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Aggiornato: 4 anni 16 settimane fa

Sweden to sue the Commission for delaying hormone-affecting criteria

Mer, 26/02/2014 - 13:12

Sweden's government is considering suing the European Commission for stalling on criteria which are required to stop hormone-affecting substances, says the minister for the environment, Lena Ek.

In December, the Commission was supposed to publish the necessary criteria for banning different endocrine-disrupting substances found in anti-bacterial agents for shoes and clothes.

However, Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik has delayed the clearance. According to Ek, Potočnik has told the Swedish government that the Commission wants to make an impact analysis first.

The chemicals industry has previously protested the EU REACH chemicals laws that govern many of their products.

In an interview with EurActiv in March last year, Ek said that she believed the Commission was "too slow" in moving to ban hazardous chemicals and would not hesitate to breach EU rules if REACH was not improved.

"We will follow up with a letter to the Commission where we will say that they should live up to what they have promised which has been agreed among member states," Ek told Sweden's Radio.

"If this is not done within two months, it's so serious from an environment and health point of view that we will follow up by suing the Commission," the Swedish environment minister said.

Ek said she was especially worried about biocides, found in anti-bacterial agents for shoes and clothes, electronics and building materials. Biocides are under suspicion of having health-damaging consequences for pregnant women and children though the risks are difficult to assess.

It is unusual for the Swedish state to take the EU to court. This has only happened seven times in the past 20 years. Ek said the Swedish government was not criticising the Commission for the use of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in pesticides, only biocides.

"Biocides are being used in a greater number of products. And we have a clear agreement regarding this question. And we need to solve the biggest issue first," Ek stated.

The liberal minister added that hormone-affecting substances in general are "not good".

"We're going to sue the Commission because we have a very clear bargaining agreement. It's a written text, literal promises about what should be done and when. And this has not been done," Ek said.

Categorie: Ambiente, Euractive

Resource efficiency work must start now, not in 10 years

Ven, 14/02/2014 - 12:22

This spring the European Commission will publish a package on resource efficiency and the circular economy. This must include strong indicators on the EU’s use of resources and set a clear path to reduce the overconsumption of water, land, raw materials and carbon, writes Magda Stoczkiewicz.

Magda Stoczkiewicz is director of Friends of the Earth Europe, an environmental pressure group.

Europe’s current modus operandi is not sustainable and this is creating environmental, economic and social problems. The terrible floods in the UK are just one of the most obvious signs that all is not well with the planet. The European Commission’s upcoming package on resource efficiency and the circular economy must be strong if we are to have any chance of reducing our impact on the planet and moving towards a more sustainable way of living and more efficient ways of doing business.

As explained during a conference we hosted in Brussels this week, we believe that the best way to achieve this would be to include “four footprints” in the package to enable the resource use of the 28 EU member states to be measured. The best ways to decrease this use can then be found.  The footprint approach is effective because it includes both the resources consumed domestically and those used to create imported products. The four footprints we want included are: a material footprint to calculate the tonnage of material used by the EU; a carbon footprint to measure climate change gases released; a water footprint to assess the volume of water used; and a land footprint to calculate the area of land used by the EU anywhere in the world.

Using these footprints together is clearly the best way we currently have of measuring resource use. And, in these times of economic, as well as environmental, challenges, helping countries and companies to be more efficient is beneficial for both the planet and the bottom line.

“The EU is very resource poor and it is in its own interest to be a leader,” said Jo Leinen, former chair of the European Parliament’s environment committee, at the conference. He agreed that setting clear targets for resource efficiency would be good for the environment and “would be in the interest of industry, showing them where to invest and go in the next ten years”.  

And leading EU companies are just as supportive. Florence Coulamy, sustainability manager at Unilever, a company that has measured its water and carbon footprints, explained to attendees that resource efficiency can “drive new ways of thinking and doing business”.

In its efforts to decouple growth and its environmental footprint, Ms Coulamy said her company has “drastically reduced” its environmental impact at a factory level, cutting greenhouse gases from energy by one-third and reducing non-hazardous manufacturing waste by 50%. Further, half of Unilever’s 250 factories now have zero-waste-to-landfill. These steps have helped the company to “drastically reduce costs by about €300 million since 2008,” she added.

Without clear targets these results would never have been achieved. The Commission must now take the lead in ensuring that all companies have the tools to tackle the problem of overuse of resources.

The Commission is slowly engaging with all four footprints, announcing this week that it will launch a public consultation on land as a resource at a conference in Brussels on 19 June. The results will help inform a communication on land resources that the Commission plans to publish in 2015.  This is likely to include a set of indicators on how to measure “land degradation and land multi-functionality” and an assessment of potential policy instruments that could be introduced at an EU level, said Commission policy officer Jacques Delsalle.

This is good news, but we have no time to lose. Land is a key resource and we only have one planet. We may need to improve data and methodologies of the land footprint, but this is not an excuse for delay, and this is not simply the opinion of Friends of the Earth. A landmark report published at the end of January by UNEP’s International Resource Panel called for countries to monitor and control global land use and set a target of 0.2 hectares of land-use per person by 2030. The EU currently uses 0.31 hectares per person.

The UK government-backed Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimated in a roadmap  published last year that European businesses could save €400 billion by 2020 if they worked together to create a more resource efficient economy. As Jo Leinen said, we must start work on this “now, not in 10 years”.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik has emphasised the need for much greater resource efficiency and the benefits it will bring throughout his mandate. In his final few months he must   turn fine words into lasting concrete actions. Only by doing this will his legacy is befitting his recognition by UNEP as a “champion of the earth” for his work on resource-efficiency. 

Categorie: Ambiente, Euractive

Greenland, Denmark hope to reach uranium mining deal by end 2014

Ven, 10/01/2014 - 09:02

An agreement on uranium extraction in Greenland is expected by the end of the year, the prime ministers of the two countries confirmed on Wednesday (8 January), despite lingering tension between the two sides.

Greenland Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond, met with her Danish counterpart, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in Copenhagen on Wednesday (8 January) to discuss how the two sides could work together on extracting uranium in the Arctic country.

Both said they expected a cooperation agreement later in 2014 but it was clear that disagreement over Greenland's right to extract and export uranium continues to fuel tensions.

Greenland, a former Danish colony, was granted home rule in 1979. Thirty years later, the Arctic country assumed self-determination with responsibility for judicial affairs, police, and natural resources, but the Danish government is still in charge of foreign affairs, financial and security policies.

"Uranium is obviously a special commodity and therefore we need to have a cooperation agreement in this area," Thorning-Schmidt was quoted as saying by the Danish news agency Ritzau. She said the question fell under defence, foreign and security matters, on which Denmark still had responsibility in Greenland.

Hammond emphasised, however, that she would not let the Danish government decide and control the extraction of the precious mineral. She pointed to a report commissioned by the Greenlandic government, published in October last year, and a recent opinion by a Danish expert in constitutional law, which both concluded that the country had full sovereignty over commodities trading, including radioactive substances.

No interference

Uranium, a toxic and radioactive metal, is a strategically important mineral for the nuclear power and defence industries.

For 25 years, Greenland has had a zero-tolerance policy on mining radioactive materials, but this policy was repealed in October 2013 when Greenland's government won a debate in the parliament by one vote.

The Danish government has continuously expressed its concern that large-scale exploitation of uranium in Greenland is against its environment policies and could affect both countries' foreign and security policies on the international stage. 

In November, Hammond told the Danish press that she understood why Denmark wanted to interfere on the matter, but the country should respect that Greenland had rights over all the commodities in Greenland.

"We want to cooperate, but it's us who have the competences and rights," Hammond said.

Categorie: Ambiente, Euractive