ENDS Europe Daily
January 23, 2020
 

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‘No Green Deal without our satellites,’ says space sector

22 January 2020

Cuts to the European Space Programme endangers earth monitoring and the European Green Deal, industry figures have warned

Read More
 
RELATED: Blog: The European Green Deal: boldly going where no environmental policy has gone before
 
 

Latest news

 
European Parliament backs EU support for gas projects

MEPs on a key parliamentary committee have overwhelmingly opposed a move to block an EU 'projects of common interest' list despite a last-minute push by campaigners and progressive lawmakers who see EU backing for more gas infrastructure as incompatible with the bloc’s climate goals

Read More
 
RELATED: Commission under pressure over planned support for gas projects
 
Finance ministers reject additional just transition funding

Several member states are refusing to support increased national contributions to the EU budget to finance the European Commission’s flagship plans to support regions' transition to a low carbon economy

Read More
 
RELATED: Blog: The European Green Deal: boldly going where no environmental policy has gone before
 
MEPs brand plans to approve lead in PVC ‘unsafe’

Draft rules on the use of lead in polyvinyl chloride, a widespread synthetic plastic, have met the opposition of the European Parliament’s environment committee, which on Tuesday voted against a regulation to set maximum acceptable levels

Read More
 
RELATED: Renewables and plastic waste EU public's top priority
 
Waste campaigners join plastics lobby in critique of disposable plastics ban

Green groups Zero Waste Europe and Reloop have joined the lobby group European Plastics Converters by criticising the fine print of the Single-Use Plastics Directive, warning that some single-use materials are excluded by its definition of ‘plastic’

Read More
 
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Today's news in full

‘No Green Deal without our satellites,’ says space sector
Laura Cole, 22 Jan 2020

Cuts to the European Space Programme endangers earth monitoring and the European Green Deal, industry figures have warned

At the 12th European Space Conference in Brussels, lawmakers and figureheads from the space industry objected to the proposed cuts to the space budget on the grounds they could impede the European Green Deal. 

Concern revolves around the bloc’s flagship earth monitoring programmes, Galileo and Copernicus. The Copernicus ‘constellation’ of satellites monitors land, sea atmosphere and climate changes, while Galileo provides global positioning data.

In 2018, the Commission earmarked €16bn euros for the European Space Programme in the bloc’s next seven-year multiannual financial framework (MFF), with €5.8bn for Copernicus and €9.7bn for Galileo. 

However, the latest budget proposal by the Finnish Presidency cuts the fund to €12bn, while Copernicus and Galileo lost more than a billion euros in funding each.

“We cannot accept that it is being reduced,” said Josef Aschbacher, director of earth observation at the European Space Agency. “The global carbon cycle is at the heart of the European Green Deal,” he added. “We need that money to improve our systems.”

Currently, Copernicus is undergoing an update that will enhance its CO2 monitoring capabilities. If the Commission and ESA achieve their aims, Copernicus will be able to monitor human-derived CO2 emissions and check them against Paris Agreement goals. 

Renew Europe MEP Christophe Grudler argued that satellites’ role in accomplishing the green deal “could not be overstated”. 

He added: “The open data of Copernicus is indispensable and the images give factual evidence that cannot be contested by climate sceptics.” 

Two weeks ago, Renew Europe successfully tabled an amendment to the European Green Deal resolution, “stress[ing] that the EU must maintain and further develop its flagship civilian space programmes”. The amendment is the only mention of earth monitoring in the European Green Deal to date.

The EU’s director-general for environment, Daniel Calleja-Crespo, said that space will play “an important role” to the European Green Deal. “It is impossible to be effective in any of these challenges if we are not able to have science-based decisions based on data.”

news@endseurope.com 

Follow Up: Finnish MFF proposal.

European Parliament backs EU support for gas projects
Robert Hodgson, 22 Jan 2020

MEPs on a key parliamentary committee have overwhelmingly opposed a move to block an EU 'projects of common interest' list despite a last-minute push by campaigners and progressive lawmakers who see EU backing for more gas infrastructure as incompatible with the bloc’s climate goals

Only 17 members of the European Parliament's industry and energy committee backed on Wednesday a motion – proposed by the Greens, and endorsed by a group of S&D, Renew and GUE lawmakers – to reject the 4th PCI list, which was published at the end of October.

The proposal to veto the list – which includes five LNG terminals and a plethora of gas pipeline projects – was rejected by 54 MEPs, while two abstained.

The result, which echoed a similar ballot in 2018, had been widely expected. One committee member who backed the motion told ENDS ahead of the vote that even environmentally minded lawmakers often vote along national lines where major investments are at stake.

A defensive European Commission told MEPs before publication that it was obliged under EU law to include projects promoted by regional governments, even if it harboured its own doubts about their possible environmental impact.

As well as access to EU funding via the Connecting Europe Facility and streamlined planning procedures, gas projects on the latest PCI list have access to the loans from the European Investment Bank, thanks to a two-year exception from the EU development bank's recent decision stop financing fossil fuel projects.

Environmental groups reacted with dismay to the outcome of the committee vote, and are now pinning their hopes on the possibility of a final vote at the full plenary session of the parliament in Strasbourg next month.

“It’s now up to all MEPs to reject this vast list of mega-pipelines and other new fossil fuel projects - they are not compatible with the climate emergency and tarnish the credibility of any European Green Deal,” said Colin Roche, climate justice coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe.

Frida Kieninger of the campaign group Food & Water Europe noted that the EU already has a sufficiently diverse gas network and further infrastructure developments risk ending up as stranded assets, a position that was reinforced by a study published on Monday.

“Fossil gas is today’s biggest contributor to CO2 emission growth and is incompatible with the fossil free future promised in the European Green Deal,” Kieninger said.

The commission updates the PCI list every two years through a ‘delegated act’. The parliament and EU Council can reject the act during a limited scrutiny period, but have no option to amend it.

robert.hodgson@haymarket.com

Follow-up: Text of rejected motion for a resolution; PCI list.

Finance ministers reject additional just transition funding
Jacob Hederos, 22 Jan 2020

Several member states are refusing to support increased national contributions to the EU budget to finance the European Commission’s flagship plans to support regions' transition to a low carbon economy

The commission added a sensitive matter to already difficult talks on the long-term budget, when it proposed last week that the Just Transition Fund (JTF), one of the pillars of a Just Transition Mechanism, should be financed in part by ”fresh funds” from member states.

That is at least the case for net contributors to the EU budget - the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) - who are fighting to keep their contributions as close as possible to current levels. 

In December, the Netherlands said that extra contributions to the MFF would not be acceptable, a stance since endorsed by Germany and Sweden.

“The EU has made up a formula to distribute money that does not exist. The distribution and those numbers aren’t worth a dime,” said Swedish finance minister Magdalena Andersson.

Two EU Council sources told ENDS that Austria and Denmark are supporting the Swedish-German-Dutch line. The Finns, previously part of that group of countries, have not made up their mind yet, according to another source.

The sceptical countries would instead like to see the fund being financed from redistributions inside the current MFF proposal. 

Several alternative solutions are already being considered, according to ENDS’ sources.

One is to increase the share of EU emissions trading system revenue that is injected into the EU budget rather than collected by national governments.

While several member state representatives declined to comment on the idea, one Council source said it could be a way to reach a compromise between current conflicting member state positions.

Poland, which is the single largest beneficiary of the proposed JTF, is among the most outspoken countries in favour of additional contributions from member states. 

”There will be tough negotiations but my assessment is that we can achieve a solution at the EU level,” said Andersson. “The room for re-prioritization is there.”

Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis confirmed that the topic had also been discussed during Tuesday’s meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, but declined to provide any further details.

ENDS understands that conflicting views on the topic took up a large part of the closed-door talks.

news@endseurope.com 

Follow-up: Commission JTF proposal.

MEPs brand plans to approve lead in PVC ‘unsafe’
Claudia Delpero, 22 Jan 2020

Draft rules on the use of lead in polyvinyl chloride, a widespread synthetic plastic, have met the opposition of the European Parliament’s environment committee, which on Tuesday voted against a regulation to set maximum acceptable levels

The European Commission has proposed restricting the use of lead and its compounds in PVC articles, setting a maximum concentration limit of 0.1% by weight of virgin material. 

However, a 15-year derogation was allowed for recycled PVC, with limits set at 1% and 2% for flexible and rigid PVC recyclate respectively. 

On Tuesday, parliament’s environment committee argued that such levels are not “safe” and recycling does not justify the continued use of hazardous substances. Forty-two MEPs voted against the draft regulation, with 22 in favour and four abstaining. 

A substance known to cause neurological damage, lead in PVC has been phased out in the EU since 2015, but continues to enter the European market via imported products.

In November 2019, as a technical committee of EU member states met to consider the regulation, a coalition of environment and consumer groups called for the derogations to be rejected. 

The groups said that instead of having a beneficial impact on the environment and human health, recycling PVC containing lead would increase exposure to the toxic metal because of its longer service life and its ultimate disposal through landfilling or incineration.

While representatives of EU member states approved the regulation, MEPs heeded the green groups’ call. 

If the European Parliament plenary follows the committee’s views and objects to the draft regulation before the deadline of 27 February, the European Commission will have to drop the proposal.

Alexandre Dangis, managing director of European Plastics Converters, the organisation of plastic manufacturers, criticised the committee vote saying it could “seriously compromise the success of the Circular Plastics Alliance initiated by the commission”.

news@endseurope.com

Follow-up: Commission comitology page.

Waste campaigners join plastics lobby in critique of disposable plastics ban
Laura Cole, 22 Jan 2020

Green groups Zero Waste Europe and Reloop have joined the lobby group European Plastics Converters by criticising the fine print of the Single-Use Plastics Directive, warning that some single-use materials are excluded by its definition of ‘plastic’

The green groups fear the directive allows for harmful exceptions to slip through the net, meaning it could underperform on its environmental aims, “and even backfire”, according to Joan-Marc Simon, executive director at ZWE. 

Their groups’ criticism joins that of the European Plastics Converters, who have argued that plastics are “difficult to define”. They said that the directive, in its current form, “does not consider the environmental impact of substitute materials”.

Currently, the directive, which entered into force in June 2019, allows for ‘natural polymers’ such as viscose and lyocell, which are commonly found in wet wipes, nappies and cigarettes. According to the campaign groups, products made from these substitutes are potentially as damaging as banned plastics.

Researchers from the waste consultancy Eunomia warned in a report commissioned by the green groups that there is currently not enough evidence to show they are substantially less harmful in the natural environment than synthetic plastics.

“One of the biggest issues we are facing with this sector is that they are marketed as environmentally benign,” said Joe Papineschi, director at Eunomia and lead author of the study. He added that it is possible that consumption and flushing could even increase “as a result of natural polymer wipes being given an environmental clean bill of health”.

Joan-Marc Simon at ZWE said the directive risks promoting substitution instead of systemic change. “We need a regulation that focuses on reducing disposability of products, not on the definition of plastic, as well as a system change from single-use to re-use.”

Though the European Plastics Converters agree that the directive has a flawed focus on materials instead of environmental impact, they defended the idea of single-use items.

“Single-use plastics serve many important functions in terms of health, hygiene, preservation and life extension of food products,” the group said.

news@endseurope.com 

Follow-up: Zero Waste Europe announcement, EUPC press release, Eunomia report.

 
 

 
Technical Officer (Contaminated Land) Leeds City Council, Leeds, West Yorkshire
Consultancy Environmental Technician Via East Midlands Ltd, West Bridgford, Nottingham
EIA Project Manager JSM Associates, Central Bristol
Officer 2 – Industry & Waste Regulation Natural Resources Wales, Buckley, Flintshire (Sir y Fflint)
Sustainability Consultant (Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Assurance) JSM Associates, London
 
 
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