest of the world in that task.
UK Royal Society Calls for Better Policies on Biofuels
Biofuels risk failing to deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transport and could even be environmentally damaging unless the Government puts the right policies in place warns a new report by the Royal Society - the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth.
The report Sustainable Biofuels: Prospects and Challenges cautions that the UK's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which comes into force in April 2008, does not necessarily encourage the use of the types of biofuels with the best greenhouse gas savings. This is because, although the Obligation requires fuel suppliers to ensure that five per cent of all UK fuels sold are from a renewable source by 2010, it does not contain a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The RTFO is the UK's implementation of the EU Biofuels Directive, which also fails to include a greenhouse gas target. As a result, the Directive will do more for economic development and energy security than combating climate change.
The report calls for biofuels to be assessed and certified for the greenhouse gas savings they will deliver, as well as their positive and negative social and environmental impacts. The report says that biofuels are not the silver bullet for meeting the rising demand for transport while tackling emissions. Delivering a sustainable transport system will require combining biofuels with other developments including the improved design of vehicles and engines, increased use of public transport and better urban and rural planning to encourage, for example, walking and the use of bicycles.
Global Triple Crisis - Audio and Video Online
The audio and video, as well as presentations and speeches from the International Forum on Globalization's Teach-In "Confronting the Global Triple Crisis: Climate Change, Peak Oil, Global Resource Depletion & Extinction", held in September 2007 in Washington D.C., are now online.
The conference focused on the various dimensions of climate change, biodiversity loss and resource depletion; sustainable living; the 'false' solutions being promoted such as green consumerism and biofuels; views from the global South; how to impact U.S. policy; how to reach a global consensus; and which are the ingredients for systemic change.
Ethical Markets is a weekly half-hour financial lifestyle magazine TV series redefining success through a positive look at what is possible. Real examples of people, companies and organizations illustrate the triple bottom line; respecting people and the environment while earning a profit. The stories are visually compelling and backed up with solid financial and market data.
The mission of Ethical Markets is to foster the evolution of capitalism beyond current models based on materialism, maximizing self-interest and profit, competition and fear of scarcity.
The news, features, interviews, roundtables, and expert commentary probe the assumptions behind the issues that affect every consumer and investor globally, and look at assets and wealth in a new perspective. The show uses new indicators to measure our quality of life and examines how individuals can align their money and their values. The show will back up stories with solid economic performance, financial, and market data in a visually compelling way creating a showcase for new yardsticks and actual measures of success and impact.
Earth Platform is a new environment search engine that informs you about our natural planet and the emerging threats to our world today. It includes subjects like deforestation, global warming, endangered species or environmental pollution.
The website is organised into clear categories: Nature, Animals, Energy, Pollution and Organisations. Earth Platform contains a unique environmental Search Engine, giving direct access to a wide range of news and background information and websites.
Slow Down Week
Using a hybrid car for your two-hour commute to work, or eating organic food during your 20-minute lunch break isn't enough. In order to negotiate the ecological problems facing our planet, we need to slow down our way of life. The frenetic pace of the modern world is a hindrance to the kind of deep cultural change we need to ensure a healthy future. Slow Down Week, an Adbusters initiative, is a great opportunity to take it easy and adopt a new perspective.
Check out the video animation and take it from there.
ChangeLAB Project Completed
ChangeLAB is an international project about changing lifestyles, attitudes and behaviour. European partners are sharing experience and knowledge on how to promote sustainable patterns of consumption in order to help solve increasingly serious environmental problems both locally and worldwide.
The organisations that took part in the ChangeLAB project, mainly local and regional authorities, focused on the challenge how to reduce forms of consumption which damage the environment, without reducing quality of life and prosperity.
The project has created a Knowledge Base to assist politicians and policymakers in gaining a better understanding about the effectiveness of a wide variety of policies and projects that aim to influence behaviour and arrest unsustainable trends at local and regional level. A Technique Planner is aimed at finding the most effective mix of techniques to encourage specific target groups to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.
Objectives and Indicators of Sustainable Development in Europe
The new ESDN Quarterly Report gives an overview of objectives and indicators of sustainable development in Europe. It first introduces objectives and indicators as key ingredients of strategic processes in general, and of sustainable development strategies in particular. The report then summarizes some key findings of a study that was commissioned by Eurostat and conducted by RIMAS together with the Department of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) in early 2007.
One purpose of the study was to compare objectives and indicators of sustainable development across Europe. The points of reference used for the European comparison were (i) the objectives of the renewed EU SDS from 2006, and (ii) the indicators of the EU Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI) framework from 2005. By using these two points of reference, both the study and this report provide a comprehensive picture of how coherent objectives and indicators of SD are across Europe.
California Sues US Federal Government over Emissions
Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., on behalf of the State of California, has sued the United States Environmental Protection Agency for wrongfully and illegally blocking the state's landmark tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions standards.
Brown filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to challenge the EPAs denial of California's request to implement its emissions lawwhich requires a 30 percent reduction in motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. California's new standards require federal approval in the form of a waiver from the EPA. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California's request in December 2007 in a letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The EPA announced its decision less than two months after vice-president Dick Cheney and White House staff members held a series of meetings with executives from the auto industry, including the CEOs of Ford and Chrysler. During the meetings, auto executives made clear they were concerned about California's proposal for stricter emissions standards.
Global warming threatens California's Sierra mountain snow pack, which provides the state with one-third of its drinking water. California also has approximately 1,000 miles of coastline and levees that are threatened by rising sea levels.
Section 307 of the Clean Air Act gives California the authority to challenge adverse decisions by filing a petition for review two weeks after a rejection is issued. According to sources from within the EPA--as quoted in several national media accounts--Administrator Johnson rejected the unanimous recommendation of his agencys legal and technical staff to grant the waiver.
In the 40-year history of the Act, EPA has granted approximately 50 waivers to California for innovations like catalytic converters, exhaust emission standards, and leaded gasoline regulations. Until last month, a waiver request had never been denied.