What to expect in 2008

Climate and energy policy will rise even further up the EU’s agenda in 2008. A work programme published by the European commission last autumn showed the EU executive was planning to table draft legislation and major policy documents. Many have already been announced separately.
Slovenia will take over the presidency of the EU on 1 January. Its top environmental priorities include energy, biodiversity and climate change. France will follow in the second half of the year.
The commission will publish a major package of climate and energy-related legislative proposals in early 2008. Environment ministers will discuss the package in March and June. It was initially expected to be released before December’s UN climate talks in Bali but the commission was forced to delay it until the second half of January at the earliest because of the “size and complexity” of proposals.
The package will include new greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy promotion targets, a revision of the carbon trading scheme, legal limits on carbon emissions from cars, an EU carbon capture and storage framework and a strategic energy technologies review.
This year will be “crucial for taking forward these proposals” and achieving a “step change in energy technologies”, the commission’s work programme says. The commission will also publish a white paper on adapting to climate change.
Prominent among the commission’s intended actions will be a series of initiatives on energy, brought together under the second EU strategic energy review, which will act as a basis for decisions by heads of state in spring 2009.
A revision of the energy performance of buildings directive “could enlarge the scope to more buildings, strengthen and specify requirements and add financing aspects”. The EU’s alphabetic energy labelling scheme would be “enlarged beyond domestic appliances”. There will be a review of the energy tax directive to “better combine fiscal and environmental goals”.
There will be a policy paper on “greening the transport sector” and a similar paper on internalising the environmental and social costs of transport with possibly a legislative proposal to revise the 2006 “Eurovignette” directive on heavy vehicles using Europe’s main motorways.
A third policy paper will set out a possible new EU maritime transport policy.
Two linked action plans due this year – one on sustainable industrial policy and one on sustainable production and consumption – will form an “integrated strategy to help the EU economy become more environmentally sustainable and competitive”, the commission has said.
This strategy may include draft legislation and will “launch a new product policy setting dynamic sustainability requirements, through an extension of the energy using products (EuP) directive coupled with voluntary performance standards”.
There will be proposals for an environmental technology verification scheme to help smaller firms improve their environmental profile; the Emas environmental management scheme will be overhauled; and the development of performance criteria through the EU’s flower ecolabel will be “thoroughly changed and simplified”.
The commission plans to propose a “thorough revision” of the waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) directive and the related RoHS directive on hazardous substances in electronics manufacture.
A revision of the ozone-depleting substances regulation will put an end to some exemptions from the existing rules.
There will be a mid-term report on the EU’s biodiversity action plan. Policy papers are due on tackling alien invasive species, sustainable aquaculture, measures to reduce deforestation and combat the marketing of illegally harvested timber.
The commission will also review its impact assessment procedure for EU legislative and non-legislative proposals as part of its “better regulation” drive.
These assessments are intended to determine the most cost-effective policy option for each proposal and to strike a balance between economic, social and environmental impacts. But an EU consultancy study released in July shows that after four years and more than 150 impact assessments, including 21 for environmental proposals, the procedure has not achieved what it was set up for. A revised procedure could come before EU governments for discussion in spring.

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