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Europe Relegates Single-Use Plastics to History

This sea turtle doesn't know that plastic bags could choke it to death. (Photo by Troy Mayne) Posted for media use.

This sea turtle doesn’t know that plastic bags could choke it to death. (Photo by Troy Mayne) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Targeting the 10 plastic products most often found littering European beaches as well as abandoned fishing gear, the European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional political agreement with the Commission on new measures to tackle marine litter at its source.

The agreement, reached Wednesday, is based on the Single-Use Plastics proposal presented in May by the Commission as part of the world’s first comprehensive Plastics Strategy, adopted in January.

Every year, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling.

Across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter. Plastic residue is found in marine species such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, and also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain. And microplastics in air, water and food are having an unknown impact on human health.

The new EU Directive on Single-Use Plastics will be the most ambitious legal instrument at the global level addressing marine litter. It envisions different measures to apply to different product categories.

Where alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market from 2021. This will apply to such products as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxo-degradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.

In the case of drinking straws, for instance, plastic straws could be replaced by straws made of all kinds of materials: paper, corn, hay, bamboo, metal, silicon or glass.

For other products, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; on design and labeling requirements; and waste management and clean-up obligations for producers.

The new rules contribute to the goal of turning Europe into a more sustainable, circular economy, reflected in the Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in December 2015. Europe’s businesses and consumers will take the lead in producing and using sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter and oceans pollution.

The provisional agreement must now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Following its approval, the new Single-Use Plastics Directive will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and the Member States will have to transpose it after two years.

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said, “When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast.”

“We have taken a big stride towards reducing the amount of single-use plastic items in our economy, our ocean and ultimately our bodies,” said Vella.

From the European Parliament, Lead MEP Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) said Wednesday, “Citizens expected only one thing from the European Union, that it adopts an ambitious directive against disposable plastics responsible for asphyxiation of the seas and oceans. This is done with our agreement closed at 6:30 this morning. It will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030.”

The proposed Directive follows a similar approach to the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behavior. These days, few rely on single use plastic bags but rely instead on reusable cloth shopping bags.

The new measures are expected to bring about both environmental and economic benefits. They are projected to avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030; and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion.

“Europeans are conscious that plastic waste is an enormous problem and the EU as a whole has shown true courage in addressing it, making us the global leader in tackling plastic marine litter,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development. “Equally important is, that with the solutions agreed upon today, we are also driving a new circular business model and showing the way forward to putting our economy on a more sustainable path.”

The Single-Use Plastics Directive is supported by other measures taken against marine pollution, such as the Directive on Port Reception Facilities, on which the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement just last week.

This Directive will tackle waste from ships, with a focus on sea-based marine litter. It sets regulations to ensure that waste generated on ships or collected at sea is always returned to land, recycled and processed in ports.

Earlier this month the European Commission launched also the Circular Plastics Alliance, an alliance of industry stakeholders covering the full plastics value chain as part of their efforts to reduce plastics littering, increase the share of recycled plastics and stimulate market innovation.

The Circular Plastics Alliance aims to improve the economics and quality of plastics recycling in Europe, and will in particular strengthen the match between supply and demand for recycled plastics, which is identified as the main obstacle to a well-functioning EU market for recycled plastics.

With this new initiative, the Commission wants to contribute to the objective of achieving at least 10 million tons of recycled plastics offered as new products on the EU market by 2025, as set in the European Strategy for Plastics.

On January 16, the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics was adopted as a part of the transition towards a more circular economy.

Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

Continuing in the spirit of the 2015 Circular Economy Package, the Plastics Strategy and the Single-Use Plastics Directive have been prepared by a core project team of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioners Vella and Elżbieta Bieńkowska. Many other commissioners were also involved in its preparation and helped identify the most effective tools covering a wide range of policy areas.

Vice-President Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “Tackling the plastics problem is a must. At the same time it brings new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation. We will discuss those thoroughly with industry within the Circular Plastics Alliance.

“With the agreement reached today,” said Katainen, “we are showing that Europe is doing a smart economic and environmental choice and is advancing towards a new truly circular plastics economy.”

Featured Image: Plastic rope entangled with seaweed on a North Sea beach in Denmark, January 19, 2014 (Photo by anriro96) Creative Commons license via Flickr.


Climate Change Outlook: What Europeans Can Expect

UN Climate's top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

UN Climate’s top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – If global warming rises more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and no adequate adaptation measures are taken, Europe is at risk of being exposed to more frequent, intense extreme weather conditions with serious economic impacts.

This outlook results from a detailed assessment of the impact of climate change on Europe’s economy, society and environment made by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission’s science and knowledge hub and released on Friday.

The assessment, written by Ignacio Pérez Domínguez and Thomas Fellmann, shows that under a high warming (above 2°C) scenario:

  • Rising temperatures and increased hot spells could result in an additional 132,000 yearly heat fatalities, while labor productivity could drop by 10-15 percent in some southern European countries;
  • Shifts in flower/plant blooming, growing season and changes in soil water content will affect agriculture productivity and habitat suitability, with a potential doubling of the arid climate zone;
  • Sea levels will rise along Europe’s coastlines, resulting in a five-fold increase in coastal flood damages;
  • Three times more people will be exposed to river floods, while river flood damages could rise from 5.3 billion Euro/year to 17.5 billion Euro/year.
  • Energy demand for heating will decrease, yet energy requirements for cooling spaces will rise rapidly;
  • Southern parts of Europe may face increasing water shortage and more droughts, whereas water resources will generally increase in northern Europe;

Most of these climate damages would be greatly reduced under a scenario that keeps warming below the 2°C threshold.

The Joint Research Centre PESETA III report is an agro-economic analysis of climate change impacts in Europe.

The PESETA (Projection of Economic impacts of climate change in Sectors of the European Union based on bottom-up Analysis) project responds to the need to provide quantitative modelling support to the European Commission services regarding the impacts of climate change in Europe.

It brings together experts in economics, biology, physics and engineering to calculate the physical impacts and economic costs of climate change in Europe.

Understanding the possible consequences of climate change is important to design adaptation policies that can help to minimize negative consequences and maximize positive effects.

The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete is reaching out to other high-emitting countries to foster understanding of the EU’s climate control policies. He spoke at the Tsinghua University in Beijing on November 9, explaining European climate policy and what actions the EU is taking to avert the most dangerous effects of rising temperatures.

Currently, the European Union is implementing its 2020 climate and energy package, said Arias Cañete. Agreed by EU leaders in 2007, this package has three key targets:

  • a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990
  • a 20 percent share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020
  • increasing energy efficiency in the EU so as to achieve the goal of saving 20 percent of the EU’s energy consumption

Southern Europe to Be Hardest Hit

It appears that the Mediterranean area will be the most impacted by climate change.

The PESETA III assessment shows that in several impact areas there is a clear geographical north-south divide; countries in southern Europe will be more affected by global warming than those in the north.

This is clearly the case for heat-related deaths, water resources, habitat loss, energy demand for cooling and forest fires.

Counting the Cost

The assessment analyzes the impact of climate change for 11 different impact categories: coastal floods, river floods, droughts, agriculture, energy, transport, water resources, habitat loss, forest fires, labor productivity, and heat-related mortality.

For most of these, the report compares a scenario where actions to limit warming to 2°C are successful, compared to one where they are not.

From the economic perspective, the losses associated with heat-related mortality represent “a very significant share of damages” in a high warming scenario.

Other shares, in order of importance, are: coastal flooding, labor productivity, agriculture and river flooding.

As the coverage of potential impacts is incomplete – damages due to possible climate tipping points and ecosystems services losses are not considered – the sum of the economic damage estimates is not equal to the total economic costs of climate change in Europe. The sum of the economic damage estimates is likely to be higher, the authors say.

The PESETA III report also estimates how climate change impacts in the rest of the world could affect Europe, considering four impact areas – residential energy demand, river flooding, labor productivity and agriculture.

The transboundary effect of these four impact categories was estimated to increase the EU welfare loss by 20 percent in a high warming scenario.

The authors stress that the boundary effects could be far greater when all potential impacts of climate change are considered.

In 2015, the world’s governments adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change, the first-ever universal and legally binding agreement to limit global warming, and deal with its dangerous impacts.

The Paris Agreement emerged after the world’s scientists concluded that global warming is happening, and that human activity – greenhouse gas emissions from our economies and industries – is the key cause.

Now, three years later, global negotiations are taking place to make sure that the Paris Agreement is properly implemented. In December, world leaders will gather in Katowice, Poland for the United Nations COP24 conference on climate, where they intend to finalize the Paris Agreement’s rules and guidelines.

Commitments Fall Short of 1.5°Celsius Goal

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014 (Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014
(Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

The 10-day COP24, which opens December 2, has a new global scientific assessment to guide policy-making and add urgency to negotiations. Released in October, the new special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), shows that a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees would avoid some of the worst climate impacts, and reduce the likelihood of extreme weather events.

But the IPCC report warns that current climate commitments are not enough to achieve this goal.

The IPCC report shows that, “… 1.5 degrees is achievable – as long as we act urgently, and use every tool at our disposal,” Commissioner Arias Cañete told his audience in Beijing. “So,” he said, “it is clear that we must work together and raise the collective global ambition.”

At the opening of a ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, designed to prepare for the outcome of COP24, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa outlined her expectations for the conference.

“The Special Report by the IPCC unequivocally states that the world is not on track to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement – and the window to achieve this is closing rapidly. We’re almost out of time,” Espinosa declared.

“It’s not rhetoric – it’s reality,” she said. “It’s not politics – it’s science.”

“And it’s not a suggestion – it’s a warning … a warning that we are in danger of running out of time before runaway climate change is beyond our control.”

“This is frightening – for everyone,” Espinosa said. “And people throughout the world have made it very clear. They expect their representatives – you – to do something about it.”

Espinosa, who hails from Brazil, is urging all nations to get to work immediately to begin resolving the climate crisis.

Success at COP24 means finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Program– period,” she said. “We no longer have the luxury of time, nor do we have the luxury of endless negotiations.”

“Let us never forget,” Espinosa told the ministerial meeting, “that climate change, if left unaddressed, will take almost every single challenge humanity faces and make it worse.”

“It will destabilize the global economy, which will affect all nations,” she warned. “By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy US$2 trillion.”

“It will create conflict over resources and impact migration. It’s estimated that climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. Worse, it will result in incredible suffering and hardship for people and societies throughout the world,” Espinosa

But addressing climate change, and committing to a low-emissions future—one that is more resilient and sustainable—offers incredible opportunity.

It’s not just an opportunity to do the right thing—it’s an opportunity to completely transform the way we produce and consume, and the way we live.

And that means new markets, new businesses, and, for so many people throughout the world, new jobs…quality jobs…a just transition to a future that is just for all people.

Featured image source: Drought shrinks the reservoir at El Grado, a municipality located in the province of Huesca, Aragon, in northern Spain. August 2012 (Photo by Jorge Franganillo) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Big Wave of Support for Our Oceans

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Tempo.co) Posted for media use

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Tempo.co) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

NUSA DUA, Bali, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Financial contributions are rolling in to fund dozens of initiatives aimed at healing and protecting the oceans at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference held on the Indonesian island of Bali October 29-30.

Our Ocean, Our Legacy is the theme of this year’s Our Ocean Conference, reflecting human choices and actions to maintain the sustainability of ocean resources and to preserve our ocean’s health as a heritage for future generations.

Opening the conference Monday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his government has met its commitment of conserving 20 million hectares of territorial seas two years earlier than the projected date of 2020.

“We must be brave in making commitments and in undertaking concrete actions that start from each of us,” President Widodo said in his opening address.

He said Earth’s maritime resources are valued at an estimated US$24 trillion.

In recognizing the importance of oceans to many lives and the future of the Earth, the president listed the challenges – illegal unregulated and undocumented (IUU) fishing, piracy, human trafficking, drug smuggling, pollution and slavery.

Data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows about 26 million tons of fish worth US$10-23 billion have been caught illegally per year, Widodo said.

He worries that unless overlapping maritime claims are resolved through negotiations and based on international law, they may pose a threat to stability.

The president is concerned about ocean health. “Our ocean is threatened by plastic debris, water pollution, destruction of coral reefs, warming of sea temperature, the rise of sea-levels, and so forth,” he said.

“Do not be too late to take actions in protecting our ocean. One single country cannot resolve the challenges alone,” said Widodo. “All countries must collaborate in tackling the problems and in optimizing the benefits of the oceans for common good.”

The European Union made 23 new commitments at the conference, announcing €300 million of EU-funded initiatives. They include projects to tackle plastic pollution, make blue economy more sustainable and improve research and marine surveillance.

This contribution comes on top of the over €550 million committed by the European Union, when it hosted the Our Ocean conference last year in Malta.

“The state of our oceans calls for determined global action,” said High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini. “With 23 new commitments, the European Union stays engaged to ensure safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans.”

“No country can succeed alone in this endeavour,” said Mogherini. “It requires determination, consistency and partnerships, within and outside our European Union, and it is in this spirit that today we renew the commitment to protect our oceans.”

The European contributions include €100 million for R&D projects to tackle plastic pollution and €82 million for marine and maritime research, such as ecosystem assessments, seafloor mapping and innovative aquaculture systems.

The new EU action also includes a €18.4 million investment to make the European blue economy – the economic sectors that rely on the ocean and its resources – more sustainable.

European Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said, “We need the oceans and the oceans need us. We have to urgently reduce marine litter and other sources of pollution, halt illegal fishing and support fragile marine ecosystems. We have to develop our blue economy – create sustainable jobs and growth – supported by cutting-edge research and new technologies. It is for this reason that we are making these commitments.”

The EU’s showpiece Earth observation program Copernicus is high on the list of new commitments. The program’s support will be enlarged with another €12.9 million for maritime security and for research dedicated to coastal environmental services, in addition to the €27 million Copernicus funds devoted at Our Ocean 2017 conference.

With its Maritime Surveillance System, Copernicus has supported EU commitments to reinforce maritime security and law enforcement.

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska said, “Earth observation helps citizens around the globe to fight climate change, monitor the blue economy and marine pollution or to manage natural disasters.”

Marine litter in China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, will be fought with a €9 million EU-funded project. Another €7 million will go towards protection of marine ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

As one of its commitments, the European Commission is joining forces with United Nations Environment Programme and other international partners to launch a coalition of aquariums to fight plastic pollution.

EU Delivers on 2017 Ocean Commitments

Two years ahead of the initial deadline set, 10 percent of all EU waters have already been designated as Marine Protected Areas. With effective management, adequate funding and robust enforcement, Marine Protected Areas can have both conservation and economic benefits.

The 2017 Our Ocean conference in Malta was a game changer, mobilizing funding and ocean action at an unprecedented scale.

The European Union has already delivered on almost half of EU’s 35 commitments made at the last year’s conference, equalling €300 million.

The EU is now working with Indonesia and future hosts of Our Ocean conferences to keep the momentum going for cleaner and safer seas.

Previous conferences, hosted by the governments of Malta (2017), the United States (2014, 2016) and Chile (2015), have seen a wide range of commitments and billions of euros pledged.

The commitments are only one of the ways by which the European Commission works to accelerate the shift towards circular economy.

On January 16 the EU adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.

On May 28 new EU-wide rules were proposed to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. The European Parliament endorsed the proposal on October 23. The endorsement was accompanied by the “Ready to change” awareness-raising campaign supported by many aquariums.

Bloomberg and Dalio Give US$185 Million

In a video message at the Our Ocean Conference, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg and OceanX , founded by Dalio Philanthropies President Ray Dalio, announced their new partnership to align and increase their support for the oceans.

Bloomberg and OceanX’s first joint project will be an expedition to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on OceanX’s marine research and exploration vessel, the Alucia, to explore the region, demonstrate the importance of the marine national monument and illustrate the need for marine conservation across the globe at a time when the oceans require our critical attention.

The effort will be seeded by a combined four-year commitment of over US$185 million.

“More than three billion people depend on the oceans for food and their livelihoods. That means threats to marine ecosystems – like climate change and overfishing – also threaten lives around the world,” said Bloomberg. “We’re teaming up with OceanX to ensure that ocean conservation receives the attention it deserves.”

Focusing on key coral geographies and top fishing nations, over the next four years Bloomberg will support data-driven strategies in fisheries management, coral conservation and pollution reduction in 10 priority countries –  Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, and the United States. The initiative will promote global action with government leaders, the private sector, and key NGO partners.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper commented, “The Our Ocean Conference provides a crucial forum for raising concern about the plight of the world’s marine realm and exploring ways we can protect this vast but limited source of biodiversity and sustenance.”

The nonprofit WCS is a partner of Bloomberg Philanthropies “Vibrant Oceans” coral reef initiative to protect a portfolio of reefs most likely to endure warming ocean temperatures.

“Protecting the health and vitality of coral reefs, among the most biodiverse habitats on earth, is crucial to conserving the earth’s marine biodiversity,” Samper said. “Over the next four years, WCS will leverage its scientific and conservation expertise to conserve coral reefs in nine sites in the coastal waters of Fiji, Indonesia, and Tanzania, hardy ecosystems that were chosen because their reefs exhibit a resilience to increasing sea surface temperatures due to climate change.”

At the same time, WCS will work with communities and national authorities in these and other countries to strengthen monitoring, governance and build effective policies for managing coral reefs over the long term.

“Crucial to saving the world’s coral reefs will be successful partnerships with local community residents who rely on marine resources for health and well-being,” said Samper.

“WCS will continue to work with local partners to identify and reduce threats to reefs while maintaining livelihood options and food security for coastal towns and villages. By taking action at both regional and local levels, we can help preserve the ocean as an irreplaceable natural legacy for future generations.”

Young People Take Part in Ocean Solutions

The 2018 Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit was held on October 29-30 at the Tanjung Benoa Hall of the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.

The summit was attended by 189 participants aged 17 to 35 who hail from 52 countries. They were selected from 500 candidates representing 56 countries.

The event featured seminars and interactive discussions at the breakout room, focusing on areas of action such as sustainable blue economy, marine pollution, marine protected areas and maritime security.

Featured Image: Surfing Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia, May 29, 2018 (Photo by Wavehaven) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Bolstered by EU Billions, Greece Recovers

Flamingoes have returned to Lake Karla. (Photo by Ecotourism Greece) Posted for media use

Flamingoes have returned to Lake Karla. (Photo by Ecotourism Greece) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – In the face of massive external and internal imbalances that resulted in loss of market access, in April 2010 Greece was forced to request financial assistance from its European and international partners. Unprecedented billions were provided, and now Greece is well along the road to recovery.

European Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy Corina Crețu of Romania, who also serves as Vice-president, European Parliament (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

European Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy Corina Crețu of Romania, who also serves as Vice-president, European Parliament (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

This week, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu is in Greece to visit or inaugurate three major transport and environment projects underwritten by €1.3 billion in financial support from the European Union.

In addition, the Commission has adopted a decision to invest €121 million in a motorway connecting the Aktio peninsula to the Ionia highway, to link northwestern Greece to the south.

The successful preparation, implementation or completion of these projects was made possible by the New Start for Jobs and Growth in Greece plan. The Commission launched this plan in 2015 to complement the stability support program which successfully concluded on August 20.

The plan provided for exceptional measures to facilitate maximizing the use of EU funds in Greece, in order to stabilize its economy and boost growth, jobs and investments.

In his State of the Union speech this year, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker paid tribute to how far Greece has come since 2010.

“Then there is Greece,” President Juncker said. “After what can only be described as some very painful years, marked by unprecedented social hardship – though also by unprecedented solidarity – Greece successfully exited its programme and is now back on its own two feet. I applaud the people of Greece for their Herculean efforts.”

Lake Karla Celebrated After 20-Year Restoration

On October 5, Commissioner Crețu will participate in the inauguration of the Lake Karla project, 300 km (190 miles) north of Athens on the plain of Thessaly, in which the EU has invested €125 million over the past 20 years.

In the 1960s, to increase farmland, the authorities emptied Lake Karla, one of the largest and most

important lakes in Greece. By draining the lake they damaged an ecosystem many thousands of years old. Birds and animals perished as wetlands disappeared, taking with them a unique fishing culture, with fishermen spending months in reed huts they built on the lake.

But today the story of Lake Karla is one of what the Ecotourism Greece calls “ecological progress, hope and sustainability that can stand as a model for many areas of the world.”

Restoration efforts started in the 1980s, addressing the re-establishment of a functional reservoir and wetland.

Lake Karla’s big restoration project was launched in 2000. The rehabilitation of the former lake has been funded by the Operational Program Environment, approved by the European Commission for the period of 2000-2006.

The reconstructed lake will offer many local benefits: Flood protection of the surrounding plain area, environmental restoration and wetland conservation; meeting of irrigation needs for 92 km2 of surrounding farmland; meeting of water needs for the 75,000 inhabitants of the nearby city of Volos; and the emergence of sustainable tourism.

With the support of the lake’s management body, European efforts to bring back the lake have recreated a wetland for birds: flamingo, egret, grey heron, wigeon, teal, cormorant, coot and mallard duck. Of special note is the delicate small-sized falcon known as the Lesser Kestrel, Falco naumanni, or ‘Kirkinezi’ in Greek.

Otters have returned to the shoreline, a species considered as Endangered in Greece and Near Threatened globally. Otters are protected in most European countries.

Recovering Greece a Top Absorber of EU Funds

In total, €288.7 billion in loans have been provided to Greece since 2010. This includes €256.6 billion from its European partners and €32.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

Amidst political, economic and financial turmoil and the imposition of capital controls in July 2015, the Hellenic Republic concluded an agreement for stability support in the form of a loan from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in August 2015.

In parallel to the stability support program, the Commission launched the “New Start for Jobs and Growth in Greece” plan in July 2015 to help maximize the use of EU funds in the country.

Supported by the launch of the ESM program, the Greek economy demonstrated greater resilience than initially expected. Real GDP started to recover on a quarter-on-quarter basis in mid-2016.

Yet, the European Commission warned in an Institutional Paper of July 2017, that “the recovery remains fragile and strongly dependent on the progress of the reviews of the ESM stability support programme.”

Making progress environmentally and fincially, Greece successfully concluded the requirements of its stability support program on August 20.

Among the top absorbers of EU funds, for the period 2014-2020 Greece has already received almost €16 billion from different EU funding sources, an amount equivalent to over nine percent of the country’s 2017 GDP.

Greece is also the top beneficiary of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The EFSI is now set to trigger almost €11 billion in investments and support more than 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Greece.

On May 29, 2018, for the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission proposed a Cohesion Policy budget worth €21.7 billion for Greece, an increased envelope in an overall reduction of the Cohesion budget, in order to support a lasting economic recovery in the country.

Commissioner Creţu said, “Greece is already one of the main beneficiaries of EU funds and for the next decade, the Commission proposes even more Cohesion Policy resources for lasting growth in the country, jobs and an ever better quality of life for the Greek people.”

Modern Mobility Key to Greek Recovery

Two major railway projects and a motorway are poised to create a paradigm shift in Greece’s transportation network.

On October 4, Commissioner Crețu visited the state-of-the-art high speed Tithorea-Lianokladi-Domokos railway line, currently in its final development phase.

This high speed rail line will reduce travel time between Athens and Thessaloniki. As soon as additional signalling and telecommunications works are completed, it will take a record 3.5 hours to travel by train between Greece’s two major cities.

Extreme rocky slopes, numerous gorges, long tunnels, waterfalls, stone bridges and structural steel viaducts make for one of the most scenic railway routes in Europe.

Designed for passenger trains running at up to 200 km/h and 160 km/h freight trains, the construction of the line would not have been possible without the EU’s financial support, amounting to €1 billion from different EU funds.

Once operational in 2019, this railway line will promote clean mobility in the country, making rail travel an attractive option compared to air, car and bus transport.

Commissioner Crețu also will visit the Thriassio Pedio Freight Complex in the Attika region, the first integrated intermodal freight center in Greece, which benefitted from €200 million of EU funds.

This complex will be a key hub on the Athens-Thessaloniki rail route. It is expected to boost trade and the competitiveness of the Greek economy. The operation of the freight complex and the construction of a new logistics center are expected to create over 3,000 jobs.

Freight trains from Thriassio will be able to reach the Northern Greek border at Eidomeni in 6.5 hours. With its rail access to the port of Piraeus, the complex can help Greece become a transport gateway for international freight traffic towards Central and Eastern Europe, along the Orient–East Mediterranean Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) corridor.

Finally, the European Commission is investing €121 million in the Ionia motorway linking the Aktio peninsula, in northwestern Greece, to the south.

This motorway, which will run from Aktio to the Lake Amvrakia area and connect to the newly opened Ionia motorway, will ensure smoother travels in western Greece, to and from the Rio-Antirrio bridge, to the island of Lefkada and to the Aktio aiport.

The EU has already invested €83 million in the first phase of the project, in the 2007-2013 budget period.

Once work is completed in 2022, the travel time on this TEN-T section will be 30 minutes shorter, and road safety is expected to improve.

Commissioner Creţu said, “Greece is now back on its own two feet. And these four projects will, each in their own way, help Greece write a new chapter in its history.”

Featured Image: A train navigates the scenic Tithorea-Lianokladi-Domokos railway line (Screengrab from video by Chris Mavropoulos) Creative Commons license via YouTube


Refugees_Mirgrants

EU & China Shape ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’

The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Two of the world’s largest ocean economies – the European Union and China – have agreed to work together “to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy,” the Council of the European Union announced after the unique ocean partnership agreement was signed.

The pact was signed in Beijing at the 20th EU-China summit on July 16 by leaders at the highest level from both governments.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted the summit. President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker represented the European Union. And the EU leaders had talks with President Xi Jinping as well.

The leaders marked the 15th anniversary of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, saying in a joint statement that, “This has greatly enhanced the level of EU-China relations, with fruitful outcomes achieved in politics, economy, trade, culture, people-to-people exchanges and other fields.”

Following the summit, Presidents Tusk and Juncker and Premier Li agreed the joint statement and the annex on climate change and clean energy.

President Juncker said, “Our cooperation simply makes sense. Together we account for around a third of the global economy. Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is Europe’s second largest trading partner. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5 billion every single day.”

The leaders agreed to promote “the circular economy within the blue economy” based on “clean technologies and best available practices.”

The partnership contains clear commitments to protect the marine environment, tackle climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

The leaders reaffirmed the importance of fighting climate change. All said they are committed to advancing cooperation on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and fully support this year’s UN climate summit, the 24th, known as COP24, which is scheduled for December in Poland.

China, the EU and its Member States are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and stated that they “respect the maritime order based on international law.”

The EU said it welcomes the ongoing consultations between China and ASEAN countries aimed at the conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year, including a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

The South China Sea disputes involve island and maritime claims among: Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain international waters, conducting “freedom of navigation” operations there.

The EU and China jointly called upon “all relevant parties” to engage in dialogue, to settle disputes peacefully, and refrain from actions likely to increase tensions.

The EU and China say their goal is “to promote peace, security and sustainable development.” To that end, they have agreed to foster closer business-to-business interaction and exchanges of information among stakeholders such as enterprises, research institutes, financial institutions and industry associations.

Cooperation will extend to improving knowledge of the oceans through “better ocean literacy, enhanced ocean observation and open science and data.”

In their joint statement, the leaders welcomed “the increase in high-level contacts on environmental protection and natural resource conservation, and the importance of assuming greater leadership on the global environmental agenda, in particular on issues such as pollution prevention and control, biodiversity conservation, CITES implementation and enforcement and wildlife trafficking, and elimination of illegally harvested timber from the markets, as well as desertification and land degradation.”

The two sides welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution titled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” and look forward to the presentation of a report by the Secretary General in the next General Assembly as a basis for further work.

The EU and China will work together actively with a view to achieving the preservation of biodiversity. The EU welcomes China’s commitment to organize COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, which should mark the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

The two sides agreed on the transition to a circular economy as a priority for their cooperation, recognising the contribution of resource efficiency to meeting climate and sustainable development targets and agreeing to enhance cooperation and support joint actions in this field.

To formalize this aspect of their relationship, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation, thus establishing a high level policy dialogue.

Leaders confirmed the importance of strengthening EU-China cooperation on water in the framework of the EU-China

Water Policy Dialogue, and acknowledged the role of China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) in supporting the implementation of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU-China partnership agreement sets out general lines for future collaboration in areas such as:

  • the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas
  • the fight against marine pollution including marine plastic litter and micro-plastics
  • the mitigation of and adaption to climate change impacts on oceans, including the Arctic Ocean
  • the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources
  • fisheries governance in regional and global settings and the prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

The agreement pleases EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who is responsible for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

“With the partnership signed today, the European Union and China are stepping up their joint efforts, towards a more sustainable future for our oceans and the millions that make their living from them,” he said.

“Across the world, I see growing awareness of the need for joint solutions to the challenges facing our oceans and seas,” said Vella. “From cleaning up plastic pollution to tackling overfishing, no one country or continent can shoulder these colossal tasks on their own.”

Featured Image: Striped dolphins play in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lajes do Pico in POrtugal’s Azores Islands, August 15, 2013 (Photo by Tim Ellis) Creative Commons license via Flickr



EU Extends Multi-Billion Euro Support to Migrants

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 17, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – While the United States attempts to limit migration through punitive action at its southern border, the European Union is taking the opposite approach to the flood of migrants from Africa and neighboring countries seeking sanctuary.

Internally displaced Nigerians at an IOM displacement camp in Bama in Borno State, Nigeria, 2017 (Photo by Julia Burpee / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use

Internally displaced Nigerians at an IOM displacement camp in Bama in Borno State, Nigeria, 2017 (Photo by Julia Burpee / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use

The EU’s External Investment Plan’s first projects in Africa and the Neighbourhood, approved July 10, aim to promote inclusive growth, job creation and sustainable development in Africa and in this way to tackle some of the root causes of “irregular” migration.

The pace of migration attempts appears to be slowing this year. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Migration Agency, reports that through July 15 this year, 50,872 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea. That total compares to 109,746 at this time last year, and 241,859 at this time in 2016.

But many people are still dying en route. The IOM reports that 1,443 migrants have died so far this year fleeing intolerable situations in their home countries.

IOM Rome’s Flavio Di Giacomo reported Monday that 447 migrants, who left aboard a wooden fishing boat July 11 from the Libyan port of Zuwara, arrived in Pozzalo, Sicily, southern Italy on Sunday. The group was rescued Saturday morning by a ship of the law enforcement agency Italian Guardia di Finanza and another from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex.

Di Giacomo said they had to wait in the harbor over 24 hours before being authorized to disembark, although the migrants arrived in “severe” health conditions due to terrible detentions experienced in Libya’s informal detention centers.

Migrants arriving at the port of Pozzalo told IOM staff that four travelling companions died last Friday. Witnesses said all were on board the wooden fishing boat, without water or food, when they spotted another vessel, still not identified. Driven by despair, about 30 people jumped into the water trying to reach the ship, which was much too far away. Four drowned, all of Somali origin, including one 17-year-old boy.

To make life in Africa safe and bearable enough to deter such desperate migration, the EU gave its green light to a package of financial guarantee programs worth around €800 million on July 10. This is expected to leverage an estimated €8-9 billion in public and private investment in Africa and the Neighbourhood.

Add this to the €1.6 billion mobilized for blending operations – the mixing of public grants and loans – which is expected to mobilize up to €14.6 billion, and this investment translates into over €22 billion to support sustainable development and decent job creation in Africa.

Overall, the EU’s External Investment Plan (EIP), is expected to leverage €44 billion of investments by 2020 through an EU contribution worth €4.1 billion.

“This plan is about building a new present for many people and for their countries, it is about changing lives, now and for good,” said High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini of Italy.

What Will These Investments Support?

The EU has identified five areas of intervention where the External Investment Plan can have the highest impact for sustainable development. The first four are covered by the guarantee programs approved on July 10 by the Strategic Board of the European Fund for Sustainable Development.

They are:

  • financing for small businesses, including ones involved in agriculture
  • sustainable cities
  • sustainable energy and connectivity and
  • access to the internet and digital services.

The Commission will review proposals in the field of agri-business in autumn 2018.

One of the new programs will benefit people who have trouble borrowing money at affordable rates, such as internally displaced people, refugees or returnees, women and young people aged 18-30.

With €75 million EU input and managed by FMO, the Dutch development bank, the NASIRA Risk-Sharing Facility is expected to generate a total investment of €750 million to €1 billion.

Linda Broekhuizen, Chief Investment Officer at FMO, said, “The support of the EU and Dutch government for this new risk-sharing facility NASIRA is a major step forward to ensure that financing reaches the young, migrant and female entrepreneurs that are potentially great job creators in countries where employment is much needed now and in the future.”

Another new program, InclusiFI, will enable over 25,000 small businesses to access mobile accounts and long-term credit, to support the financial inclusion driven by diasporas, migrants’ families and people who have recently returned to their country of origin, in Sub-Saharan Africa and the EU Neighbourhood.

Lead InclusiFI financial institutions are the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation; Compañía Española de Financiación del Desarrollo, a joint state-private company also in Spain; and the Italian investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

A program to help offset some of the risks that local banks perceive in financing solar power will help bring solar power kits to thousands of homes in Sub-Saharan Africa. With an input of €50 million from the EU and led by the African Development Bank, this guarantee tool will support access to clean electricity to an estimated 3.5 million people in the Sahel region.

A digital transformation platform and a broadband investment program will support rural access to broadband in the EU’s southern and eastern neighboring countries, with an EU input of €70 million and managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

This program is expected to bring fast broadband to up to 600,000 homes in rural areas of 17 southern and eastern neighboring countries: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

Finally, the initiative Boosting Investment in Renewable Energy, will receive an EU input of €100 million, and will be managed by the Association of European Development Finance Institutions and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

By supporting investments in renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa and EU neighboring countries, this program is expected to:

  • Cut carbon emissions by an estimated two to three million tonnes per year
  • Create an additional 1.5 – 2 Gigawatts of renewable energy
  • Increase power production from renewable energy sources to 4,500-6000 GWh/year.

The EU also welcomed the first major contribution from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of around €53 million. This is expected to attract further investment to incentivize research and innovation in e-health in less developed and fragile environments.

Mogherini said, “The EU’s External Investment Plan has already started to bring real benefits to the people in our partner countries. These guarantee programs for sustainable investment give now access to affordable loans to people who have been forced to flee their country and those who have recently returned home to rebuild their lives, to start small businesses or to have access to new technologies.”

Later this year, the European Commission is expected sign the first EIP guarantee agreements with partner financial institutions that will then use the guarantees to finance new development projects and attract more private investments.

Financial institutions should start to roll out projects in early 2019.

Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said on July 11, “We want to see the new EU guarantees that we have announced yesterday translate into concrete, innovative and sustainable projects on the ground, making a real change for the people.”

“More prosperity in the EU’s immediate neighborhood is not only good for our European economies and businesses,” said Hahn. “It is a long-term investment in the stability and security of our partners in the neighborhood and for Europe.”

Featured Images: Displaced Somali woman wears a Little Sun solar lamp, June 2017, Ethiopia (Photo by Rikka Tupaz / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use


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Caption: Internally displaced Nigerians at an IOM displacement camp in Bama in Borno State, Nigeria, 2017 (Photo by Julia Burpee / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use

http://medialib.iom.int/galleries/176/iom-dg-swing-visits-northeast-nigeria

Photo 3: FatherAutisticBoy.jpg

Caption: Norair, an internally displaced person in the Ukranian city of Zhytomyr, holds his autistic son. “I would like to try a bakery business, to bake traditional Armenian bread,” he says. “If people get some assistance, they can manage.” 2015 (Photo by Varvara Zhluktenko / IOM) Posted for media use

http://medialib.iom.int/galleries/72/joining-hands

EU: Organics Springing Up, Farm Incomes Trending Down

Organic salad greens (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

Organic salad greens (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 24, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Council Tuesday adopted new rules for organic farming, clearing the final hurdle for the modernization and harmonization of organic production both within the European Union and in non-EU countries.

EU-wide rules covering the whole EU organic sector will apply – compared to an a la carte system of exceptions in the past. The new rules will replace today’s 60-plus different standards that apply to imported organic foods.

Any agri-food product carrying the EU organic logo will have the same production and quality standards, whether produced in the European Union or imported from other countries.

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said, “The organic sector has been steadily increasing in importance – by 125 percent over the past 10 years alone – but that growth was compromised by rules that were no longer fit-for-purpose.”

“The European organic sector is on an upward trajectory,” said Hogan, “and this regulation will support the sector’s growth by providing an appropriate legislation framework.”

The new rules will enter into force on January 1, 2021, so organic producers, operators and trade partners now have two-and-a-half years to adapt to the new legislative framework, which Hogan says is also designed to protect the interests of the European consumer.

“Organic farmland has more than doubled in the last decade and is still growing. Thanks to the rules we have adopted today, the organic sector will continue to thrive and consumers can trust that the organic products they buy are of the highest quality,” said Rumen Porodzanov, minister of agriculture, food and forestry of the Republic of Bulgaria and president of the Council.

Organic farming bans the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and focuses on the use of natural resources and cycles to support sustainable crop production. This is beneficial for both human health and the environment.

Typical organic farming practices include:

  • Wide crop rotation for an efficient use of on-site resources
  • Strict limits on chemical synthetic pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use, livestock antibiotics, food additives and processing aids
  • Absolute prohibition of genetically modified organisms
  • Choosing plant and animal species that are resistant to disease and adapted to local conditions
  • Raising livestock in free-range, open-air systems and providing them with organic feed
  • Taking advantage of on-site resources, such as livestock manure for fertilizer or feed produced on the farm

Organic food production and consumption is rapidly gaining popularity as a way of life across the European Union. Eurostat data shows that the EU-28 had in 2015 a total area of 11.1 million hectares cultivated as organic, more than doubled from 5.0 million in 2002.

During the last decade, the EU’s organically cultivated area has increased by about 500,000 hectares each year.

Yet the whole organic area, 185,000 farms across Europe, represents only 6.2 percent of the total active farming area in Europe. Roughly 306,500 organic producers, processors and importers were registered in the EU-28 in 2015.

Many of the current rules are more than 20 years old, so the European Union updated the rules in 2017 to help the organic sector to grow faster.

Benefits for consumers:

Certainty that all agri-food products bearing the EU organic logo sold in the EU, whether imported from third countries or produced in the EU, meet the same quality standards.

Reinforcement of precautionary measures taken by farmers to reduce risk of contamination by pesticides.

Contributing to global goals on climate change, biodiversity and environmental protection.

Benefits for farmers:

A level playing field: rules apply also to farmers from non-EU countries, who export organic products to the EU market

Rules cover new products such as salt, cork and essential oils, and it will be possible in the future to add new products to respond to consumer demands.

Simplification for farmers includes group certification for small farms, reducing certification costs.

The new rules will apply also to seeds and processed agricultural products used as food and feed.

This logo identifies organic produce in the European Union. (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

This logo identifies organic produce in the European Union. (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

Organic Imports Electronically Certified

A new system of electronic certification to better monitor imports of organic products took effect on October 19, 2017, making the EU a global leader in traceability and collection of reliable data on trade of these products.

The e-certification system is expected to enhance food safety provisions, reduce potential fraud, reduce the administrative burden for operators and authorities, and provide more comprehensive statistical data on organic imports.

Hogan said, “Our commitment to stringent certification and inspection measures is an important component in the EU’s food safety standards. These high standards have allowed us to become the best address for food in the world, but we must always strive to find new and better ways to do even more.”

He says the electronic certification will improve the traceability of organic products, facilitating the rapid reaction to health threats by tracing the movements of consignments and facilitating the risk management of contaminated foods.

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan (Photo courtesy EPP Group / European Parliament) Creative Commons license via Flickr

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan (Photo courtesy EPP Group / European Parliament) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Common Agricultural Policy Changes Coming

All this is happening as EU lawmakers are preparing a new budget for the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

On May 2, the European Commission presented its proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework for the 2021-2027 period. Under this proposal, the CAP will have €365 billion funds to manage, a five percent budget cut.

Despite the five percent cut, the Commission maintains it has strengthened the direct payments pillar to ensure farmers’ income and leave smallholders unaffected.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Hogan said he is aware of farmers’ concerns about direct payments as crucial income support.

“I have listened very carefully to these messages and have therefore decided to prioritize the protection of direct payments in the new budget,” said Hogan. “As a result, direct payments will not fall by more than four percent in any member state.”

At a news conference, Commissioner Hogan said 16 member states will see a 3.1 percent reduction of direct payments. In another six member states, the reductions will be below this percentage, while five member states, including Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, will see an increase.

In Romania, Slovakia and Portugal there will be no decrease, while in Bulgaria direct payments will decrease by one percent.

But for rural development, the Commission proposed a 10 percent cut; it will be up to the member states to cover this gap.

“If a member state decides to move on to cover the gap, there will be no cut in rural development and farmers won’t be affected,” the Commissioner explained.

The Commission also wants a “more balanced distribution of payments” through compulsory capping at the farm level or payments decreasing with farm size.

The payments for each farmer will be capped at €60,000 while the savings will be redistributed to smaller farmers.

“This means support will be redistributed towards medium-sized and smaller farms,” said Hogan.

The EU farmers’ and cooperatives’ associations, Copa and Cogeca, disagree with any proposals to cut CAP spending in the future EU budget.

Copa President Joachim Rukwied told Euractiv, “Farmers’ incomes are already 40 percent below average EU earnings in others sectors of the economy. The proposed budget cuts threaten not only farmers’ livelihoods and vast parts of Europe’s rural areas but also the delivery of the EU’s environmental and social goals.”

Cogeca President Thomas Magnusson said the current budget costs each EU citizen less than a cup of coffee a day and in return ensures high quality, safe, nutritious food for 500 million consumers and contributes to environmental protection, growth and jobs.

“With the world population expected to grow and with the agriculture sector facing increasing challenges,” said Magnusson, “now is not the time to cut back on expenditure and jeopardize the multiple benefits of agriculture.”

While capping payments to farmers, the Commission has also decided to earmark €10 billion in Horizon Europe for research and innovation in food, agriculture, rural development and the bioeconomy.

EU Food Policy Missing in Action

Friends of the Earth Europe has today issued a new analysis of the EU’s food and farming system that concludes, “The European Union has no consistent, coherent or complete food policy to deal with the challenges and expectations.”

The new study was written by the University of Pisa and commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe, the European Public Health Alliance, IFOAM EU  and Slow Food.

The report, “A transition towards sustainable food systems in Europe,“finds that “the lack of any overarching framework for food policy in the EU means that the current food and farming system is neither ethical nor resilient enough to cope with future challenges and public health is not being protected.”

Professor Gianluca Brunori of the University of Pisa said, “We assessed 10 different EU policies to judge how they contributed to a sustainable food and farming system. Available evidence shows that there are many inconsistencies, incoherencies or gaps. These should be addressed through an overarching policy framework, able to balance a mix of demand and supply side policy instruments, as well as food environment-oriented ones.”

“We hope our research contributes to building a more ethical and resilient food system in the EU,” Brunori said.

This study comes just before a major participative forum May 29-30 in Brussels organized by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food). It is focused on exploring concrete tools to deliver sustainable food systems in Europe.

Stanka Becheva from Friends of the Earth Europe said, “The current approach to food and farming is a hodgepodge of incoherent and competing policies that damage public health, the environment and the welfare of the farming community. The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy must be used to step back from the vested agribusiness interests instead as an opportunity to start building an agroecological food system that is fit for the future.”

Featured Image: Caption: Organic grapes on a farm in Italy, October 2014 (Photo by Oreeko) Creative Commons license via Flickr


MaxTrain

Lively Carbon Markets Promise Cooler Earth

One of the largest coal-fired power plants in Europe is owned by Uniper SE in the Scholven district of the city of Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Guy Gorek) Creative Commons license via Flickr

One of the largest coal-fired power plants in Europe is owned by Uniper SE in the Scholven district of the city of Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Guy Gorek) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 

 

By Sunny Lewis

BERLIN, Germany, March 1, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Carbon emissions trading is gaining popularity in established markets and also in emerging economies; in fact trading now covers 15 percent of all emissions globally, finds a new report from the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP)  on activity in 2017.

Just one year since the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate, 21 Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) are operating around the world at various levels of government.

The past year has seen major developments, with a new system emerging in China and the linking of Ontario’s system with that of California and Quebec.

“While the challenge of climate change grows with every year, so does the competency and determination of the policy response,” said International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP) Co-Chair Marc Allessie, director of the Dutch Emissions Authority, while releasing the report on Tuesday.

“We are confident that ETS is bound to its promise of delivering a cost-effective tool for implementing national pledges under the Paris Agreement,” Allessie said.

How Emissions Trading Systems Work

Carbon emissions trading works on a cap-and-trade market-based system. A cap is set on the total amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) that can be emitted by facilities covered by the system. The cap is reduced over time so that total emissions drop.

Within the cap, companies receive or buy emission allowances which they can trade with one another as needed. They can buy limited amounts of international credits from emission-saving projects around the world. The limit on the total number of allowances available ensures that they have a value.

Each year a company must surrender enough allowances to cover all its emissions or pay steep fines. If a company reduces its emissions, it can keep the spare allowances to cover its future needs or sell them to another company that is short of allowances.

Trading brings flexibility that ensures emissions are cut where it costs least to do so. A robust carbon price promotes investment in clean, low-carbon technologies.

Since 2005, the share of global carbon emissions capped by an emissions trading system has tripled from five percent to roughly 15 percent, now covering some seven gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), according to the report.

The Network Expands Its Reach

In November 2017, the EU and Switzerland signed an agreement to link their emissions trading systems, the first agreement of this kind for the EU and the first between two parties to the Paris Agreement.

The world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China now has overtaken the European Union as the world’s largest carbon market, covering more than three gigatons of CO2e.

The initial launch of China’s national emissions trading system for the power sector in December 2017 is what the ICAP report calls “a remarkable and rapid first step for an emerging economy that is powered by the world’s largest coal fleet.”

This development sends a strong signal to the international community as Chinese coal consumption has recently been one of the key drivers of global emissions.

In November, at the UN climate conference (COP23) in Bonn, the EU and China decided to step up their joint cooperation on carbon markets, ahead of the launch of China’s nationwide emissions trading system.

Hosted by China’s Special Representative on Climate Change Affairs Xie Zhenhua, the high-level event took place at the China Pavilion at COP23.

Speaking after the meeting, European Climate and Energy Commissioner Arias Cañete said, “China is ready to launch its nationwide emissions trading system, which is set to cover more than twice as much CO2 as the EU ETS, once it reaches its full scope. This will undoubtedly send a strong signal to the rest of the world in support of carbon markets. The EU is therefore pleased to engage in even closer bilateral cooperation with our Chinese counterparts.”

In September, the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement to revise the EU Emissions Trading System for the period after 2020. This revision is expected to help put the EU on track to achieve a significant part of its commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030.

To achieve the 40 percent EU target, the sectors covered by the ETS have to reduce their emissions by 43 percent compared to 2005.

The changes to the EU system will speed up emissions reductions and strengthen the Market Stability Reserve to reduce the current oversupply of allowances on the carbon market.

To this end, the overall number of emission allowances will decline at an annual rate of 2.2 percent from 2021 onwards, compared to the current rate of 1.74 percent.

New Zealand Needs to Plant More Trees

New Zealand is the first, and still the only, country to fully include forest landowners in a greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme, according to a report released in 2017 by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, New Zealand’s leading non-profit economic and public policy research institute.

The NZ ETS is a partial-coverage all-free allocation, uncapped, internationally linked emissions trading scheme first legislated in 2008 and amended twice, in 2009 and 2012.

Has it been effective?

On February 28, New Zealand’s first environmental accounts show greenhouse gas emissions rose more slowly than economic growth in the last 25 years, but the planting of forests to absorb carbon dioxide has slowed since 2013.

Latin America Prepares for Carbon Markets

Efforts to price carbon are also progressing in Latin America and in subnational governments in North America.

Mexico, Latin America’s second largest economy, will start piloting a mandatory emissions trading system later this year.

In addition, Chile, Colombia and Mexico are jointly exploring regionally consistent carbon market design elements such as monitoring, reporting and verification.

In North America, Subnational Governments Lead the Way

The largest Canadian province, Ontario, linked its system to the joint carbon market of California and Quebec  beginning this year.

As part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, all Canadian provinces and territories will have a price on carbon by the end of 2018.

“A wide range of actions are taking shape across all levels of government, from the municipal level all the way up to the international level. Sub-national governments in particular have played and will continue to play a vital role,” said Jean-Yves Benoit, ICAP Co-Chair, and Director of the Carbon Market, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Fight Against Climate Change of Quebec.

Established in 2009, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

RGGI is a cooperative effort among the nine states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

Interest in several U.S. States, like Virginia and New Jersey, could see an expansion of cap-and-trade despite inaction on the federal level under the Trump administration.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, withdrew from the RGGI in 2012. On January 29, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed an executive order directing New Jersey to re-enter the regional compact.

Governor Murphy said. “Pulling out of RGGI slowed down progress on lowering emissions and has cost New Jerseyans millions of dollars that could have been used to increase energy efficiency and improve air quality in our communities.”

By withdrawing from RGGI, New Jersey lost an estimated $279 million in revenue that could have been realized by the state’s participation in RGGI’s carbon emission trading program.

As part of the public comment period on Virginia’s proposed carbon trading rule, the Department of Environmental Quality is holding public hearings throughout the state during the month of March.

After a tough political battle in the California legislature, the state extended its cap-and-trade program until 2030. This will build confidence in an increasingly stringent long-term carbon price signal in the linked Western Climate Initiative carbon market, which includes the provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario, and the state of California.

The recent legislative changes and regulatory reforms in California have set the cap to decline by about four percent annually from 2021-2030, yielding a 40 percent reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

These renewed commitments to emissions trading give low carbon investors certainty and have resulted in rising carbon prices, with the EU allowance price passing €10 for the first time since 2011.

The reforms have some common elements: steeper cap trajectories aligning with 2030 climate targets; market stability measures becoming standard practice with continuing design innovation; offset policies with focus on domestic abatement with direct local environmental benefits.

The ICAP report concludes that, “Together, these two trends – the continual spread of ETSs and reforms of major systems – will continue to change the landscape of emissions trading – widening and deepening its role in the low-carbon transformation process worldwide.”

The ICAP Status Report is published annually and features in-depth articles from policymakers and carbon market experts with insights into the latest ideas across the globe. To download the full report, executive summaries in Chinese, English, and Spanish, infographics, and a short video, please visit ICAP Status Report.


GrantProposalTraining

EU Circular Strategy Incorporates Plastics

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STRASBOURG, France, January 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – All plastic packaging on the market across the EU will be recyclable by 2030 under the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics adopted by the European Commission earlier this month, “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.

As part of this transition towards a more circular economy, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies.”

“The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more,” Timmermans said. “This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together.”

“With the EU Plastics Strategy we are also driving a new and more circular business model. We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive.”

There are over 1,000 different types of plastics, mainly derived from petroleum. Industry figures show the demand for European plastics amounted to 46.3 million tonnes in 2013. The main uses were packaging (39.6 percent), building and construction (20.3 percent), automotive (8.5 percent) and electronics (5.6 percent).

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that plastics production and the incineration of plastic waste give rise globally to approximately 400 million  tonnes of CO2 a year.

Recent trends show a decrease in landfilling and an increase in energy recovery and recycling.

Even so, Europeans generate 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling.

Marine plastic litter is especially harmful. Across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter. Studies have shown that plastics are reaching citizens’ lungs and dinner tables, with microplastics in air, water and food having an unknown impact on human health.

Building on the Commission’s past work, the new EU-wide strategy on plastics will tackle the issue head on. Timmermans says the strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution while fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the Future of Europe.

The European Commission finds that there is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. By taking the lead in this transition, the Commission says the EU will create new investment opportunities and jobs.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it. This will help to reduce plastic litter in land, air and sea while also bringing new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and high quality jobs.”

The goal is to protect the environment while at the same time laying the foundations for a new plastic economy, where the design and production of plastics fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed.

“This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials,” said Katainen. “Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is true win-win.”

PlasticsEurope is the overarching European plastics trade association. With centers in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris, its more than 100 member companies produce more than 90 percent of all polymers across the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

PlasticsEurope said its members welcome the publication of “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.”

“We, the European plastics manufacturers, are committed to ensure high rates of reuse and recycling with the ambition to reach 60 percent for plastic packaging by 2030. This will help achieve our goal of 100 percent reuse, recycling and recovery of all plastics packaging at European level by 2040”, said Karl-H. Foerster, executive director of PlasticsEurope.

To support its ambitious recycling goals, the Strategy for Plastics stresses the need to discourage the landfilling of plastics waste and recognizes that effective waste management systems are key to avoid littering and ensure that collected waste finds its way to proper treatment.

“This is a step in the right direction as no plastic should end up in the environment,” said Foerster. “Since 2011, the European plastics industry has been calling for Zero Plastics to Landfill. Only a legally binding landfill restriction on all recyclable and other recoverable post-consumer waste will put an end to the landfilling of all waste which can be used as a resource.”

“These measures, should be proportional, effective and harmonized at EU level,” said Foerster.

In this context, PlasticsEurope has made a voluntary commitment representing the plastics industry contribution to achieve a fully circular and resource efficient Europe. “Plastics 2030” sets a series of ambitious targets and initiatives up to 2030, in “a spirit of commitment to future generations.”

At the January 16 news conference announcing the new strategy, Vice-President Katainen said, “The Plastics Strategy is part of our Circular Economy Strategy. In the Circular Economy both words count. Without economic logic there is no Circular Economy. Without circulation our economy is not sustainable. That is why our aim with the Plastics Strategy is to create a Single Market – a true Single Market – for plastic waste.”

Click here for answers to the most frequently asked questions about the new plastics strategy.

Featured image: Members of Greenpeace groups protest in 62 cities in Germany against the pollution of the oceans. This bag of waste was collected on the banks of the Elbe River in Hamburg. March 19, 2016. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace Hamburg) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Training

“Together for Youth, With Youth”

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, December 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – To ensure a sustainable future, the European Union and the African Union are solidifying their decade-old financial and structural cooperation in order to support young people and women.

At the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan last week, leaders from 55 African Union and 28 European Union Member States gathered to coordinate with young people and with each other with the primary message, “Together for Youth, With Youth.”

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on Earth will be African.”

“But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments,” said President Juncker. “This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.”

Ahead of the Summit, young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at a Youth Summit on October 9-11 in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative.

The Youth Plug-In Initiative brings together 18 Europeans and 18 Africans to act as youth ambassadors for the 5th AU EU Summit. The youth ambassadors presented their ideas to improve the futures of Africans and Europeans alike to global leaders at the Summit.

A summary of the youth ambassadors’ views on six key topics – education, job creation, governance, peace and security, environment and climate change, as well as culture and the arts – is presented in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

On the topic of education, the youth ambassadors had two new ideas to present.

The AU-EU Rural Education Action Program (REAP) is a proposed, multipurpose and incentive-based pilot intercontinental program to facilitate access to and the completion of primary and secondary education for children, particularly in rural areas.

REAP focuses on integrating schools in remote and hard-to-reach zones to attract and retain students, especially girls, in schools. It maps hard-to-reach areas and develops “toolkits” that include equipment and training.

The AU-EU Network of Digital Hubs for Primary and Secondary Education envisions an initiative, implemented through a public-private intercontinental partnership with major IT companies, aimed at promoting digital skills and digital connectivity at the earliest stages of education, to unleash the potential of digital technology in the community through youth education, training and support programs.

On the topic of Environment and Climate Change, the youth ambassadors from Europe and Africa agree. They state, “Every day, we move closer to the environmental apocalypse to the detriment of all of us, particularly marginalized groups. Youth inclusion is key to ensure environmental preservation and address climate change; it is up to our generation to change the course.”

“As is stated in the Abidjan Youth Declaration, youth-led initiatives must be supported to counterbalance existing tendencies and interests that work against the environment. African and European youth share the same concerns about biodiversity, desertification, coastal erosion, and unsustainable resource management. As the first generation to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental disruption, we must urgently work together on common challenges. It is crucial that we find inclusive, fair and sustainable ways to govern natural resources both locally and globally,” the youth ambassadors state in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

The youth ambassadors presented two new ideas to improve human response to environmental issues.

First, they suggest mobilizing youth to monitor infrastructure development projects, while guaranteeing the efficacy of impact assessments, through a new AU-EU Youth Initiative on Sustainable Infrastructural Development they’re calling GREEN ID.

Second, they would introduce a youth-led project which expands across the EU and the AU the use of transparent mobile direct-payment methods to ecosystem services for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management initiatives and risk compensation.

Also in advance of the Abidjan Summit, the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on November 27, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.

After taking all this input into consideration, the 83 European and African Heads of State and Government set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future.

They committed to focusing their work on four strategic priorities:

  • Mobilizing investments for African structural and sustainable transformation, European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed, the EU’s new External Investment Plan, a €4.1 billion (US$4.8 billion) initiative to draw in €44 billion (US$51.9 billion) of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people.

The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform is intended to allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.

  • Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development

Support for inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programs between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+, the European Union funding program for education, training, youth and sport.

  • Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance

Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents, pledging to strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations.

Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest financial contributor.

  • Managing mobility and migration

European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration.

They stressed the need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to create solutions for refugees.

Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the deadly crossing in each of the past three years.

Fleeing war and poverty, the refugees and migrants – most from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan – are smuggled into Libya by a network of criminal gangs on the promise of reaching Europe.

Hundreds of African refugees, many of them young people and women, are being bought and sold in “slave markets” across Libya every week, Al Jazeera reported last week, with many of them held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers.

To jointly address the situation of migrants and refugees who fall victim to criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.

Efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.

On this basis, the European Commission and African Union Commission pledged to put forward concrete projects and programs within three months.


Featured image: Three young boys in El Sereif, North Darfur, Sudan. Today, more than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID) Creative commons license via Flickr.

What’s That in Your Fruit Salad?

 Fruits and vegetables for sale at Le Marché de Noailles, Marseille, France, October 1, 2014 (Photo by kixmi71) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Fruits and vegetables for sale at Le Marché de Noailles, Marseille, France, October 1, 2014 (Photo by kixmi71) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A pregnant woman eating a salad of fresh fruit grown by conventional agriculture in the European Union may think she is providing healthy nourishment to her future baby, but in fact she might be exposing it to a cocktail of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

In an effort to protect women like her, the EU’s 2009 Pesticide Regulation was the first to address endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as hazards. It requires the European Commission to establish a set of scientific criteria to identify which chemicals have endocrine disrupting properties by December 2013 and to remove them from the market.

But more than three years past the deadline, endocrine disrupting pesticides are still used in agriculture without restrictions. This means that they end up as residues in food, and people are exposed to them on a daily basis.

Eating the residue of endocrine disrupting chemicals sprayed as pesticides on fruits and vegetables has, in scientific studies, been linked to altered reproductive function in both males and females, increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children, as well as changes in immune function.

A joint United Nations – World Health Organization study issued in 2013, the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, links exposure to EDCs and health problems such as non-descended testes in young males, prostate cancer in older men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children as well as thyroid cancer.

Of special concern are effects on early development of both humans and wildlife, as these effects are often irreversible and may not appear as serious adverse effects and disease until later in life.

But which chemicals act as endocrine disrupters? Arriving at a list of criteria to answer that question has been difficult.

On October 4, the European Parliament rejected the Commission’s latest attempt at defining criteria for endocrine disrupting pesticides with 389 of the 694 MEPs voting No.

For the first time, the Parliament used its democratic right of “scrutiny,” the right to block a Commission proposal, which was based on World Health Organization criteria to identify endocrine disruptors,

The Commission now must change the proposal, working together with the representatives of the Member States in the Standing Committee.

The rejected criteria proposal has been characterized as scientifically unfit to protect people from the potential harms caused by endocrine disrupting chemicals.

With the vote, the criteria proposal was deemed unlawful, as the Commission went beyond its legislative power in implementing an exemption from the Pesticide Regulation for non-target organisms.

Following Parliament’s rejection, the Commission is now expected to delete the last paragraph of the draft criteria proposal, which introduced an exemption for pesticides designed to disrupt target pests’ endocrine systems even if these were causing endocrine disruption and consequent harm to non-target creatures.

This was not in the Commission’s mandate and contradicts the requirements of the pesticide regulation that specifically calls on regulators “not to approve substances that are considered to have endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects on non-target organisms” (Annex II, 3.8.2).

After the vote, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis of Lithuania said he strongly believes that in this case “no deal is a bad deal for EU citizens.”

He said the scientific criteria propsed by the Commission “would have ensured better protection of human health and the environment as well as served as a stepping stone to a wider strategy on endocrine disruptors.”

The vote means that the scientific criteria put forward by the Commission that had been supported by Member States in early July after months of thorough discussions cannot be adopted. Andriukaitis said the Commission will now need to reflect on next steps to take.

Speaking from the Parliament in Strasbourg following the vote, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, first Vice President of the European Parliament, said urgent action is needed.

“We need the Commission to put forward legislation on this issue, as demanded some eight years ago by the European Parliament under the Pesticides Regulation,” said McGuinness, a member of the Parliament’s Environment and Agriculture Committees.

In McGuinness’ view, the issue is a wider one that cannot just be addressed at the EU level. “We need a globalised harmonisation of what chemicals are endocrine disruptors and whether they should be completely removed from use in agriculture. It is not enough for the EU to tighten up our legislation if we do not encourage non-EU crop producers to do likewise,” she said.

“The EU imports crops from across the globe – often grown using products not allowed in the EU or products which may in future be banned. If a chemical is harmful in the EU, it is harmful elsewhere and we should work to have high global standards.

The pesticide Chlorpyrifos for example, which acts on the nervous systems of insects, is at the top of the list and has been reported to cause neurodevelopmental toxicity in humans, affecting the brains of infants and children.

“Farmers inside and outside the EU need the same level of protection and so do consumers. There is an opportunity to address this in our trade relationships with other countries,” said McGuinness.

One-third of European fruit contains 27 endocrine disrupting pesticides, reported in scientific literature to cause endocrine disruption in animals and probably in humans, according to Pesticide Action Network-Europe’s latest analysis.

The analysis was based on 2015 monitoring data of fruit and vegetables from all EU Member States, which PAN-Europe obtained through a public access to documents request.

Mandarins, oranges, grapes, and peaches are all at the top of the list, turning a healthy fruit salad into a potentially toxic cocktail.

A smaller but still important amount (17-40 percent) of popular vegetables, such as lettuce and tomatoes, also were found to contain endocrine disrupting pesticides, and several fruit and vegetables contained not just one pesticide, but up to eight EDPs per sample. Their potential for combined toxic effects has not been assessed.

A high number of fruit and vegetables produced in southern European countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece contain endocrine disrupting pesticides, says PAN-Europe, while it’s mostly the fruit and vegetables sold in markets of Northern countries like Ireland, Sweden and The Netherlands that contain these pesticides.

It appears that no country remains unaffected.

PAN Europe congratulated the European Parliament for recognizing that the new derogation was illegal and would inevitably result in pesticides designed to be endocrine disruptors to stay on the market.

The criteria already require such a high burden of proof to identify a substance as an endocrine disruptor, that it remains unclear how many pesticides, if any, will be regulated, says PAN Europe environmental toxicologist Angeliki Lysimachou.

“A matter of such importance involving our food and affecting the most vulnerable demands immediate action, and if EU regulators fail to protect us then it’s down to Member States to take action, Lysimachou said. “These chemicals have no place neither on our table, nor in the production of our food.”


Consulant

EU Pours Millions Into Circular, Low-carbon Economy

BIPVFrance


A building integrated solar array at the Gare de Perpignan, Southern France. Part of the railway station was decorated in the style of Salvador Dalí, who proclaimed it to be the “Center of the Universe” after experiencing a vision of cosmogonic ecstasy there in 1963. (Photo by Issolsa via Wikipedia) Creative Commons license.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 10, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Integrating solar panels into the glass facades of buildings could improve their energy performance to meet EU targets, as the buildings become a whole new source of renewable energy. A demonstration project will generate clean energy through building integrated photovoltaic facades fitted on refurbished and new buildings in Belgium and Spain, the final stage before market launch of the technology.

This is just one of 139 projects (Europa Press Release) soon to be funded by the European Commission as part of an investment package of €222 million to support Europe’s transition to more sustainable and low-carbon future under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action.

LIFE experts expect the solar panels to reduce the buildings’ carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 34 percent. The project will be coordinated by AGC Glass Europe, based in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Besides being a nice chunk of change all by itself, the EU funding will mobilize additional investments leading to a total of €379 million going to fund 139 new projects in 20 EU Member States.

“In its 25th year, the LIFE program continues to invest in innovative projects with high added value for people, businesses and nature. I am delighted to see that the program transforms close-to-market technologies into new, green businesses,” said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The newly approved funds will go towards financing a circular and low-carbon future. For instance, €181.9 million will go to projects in the fields of environment and resource efficiency, nature and biodiversity, and environmental governance and information.

In line with the European Commission’s circular economy package, projects will help Member States in their transition to a more circular economy.

Circular economy projects newly funded by LIFE include: testing an Italian prototype that could cost-effectively convert petrol cars into hybrid vehicles; creating bio-based products from wastewater sludge in the Netherlands; and applying a new biological treatment to remove pesticides and nitrates from water in southern Spain.

A LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency project funded at €2.3 million will explore new road surfaces to reduce noise and urban heat.

Some 37 million Europeans are exposed to transport noise at levels dangerous for their health, according to LIFE. Most of them live in cities, where the health impacts of heatwaves also are more pronounced. Changes to road surfaces could easeboth problems.

With the new funding, the City of Paris is leading a LIFE project to devise durable asphalt surfaces with phonic and thermal properties that will reduce noise pollution and mitigate the urban heat island effect.

The measurable impact at three pilot sites is expected to be a two decibel reduction in noise experienced by neighboring residents and a 0.5°C to 1.5°C reduction in the urban heat island effect.  due to lighter road surfaces and increased water retention

Other funded projects will support the implementation of the Action Plan for Nature, in particular the management of Nature 2000 sites.

Species protection is another focus, such as in the Slovenian cross-border project to help the survival of a highly endangered Alpine lynx species.

The Danube river in western Bulgaria is one of Europe’s most important areas for the conservation of priority bird species, such as the white stork. But birds in Natura 2000 network sites here struggle with nearby urban and industrial centers, transport corridors, and hundreds of kilometres of encircling bird-unsafe overhead power lines.

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A newly funded project will identify the power lines posing the most serious hazard for western Bulgaria’s wild birds in a GIS database, mapping areas of potential conflict and producing a detailed report.

The project will stop unnatural mortality among wild birds caused by electrocution on electricity pylons by retrofitting 4,000 pin-type pylons, 1,200 metal frame pylons and 200 switch towers. Project workers will install 120 km of aerial conductors marked with “bird diverters” to reduce bird-collisions by 90 percent in priority areas.

In the area of climate action, the EU will invest €40.2 million to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and governance and information projects.

Selected projects support the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Hungary, for instance, is forecast to suffer a greater than average impact from climate change, including water scarcity and extreme, unpredictable floods. A €2.5 million LIFE project will build capacity among Hungary’s 3,000+ municipalities through demonstration actions, smart online tools, training and support networks.

The project will focus on promoting ecosystem-based natural water retention measures to manage and mitigate flooding caused by climate change in Hungary.

By applying the Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment (PACTA) model, one project in France will give financial regulators and policy-makers the ability to assess EU insurance companies and pension fund assets against global climate goals. This will help them better assess the risks of investments under a range of different decarbonisation scenarios.

At least 200 EU financial institutions are expected to adopt the PACTA model within three years of the project’s completion. The project is expected to contribute to the broader goal of standardizing climate-related accounting.

LIFE funding will also help improve the resilience of one of Europe’s busiest waterways, the Scheldt Estuary in Belgium, anddevelop tools to forecast desert dust storms.

Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said, “The historic Paris Agreement on climate change has added wind to the sails of already accelerating climate-smart investments. With these projects, we use limited public finance in a catalytic way: we unlock private finance to protect the environment, fight climate change and provide cleaner energy to our citizens. These kinds of investments are of critical importance if we are to move from aspirations to action.”

Mximpact_Consul

A Sixth Scenario for Europe: The NGO Vision

Caption: Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 27, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Non-governmental organizations across the European Union have just issued their alternative vision for the future of the EU, as the bloc moves forward without Britain, as a group of 27, rather than 28, member states.

Grounded in the principles of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and initiated by Friends of the Earth Europe and SDG Watch Europe, the NGO vision is distinct from the five Future of Europe scenarios proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in March.

These five scenarios are currently under consultation with member states, with the first conclusions due at the end of the year.

Intended to influence the ongoing debate on the future direction of Europe, this sixth scenario, an alternative vision of “a more democratic, just and sustainable Europe” is endorsed by 256 organizations, including labour rights, culture, development, environment, health, women’s rights, youth, and anti-discrimination groups.

Speaking for SDG Watch Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe, Leida Rijnhout said, “The five scenarios for the future of Europe put forward by President Juncker are all deeply disappointing and have little connection to the challenges that the European Union faces. Instead we need a bold vision – an alternative sixth scenario – that puts social and environmental wellbeing at the core.

“The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should be absolutely key for a future that serves people and the planet, not vested interests,” Rijnhout said.

The NGO vision states, “In a scenario where sustainability sits firmly at the heart of the European project,the EU27 will prioritise the interests of citizens, in the EU and beyond. Europe will have a strong focus on Europe’s core social values

– democracy and participation, social justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights, both within Europe and around the globe.”

The NGO vision statement turns the spotlight on economic, social and environmental wellbeing as the three forms of wellness that EU citizens are seeking.

The NGOs are seeking, “Economic wellbeing in the form of prosperity for all, starting with redistribution of wealth.”

They want, “Social wellbeing in the provision of quality, inclusive and affordable public services, the promotion of cultural diversity and a caring society.”

And the vision statement emphasizes, “Environmental wellbeing residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our soils, waters and air, provides nutritious, healthy food and where climate change is minimized.”

The NGOs released their vision statement through the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the largest network of environmental citizens’ organizations in Europe. The EEB stands for a more sustainable future.

“As a result of this focus,” said the EEB in a statement, the EU27 will ensure a better health and quality of life for its citizens. This will increase public trust in European institutions. It will move away from the current focus where commercial and corporate interests are all too often prioritized over the public interest. Decisions are made in the public interest and transparent, accountable and inclusive institutions will be the norm.”

Releasing his White Paper on the five scenarios in March, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recalled the founding of the EU 60 years ago, “with the force of the law rather than with armed forces.”

“As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, it is time for a united Europe of 27 to shape a vision for its future. It’s time for leadership, unity and common resolve.

President Juncker said, “The Commission’s White Paper presents a series of different paths this united EU at 27 could choose to follow. It is the start of the process, not the end, and I hope that now an honest and wide-ranging debate will take place. The form will then follow the function. We have Europe’s future in our own hands.”

The Commission’s five scenarios each offer a glimpse into the potential state of the Union by 2025 depending on the choices Europe will make. “They are neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive,” the Commission said.

They are:

Scenario 1: Carrying On – The EU27 focuses on delivering its positive reform agenda in the spirit of the Commission’s New Start for Europe from 2014 and of the Bratislava Declaration agreed by all 27 Member States in 2016.

Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market – The EU27 is gradually re-centred on the single market as the 27 Member States are not able to find common ground on an increasing number of policy areas. By 2025 this could mean crossing borders for business or tourism becomes difficult. Finding a job abroad is harder and the transfer of pension rights to another country not guaranteed.

Scenario 3: Those Who Want More Do More – The EU27 proceeds as today but allows willing Member States to do more together in specific areas such as defence, internal security or social matters. One or several “coalitions of the willing” emerge.

Scenario 4: Doing Less More Efficiently – The EU27 focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value. Attention and limited resources are focused on selected policy areas.

Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together – Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board. Decisions are agreed faster at European level and rapidly enforced. By 2025 this could mean connected cars drive seamlessly across Europe as clear EU-wide rules exist.

But Petr Hlobil, director of the non-governmental CEE Bankwatch Network, reacted to the five scenarios by saying, “There is a crisis of imagination in Brussels.”

“Reforming the EU Budget holds part of the key to unlocking a progressive and inspiring new vision for Europe. Innovating in how we involve citizens and civil society in EU spending to build flourishing, sustainable futures, and designing EU finance to create more equal societies through this great transition to sustainable well-being, hold the highest potential to reconnect people with the European project,” Hlobil said.

In advance of the June 28 release by the European Commission of a reflection paper on the future of Europe’s finances, a growing movement of civil society across Europe has launched its own call for a reformed EU budget that unlocks a positive, people-centered and sustainable future for a new Europe.

The People’s Budget campaign calls for a rethink of the EU budget to guide a sixth scenario for Europe, and demands that citizens and civil society be allowed into the Future of Europe debate, which is currently happening behind closed doors.

According to the NGOs’ vision statement, by 2025, the sixth scenario would mean:

Delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the principles and Sustainable Development Goals: leaving no one behind, living within Europe’s fair share of our planetary boundaries, and putting respect for human rights at the core of EU and national policy-making.

The full implementation of the Paris Agreement by decarbonising our economy, enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the just and sustainable transition to clean and affordable renewable energy, based on the principles of climate justice, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

The idea of Better Regulation implies that all EU policies, laws and regulations are focused on ensuring policy coherence for sustainable development and on enforcement of high standards for jobs, health, safety and the environment, delivering tangible benefits to all citizens and the regeneration of environmental capital.

Policy coherence as a key objective will result in an end to negative externalities of domestic policies for the Global South and the phasing out of perverse public subsidies, especially for unsustainable food production and fossil fuels.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, general secretary of the European Public Service Union, said, “Public services and decent work are key ingredients for a fairer, more cohesive and sustainable Europe. Everyone benefits from investment in, for example, high quality public healthcare, social services, education, and environmental services.”


MAXIMPACT_Agri

Featured Image: The light at the end of a road in the Forêt de Soignes, Brussels, Belgium (Photo by Vincent Brassinne) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

An Atlas of Sci-Art Water Diplomacy

FountainRome

Fountain of the Naiads at Piazza della Repubblica, Rome, Italy. This was originally the fountain of the Acqua Pia, connected to the aqua Marcia aqueduct, commissioned at this site by Pope Pius IX in 1870. (Photo by David McKelvey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 9, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – No longer is it true that water is a free and infinite resource as people once believed. Today conservation is essential as one in every 10 people across the European Union experiences water scarcity, according to the European Commission.

In an effort to manage water wisely so that everyone in the EU, and especially city dwellers, will have enough, the Commission has just published the first “Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

The atlas shows how different water management choices, and other factors such as food preferences, waste management and climate change affect the long-term sustainability of water use in cities.

Detailed factsheets in the Urban Water Atlas for Europe present the state of water management in more than 40 European cities and regions together with several overseas examples.

Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, is responsible for the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which produced the new atlas.

“To foster innovative water management and its public acceptance, scientific and technological knowledge must be accessible for all. The ‘Urban Water Atlas for Europe’ presents scientific and technical information in an intuitive and creative way, making it easy for everyone to understand what is at stake and act accordingly,” he said.

The atlas was presented on April 27 during the meeting of ministers in charge of water management from the 43 members of the Union for the Mediterranean, hosted by the Maltese Government in Valetta.

The publication a result of the BlueSCities project, funded by Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation program.

In its introduction, the Urban Water Atlas for Europe reveals the pioneering concept on which it is founded – Sci-Art Water Diplomacy.

This concept first appeared in a pilot scheme in Jordan which led to the exhibition “Science and Art in Water – Water through the eyes of Jordanian children,” organized under the auspices of the Jordanian Minister for Education by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the partners of the Horizon 2020 Project, BlueSCities.

Schoolchildren from different countries were encouraged to consider the water problems facing their region and to describe their personal feelings through drawings. The children’s thought-provoking, yet innocent images called on society to progress

towards a more ecological, more sustainable and more peaceful future, perhaps far more effectively than any scientific treatise.

The colorful results of this exercise laid the philosophical basis for the Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

“This is another great example of how the JRC helps to deliver solutions to the challenges facing Europe’s citizens and the spaces they live in,” Navracsics said.

On the scientific side, there are two online tools linked with the atlas that can help cities manage water more sustainably.

The City Blueprint is an interactive tool to support strategic decision-making by making it easy to access and understand the results of studies and expert knowledge.

The City Blueprint given for each city is a composite index that displays 25 indicators related to water, waste and climate change in one infographic, summarizing at a glance how well a city currently manages its water resources.

This tool gives an overview of a city’s strong and weak points, and provides tailor-made options for making urban water services more sustainable.

This information is important to help identify priorities for further action and investment, but also to visualize strengths and weaknesses. The Blue City Index is the overall score based on these 25 indicators.

The City Amberprint is a tool for assessing a city’s progress towards becoming smart and sustainable.

Karmenu Vella, commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “Water is an irreplaceable resource for society, but it is only renewable if well managed.”

He emphasized the critial role of cities, saying, “Home to three out of four EU citizens, cities have no other choice but to become water-wise, and better manage this precious resource. A strong water policy is also essential for delivering on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development both in the EU and internationally.”

The atlas also presents the Urban Water Footprint of European cities, a measure of domestic water use as well as water use embodied in agricultural products consumed.

This measure aims to raise awareness of the large amount of water used to produce food and the variation in water needs among different diets. The atlas shows that healthier diets and lower meat diets could save as much as 40 percent of the water currently used to produce food.

The atlas also aims to encourage citizens to take an interest and get involved in water issues by combining the work of scientists, artists, politicians and municipal stakeholders with that of schoolchildren and teachers.

Some of the key messages in the atlas are, “Engage in true citizen engagement, employing a participatory and open approach,” and “create a legacy and a true connection between generations, from the youngest to the oldest citizens.”

The Urban Water Atlas stems from a collaboration of the Joint Research Centre with Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic, the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, the (EIP) European Innovation Partnership on Water, and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities, NETWERC H2O.

It follows a long tradition of other atlases produced by the Joint Research Centre, including those on soils and soil management across the globe and the European Atlas of Forest Tree Species.


Featured Image:  Woman at a fountain at Catedral de Santa Eulalia de Barcelona, Spain (Photo by Clark and Kim Kays) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Tropical Forests Thrive on Radical Transparency

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The Ulu Masen forest ecosystem in the northern part of Indonesia’s Aceh province forms part of the largest single forested area in Southeast Asia. (Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith / DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 15, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Commodity production drives two-thirds of tropical deforestation worldwide, asserts Trase, a new online information and decision-support platform aimed at improving the transparency, clarity and accessibility of information on the commodity supply chains that drive tropical deforestation.

Formally known as Transparency for Sustainable Economies, Trase is led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme.

Trase draws on deep untapped sets of data tracking the flows of globally-traded commodities, such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber, responsible for tropical deforestation.

Trase responds to the urgent need for a breakthrough in assessing and monitoring sustainability triggered by the ambitious commitments made by government leaders to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

In Morocco last November, a Trase-led side event at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), attracted experts in environmental policy, data analysis and commodity supply chains who strategized on upgrading supply-chain transparency to achieve trade that is free of deforestation.

The side event was hosted by the EU REDD Facility, which supports partner countries in improving land use governance as part of their effort to slow, halt and reverse deforestation.

REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation,” a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the UNFCCC since 2005. The goal is to mitigate climate change by protecting forests, which absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Participants discussed how to bring about step changes in the capacity of supply-chain actors to meet zero deforestation and sustainability commitments. They examined incentives for encouraging governments in consumer and producer countries to cooperate.

Tools such as the platforms launched by Trase to collect and analyze data and information can help purchasers to develop better sourcing strategies and governments to develop policies in the forestry sector and commodity trade.

The international trade in commodities such as soy, palm oil and beef is valued at billions of dollars. These commodities trade along complex supply chains that often have adverse social and environmental impacts, especially in developing countries.

Over the past 10 years, participants acknowledged, agricultural expansion has caused two-thirds of tropical deforestation, which in turn has accelerated climate change and threatened the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and communities that depend on forests.

Participants agreed that consumers and markets around the world are demanding greater sustainability in producing and trading agricultural commodities.

Nowhere is this demand greater than in the European Union, which has set a goal of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest, and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020.

The EU and several EU Member States have endorsed the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests .

In 2015, several EU Member States signed the Amsterdam Declaration , which recognizes the need to eliminate deforestation related to trade in agricultural commodities and supports private and public sector initiatives to halt deforestation no later than 2020.

The EU is also conducting a feasibility study for a EU Action Plan on deforestation.

Some of the most interesting deforestation transparency work is being done in Brazil.

Pedro Moura Costa, founder and CEO, BVRio Environmental Exchange, says his organization and Trase are piloting a program to bring more transparency to Brazilian timber supply chains, to assess the causes of illegally harvested timber and to find solutions to minimize risks.

Through the partnership, BVRio will upload data to the platform on the legal status of forest operations in Brazil. This will enable Trase to track legally and illegally harvested timber from sources to buyers at the end of supply chains.

On the banks of the Tapajós River, in Brazil’s Pará state, is a community forestry project that works with sustainable timber extraction in the Amazon.

Since 2003, Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós (Coomflona) has been operating in the region and today employs 150 managers, as workers in this sector are known. The yearly production is around 42,000 cubic meters of timber, which Costa says could be fully commercialized if not for the competition with illegal timber products.

The issue of legality in supply chains is rarely considered in transparency initiatives, but is vitally important, Costa points out.

Legality is at the core of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan issued in 2003. The Action Plan sets forth a range of measures available to the EU and its member states to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests by engaging with national governments on illegal logging.

BVRio Environmental Exchange in 2016 launched a Responsible Timber Exchange, a trading platform to assist traders and buyers of timber in sourcing legal or certified products from all over the world.

The platform is integrated with BVRio’s Due Diligence and Risk Assessment tools, designed to assist traders and buyers of tropical timber in verifying the legality status of the products purchased and their supply chains. The system is based on big data analysis and conducts more than two billion crosschecks of data daily.

Since their release in 2015, the tools have been used by traders and environmental agencies worldwide to screen thousands of timber shipments.

Costa says, “Compliance with local legislation is an essential requirement of any initiative to promote good land-use governance and, ultimately, to achieve zero deforestation supply chains.

Companies too are engaged.

Trase can help us move away from the blame game, to start a practical discussion around issues and solutions,” says Lucas Urbano, project management officer for climate strategy with the Danone, based in Paris, one of the world’s largest dairy and packaged food companies.

Danone has committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chains by 2020. The company is a signatory of the New York Declaration on Forests as well as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum.

For a company like Danone, transparency and better information about the impacts and conditions in jurisdictions where its supplies originate from are hugely important, Urbano recognizes.

Transparency is the first major step in eliminating deforestation from Danone’s value chains, because supply-chain complexity and opacity are barriers to action, he says.

Transparency initiatives such as Trase help Danone to understand who to convene and engage with in strategic supply chains. At the same time,” Urbano says, “transparency will make it impossible for companies to hide behind the complexity and opacity of supply chains.

Trase is made possible through the financial support of the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the UK Department for International Development.


Featured Image: In Brazil, forest managers with the Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós mark a tree for legal logging. (Photo courtesy BVRio Environmental Exchange) posted for media use

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167 Nations Adopt New Urban Agenda

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Ecuador’s capital, Quito, population 2.1 million, is distinguished by the Cathedral of Quito, first opened in 1567. (Photo by Al Tuttle) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

QUITO, Ecuador, November 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, has wrapped up in Quito, Ecuador, as delegations adopted the New Urban Agenda, a new framework that details how cities should be planned and managed to best achieve sustainability.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, attends the opening of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, HABITAT III, with Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) posted for media use.

Up to 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, experts project.

 Hosted by the city of Quito from October 17-20, and attended by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Habitat III conference drew around 36,000 people from 167 countries.

 Habitat III brought together mayors, local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, the private sector and urban planners.

The New Urban Agenda is contained in the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All. It states, “By 2050 the world urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. As the population, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, as well as environmental and humanitarian impacts, are increasingly concentrated in cities, this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources…

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Joan Clos, secretary-general of the Habitat III conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, Oct. 31, 2016 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) posted for media use.

We have analyzed and discussed the challenges that our cities are facing and have [agreed] on a common roadmap for the 20 years to come,” said Joan Clos, secretary-general of the conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, usually called UN-Habitat.

 Clos, who was mayor of Barcelona, Spain from September 1997 to September 2006, said the New Urban Agenda should be seen as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by 193 UN Member States in September 2015.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the power of cities and towns to be the engine for sustainable growth in the future, a concept further emphasized in the New Urban Agenda.

The ambitious New Urban Agenda is guided by these interlinked principles:

  • (a) Leave no one behind, by ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including the eradication of extreme poverty, by ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socio-economic and cultural diversity, integration in the urban space, enhancing livability, education, food security and nutrition, health and well-being; including by ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, promoting safety and eliminating discrimination and all forms of violence … and providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services as well as adequate and affordable housing.
  • (b) Sustainable and inclusive urban economies, by leveraging the … benefits of well-planned urbanization, high productivity, competitiveness, and innovation; promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all, ensuring decent job creation and equal access for all to economic and productive resources and opportunities; preventing land speculation; and promoting secure land tenure and managing urban shrinking where appropriate.
  •  (c) Environmental sustainability, by promoting clean energy, sustainable use of land and resources in urban development as well as protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, including adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature; promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns; building urban resilience; reducing disaster risks; and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On the sidelines of the Habitat III formal discussions, dozens of side events and parallel events brought partners together to debate the more intricate areas of urbanization, such as the right of women and youth to the city, the importance of public space and how to finance the New Urban Agenda.

Among its 175 sections, the New Urban Agenda states, in Section 66, “We commit to adopt a smart city approach, which makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies, thus providing options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices and boost sustainable economic growth and enabling cities to improve their service delivery.

 Section 75 states, “We commit to strengthening the sustainable management of resources – including land, water (oceans, seas, and freshwater), energy, materials, forests, and food, with particular attention to the environmentally sound management and minimization of all waste, hazardous chemicals, including air and short-lived climate pollutants, greenhouse gases, and noise – in a way that considers urban-rural linkages and functional supply and value chains vis-à-vis environmental impact and sustainability, and strives to transition to a circular economy, while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration, restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges.

Above all, Clos said, the New Urban Agenda is, “A commitment that we will all together take the responsibility … [for the] direction of the development of our common urbanizing world.

To further reach out to cities, foster the exchange of best practices and the development of urban strategies, the European Commission has launched a new web portal for cities.

Answering a need expressed by numerous cities, the new portal provides up-to-date information on EU policies such as climate change adaptation, mobility or circular economy that directly impact cities and urban areas.

Urban stakeholders can also get clear information on financing opportunities under the different EU funding instruments and on events related to urban development.

The new portal is intended to help cities to address challenges such as affordable housing, energy efficiency or accessibility, by making the most out of EU funding opportunities.

In addition, the new Urban Data Platform, hosted on the Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies operated by the Joint Research Centre, provides a single access point to common indicators on the status and trends in over 800 European urban areas – on demography, economic development or access to services.

This database will enable urban authorities and stakeholders to compare data, benchmark and monitor, which is one of the aims of the New Urban Agenda.

European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic said, “Over 70 percent of the EU’s population lives in urban areas; it is here where the transition to a green economy is being decided.”

Cities play a crucial role in the activation of citizens and consumers and in promoting change by investing in energy-efficient renovation of buildings, making transport more sustainable, raising citizens’ awareness, implementing new technologies, supporting vulnerable consumers and much more. Therefore we are launching instruments which will enable cities to experiment with new ideas and see if they are feasible and useful,” Šefcovic said.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu presented the EU’s Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito.

In partnership with UN Habitat, the Commission has released the State of European Cities Report. It supports the New Urban Agenda by assessing the performance of European cities with regards to its priority themes: jobs and skills, fight against poverty, shift towards a low-carbon economy.

At the heart of the EU’s Urban Agenda, 12 partnerships allow cities, Member States, EU Institutions, NGOs and business partners to work together on an equal basis to find common solutions to improve quality of life in European urban areas.

Four pilot partnerships have already started: on the inclusion of migrants, coordinated by the city of Amsterdam; on air quality, coordinated by the Netherlands; on housing, coordinated by Slovakia; and on urban poverty, coordinated by Belgium and France.

By January 2017, four new partnerships will be launched: on circular economy coordinated by Oslo, Norway; on digital transition coordinated by Estonia; Oulu, Finland; and Sofia, Bulgaria; on urban mobility coordinated by the Czech Republic and Karlsruhe, Germany, as well as on jobs and skills coordinated by Romania, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Jelgava, Latvia. The Commission will report back to the Council on the partnerships by the end of 2017.

To transform our world, we must transform its cities,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement commemorating World Cities Day, which is observed each October 31 since 2014.

Local action is essential to realizing the potential of these global agreements,” Ban said. “On World Cities Day, let us renew our resolve to confront urban problems and forge lasting solutions. Together, we can show how success in cities inspires change across the world.


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Closing the Loop: Computers, Furniture, Footwear

computerscreens

OECD 2016 Forum: Lunch Debate: The Algorithmic Society, May 31, 2016, Paris, France (Photo by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – The European Commission has adopted a new set of ecological criteria for the award of EU Ecolabel status to makers of personal, notebook and tablet computers, as well as to makers of furniture and footwear.

Producers who wish to enjoy the benefits of displaying the EU Ecolabel not only have to comply with strict requirements that focus on environmental performance, but also must ensure that their products are safe and manufactured with respect for human rights and labor rights.

The EU Ecolabel promotes Europe’s transition to a circular economy, supporting both sustainable production and consumption,” said Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

Last December, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to an economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way.

The package is intended to help close the loop of product lifecycles, from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.

This transition is being supported financially by European Structural and Investment Funds: €650 million from Horizon 2020, the EU funding program for research and innovation; €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management; as well as investments in the circular economy at the national level.

The new Ecolabel criteria are intended to help shoppers choose computers, furniture and footwear that tread lightly on the Earth.

Thanks to transparent ecological criteria, consumers can make conscious choices, without compromising on the quality of the products,” Vella said.

The Ecolabel rewards those manufacturers who choose to design products that are durable and repairable, promoting innovation and saving resources,” he said.

On August 10, the Commission adopted new ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for computers.

The revised criteria aim to encourage and promote products that have a lower environmental impact and contribute to sustainable development along their life cycle, are energy efficient, durable, repairable and upgradeable. The emission of hazardous substances during both manufacture and use of the product must be minimized.

At the end of their useful life, Ecolabeled products should be easy to dismantle and recover resources from for re-use or recycling.

The Commission’s decision will apply on October 10, two months after its adoption date, but the rule allows a transitional period to give manufacturers a chance to adjust.

On August 5, the Commission adopted the Ecolabel criteria for footwear. They require, among many other criteria, that only raw hides and skins from animals raised for milk or meat production be used in Ecolabel footwear products.

Footwear manufacturers must reduce water consumption, limit emissions of pollutants to water and restrict the tanning of hides and skins.

They will have to control emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduce the number and intensity of hazardous substances in the shoe components, and no component shall be on the Restricted Substances List.

Finally, Ecolabel footwear must be durable, the manufacturers must demonstrate corporate social responsibility towards labor, and the packaging must be sustainably sourced.

ecolabel-logoStandards for Ecolabel furniture were the first of the revised criteria to be adopted by the Commission – on July 28.

Furniture manufacturers will have to conduct a more comprehensive life cycle assessment, and pay special attention to hazardous compounds and residues, which could contribute to indoor air pollution.

None of the adhesives, varnishes, paints, primers, wood stains, biocidal products (such as wood preservatives), flame retardants, fillers, waxes, oils, joint fillers, sealants, dyestuff, resins or lubricating oils directly used by an Ecolabel furniture manufacturer can be listed as most hazardous by the 2008 EU regulation on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of chemical substances and mixtures.

The Commission acknowleged that the use of chemicals and release of pollutants are “part of the production process,” for furniture. Still, the Commission’s decision tries to cover all the bases, saying that for a product to be awarded Ecolabel status, “the use of hazardous substances are excluded whenever possible or limited to the minimum necessary to provide an adequate function and at the same time strict quality and safety standards for furniture products.”

In an effort to ensure sustainable sourcing of all wood, cork, bamboo and rattan used in Ecolabel furniture, the Commission decided that each material must be covered by a chain of custody certificate issued by an independent third party certification scheme such as the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

There cannot be any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in EU Ecolabel furniture. All virgin wood, cork, bamboo and rattan shall not originate from a GMO-free species and must be covered by valid sustainable forest management certificates. All uncertified materials must, at least, be legally sourced.

The revised criteria for Ecolabel computers will be valid for three years, a short time period that takes into account the quick innovation cycle for this product group.

The criteria validity period is six years for furniture and footwear.

New shoes displayed in Milan, Italy, July 2016 (Photo by Marco / Zak) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 


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