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Found 18 results

  1. New data from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) shows that wind energy installations outperformed both coal and gas last year in the European Union. In fact, Europe closed down and retired more coal and gas capacity than they commissioned in 2014.   Across the 28 EU member states, the wind industry built a total of 11,791 MW to the European grid. In comparison, coal and gas added only 3,305 MW and 2,338 MW respectively of new capacity. The wind energy capacity increased by 3.8 percent in 2014 and cumulative installations is now standing at 128.8 GW in the EU. Wind power now cover 10 percent of the EU’s electricity consumption, up from 8% the year before. All in all, renewable power plants (and not just wind energy) accounted for 79.1% of new installations during 2014; 21.3GW of a total 26.9GW. Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said: "These numbers very much show Europe's continued commitment to renewable and wind energy. But this is no time for complacency. The uncertainty over the regulatory framework for the energy sector is a threat to the continued drive toward sustainable and homegrown energy that will guarantee Europe's energy security and competitiveness for the long-term." A Davos report, released earlier in January, warned that badly located renewable power plants are hampering the production from these new installations – and costing Europe as much as $100 billion. A solution to these sub-optimal deployments of renewable energy resources could be a more unified European energy market. “It's time for Europe's political leaders to create a truly European Energy Union and send a clear signal of their support for the shift to a secure and sustainable energy system,” Becker said. “Political will on their part is an essential piece of the puzzle.” These new EWEA-statistics also shows something worrying. This renewable energy transformation is not happening equally across Europe. Almost 60 percent all-new installations were in just two countries: Germany and the United Kingdom. These two country’s installed 5,279MW and 1,736MW respectively of new wind energy in 2014. "What we've seen in 2014 is a concentration of the industry in key countries," Becker said, adding "while markets in eastern and southern Europe continue to struggle in the face of erratic and harsh changes in the policy arena. We expect this concentration to continue into 2015." New wind power installations also saw a dramatic decline in countries such as Spain, Italy and Denmark who all installed much less wind than in previous years. Denmark might be nearing “peak wind” as it saw a drop in installations by over 90 percent. You can read the full EWEA report here.
  2. The sound system was playing Bella Ciao. Flags of parties from across the left and the continent wiggled as their bearers danced and sang along. Ouzo flowed and fireworks flared. We could have been outside a G8 summit in the early noughties. Only the explosives weren’t directed at police lines, but in the air. The crowd chanting at the politician wasn’t protesting. It was cheering. An international movement which has become very good at licking its wounds was pretty quick to learn to celebrate. In fact, with perhaps 10% of the people at the rally in front of the Athens academy coming from outside Greece, this was very much a party for the European left – in the beer, loud music, and dancing sense of the word. But also, of course, in the political sense. So I should be clear. When I say that Syriza’s victory is in a sense the first Green government in Europe, it’s obviously not just Greens. Because Syriza is effectively a merger between most of the left wing parties in Greece, most left parties in Europe can reasonably see it as their sister. It has already been seen for a couple of years now as the archetypal party of the European left. A Green Government? Having said that, there is a remarkable extent to which Syriza is in practice a Green government. First, the Greek Green Party is a part of the Syriza coalition – they got one MP elected, who was promptly promoted to deputy environment minister. Secondly, as Kostas Lukeris, a member of the Greek Green Party’s ruling council put it to me over souvlaki on Syntagma square on the day of the vote “they adopted all of our platform”. Look through the policy commitments of Tsipras’ government and the manifestoes of the Green parties in the UK, and you’ll find little to separate them. Some of these similarities are unsurprising, and could be found within the platform of most contemporary parties of the left – rejecting austerity, opposition to privatisation. Both have campaigned for a crack down on tax dodging. Both are generally against corporate domination of politics and the corruption that comes with it. Some of the similarities are on issues which haven’t always united those on the left but which tend to today. Twenty years ago, there were active socialist traditions which saw feminism, anti-racism, LGBTIQ rights and environmentalism as “bourgeois deviationalism” – as distractions from class struggle. Many within these traditions were in practice homophobes, sexists and smokestack industrialists who saw environmentalism as standing in the way of their five year plans. Look to George Galloway’s comments on Julian Assange, and it’s clear that these sorts of people are still around. But they are not Syriza – whose colours are green and purple as well as red, indicating that they are proud feminists and environmentalists as well as socialists. Photo: Alexis Tsipras, newly-elected Prime Minister of Greece and party leader of Syriza. I could go even further: they support decriminalisation of drugs, cutting military expenditure and the introduction of direct democracy in some areas. They have already scrapped two of the tiers of school exams. These are not policies universally supported across the left. But they are to be found in Green manifestoes across Europe. Then there are a few issues on which the original Syriza coalition needed to be pushed. When the Greek Greens discussed merging into the broader party, they first published a list of twenty one demands – policies Syriza would have to adopt in order to get this support – the things they didn’t already agree on. The list includes independence from fossil fuels within 20 years, addressing desertification by supporting forests, protection of fisheries; participatory processes in public services, equal treatment of the islands in what they see as an over-centralised state. Syriza accepted every one of the policies. None of this was easy for Greens – who ended up shedding their more liberal wing to the Potami list (“the hipster party”, as my Green friend called it) and a couple of egos to another left alignment before they joined the Syriza list. But ultimately, it’s looking like the party can celebrate a significant victory in part as a product of its pains. The Left Has Changed None of this feels at all surprising, for two reasons. Firstly, the left across Europe, probably across the world, has changed significantly in the past twenty years. It’s no longer acceptable to ignore the interlocking struggles against different forms of oppression. Since 9/11 and the Iraq war, it’s been impossible to avoid accepting anti-imperialist arguments. Since the financial crash, you can’t really be progressive and ignore macro-economics and the struggle against neoliberalism. As the climate has changed, few reject the basics premises of environmentalism any more. In other words, where the reference points for the left were once where various groupings stood on particular bits of the history of the Soviet Union, a new generation has emerged where the relevant questions are very different. The cracks of the past have started to heal in the heat of history. In these contexts, it’s not surprising that we’ve seen a bit of a realignment, with much of the socialist left moving into a space once occupied more uniquely by (some in) the Greens, and some of Europe’s Greens (including those in the UK) getting better at articulating explicitly anti-neoliberal economic arguments. In a sense, Syriza is a product of those forces. Secondly, it’s worth understanding Syriza’s own specific history. The party is a coalition, but its biggest section, the one from which Alexis Tsipras came, was called Synaspismós tīs Aristerás tōn Kinīmátōn kai tīs Oikologías. Or, in English “Coalition of Left, of Movements, and Ecology”. Its roots were in Eurocommunism – the Gramscian corner of communism which was critical of the Soviet Union. In England, its sister organisation “Democratic Left” went through various permiatations and ended up as the campaign group “Unlock Democracy”. Democratic Left Scotland still exists, and provides a useful non-partisan forum to discuss politics under the slogans “there’s more to politics than parties” and “radical, feminist, green”. Their colours are, like Syriza, still red, green and purple. Its membership includes the Scottish Green Party co-convener, Maggie Chapman and many other prominent people in the party (and, less significantly, me). Eurocommunists were in many ways like the old New Left – accepting of broader struggles ‘beyond the class struggle’. Likewise, they tended to have a more discursive rather than dogmatic approach to social change, keen to bring together coalitions and to constantly step back and reappraise what they ought to be doing, rather than following any one handbook. On a night out with a senior figure in Syriza’s youth wing, they jokingly emphasised this point when being indecisive about which pub to go to. An International Movement If all of this sounds a little like Green Parties, that’s, essentially, because it is. Look at the lineage of Greens across Europe, and you’ll repeatedly find it criss-crossing with a mixture of the New Left and Euro-communists. The Dutch GreenLeft Party, for example, was formed from a merger between its Euro-communists and others, and prominent English Green member Bea Campbell was once one of Britain’s best known Euro-communist activist. Let me put it another way: each country has its own history, context and traditions. But many of the people who have ended up in the Green Party in the UK come very much from the same political tradition as those who are now running Greece: a mixture of the anti-capitalist but anti-Soviet left of the 70s and 80s, the anti-globalisation then anti-Iraq War movement of the 90s and noughties and the anti-austerity movement of the twenty teens. This heritage isn’t unique to Greens by any means, it’s a history on which much of the European left can draw. But Greens have as much right to lay claim to it as does anyone else. Driving to a polling station in Athens’ working class docks area with the national campaign co-ordinator of the Greek Green Party, he told me that he had been surprised how keen Syriza had been to include Greens in their coalition – they had never had an MP, and didn’t bring with them a huge swaith of votes. But then, he said, he realised the cause of their enthusiasm. They needed European partners. Adding the European Greens to their list of sister parties brings a big block of support across the continent. And perhaps most importantly, there are lessons to be learnt. As they dance to the music of time, most of the left in Greece has found itself aligned – at least for now. While the instruments across Europe may be different, the drums are thumping the same beats. In the UK, by far the biggest of Syriza’s sister parties is the Greens. And, with Plaid Cymru backing a Green vote in England, perhaps some of the spirit of collaboration could, like all the best tunes, be infectious?
  3. Air pollution in Europe cost society up to €189 billion (about US $235 billion) in 2012 alone, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said in a new assessment report. Over the period 2008-2012 the estimated cost was at least €329 billion and possibly up to €1053 billion. The greenhouse gases and air pollution from Europe’s industry mainly comes from coal-fired power plants located predominately in Germany and Eastern Europe. The majority of the damage costs between 2008 and 2012 were caused by just 1 percent of Europe’s industrial facilities. The EEA research show that 26 of the top 30 industrial facilities that are polluting the worst and causing the highest damage are power-generating facilities which are primarily fuelled by dirty coal and lignite. Eight of the top 30 facilities are located in Germany and six are in Poland – two countries that rely heavily on coal. Germany and Poland are followed by Romania which has four of the dirtiest facilities; three are located in Bulgaria and the United Kingdom, two are in Greece; and the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy and Slovakia all have one each. The combined cost for air pollution in Europe is equal to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Finland or half the GDP of Poland – a country which has opposed tougher EU and IPCC climate targets. The EEA calculated the costs of air pollution on health costs, damage to buildings, reduced agricultural yields, lost working days from sickness caused by air pollution, among other things. “While we all benefit from industry and power generation, this analysis shows that the technologies used by these plants impose hidden costs on our health and the environment,” Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said. “Industry is also only part of the picture – it is important to recognise that other sectors, primarily transport and agriculture, also contribute to poor air quality."” Another EEA report released earlier this month calculates the human costs of air pollution in European cities. The study show that while various policies have indeed improved air quality overall, air pollution continues to be a major environmental health hazard in Europe. EEA calculates that air pollution is responsible for causing workers to go sick, resulting in higher costs for health care systems. According to the environmental agency, air pollution is responsible for an estimated 400 000 premature deaths in Europe in 2011. "Air pollution is still high in Europe," EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said. "It leads to high costs: for our natural systems, our economy, the productivity of Europe’s workforce, and most seriously, the general health of Europeans." The two reports from EEA will come in handy for EU policymakers who are currently reconsidering proposals to tighten air pollution laws put forward last year by the former European Commission. According to documents obtained by Reuters, the new conservative European Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker, is considering to weaken or even scrap these proposed new air quality laws.
  4. Countries such as Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, which have many large facilities, contribute the most to total damage costs. However, the ordering of countries changes significantly if damage costs are corrected to reflect the output of national economies. Emissions from a number of eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia and Poland) then become more important.

    © EEA

  5. Fifty percent of the damage costs were caused by just 147 facilities, or 1 % of the 14 325 facilities assessed over the period 2008 to 2012. Three quarters of the total damage costs were caused by the emissions of 568 facilities — 4 % of the total number. Eight of the top 30 facilities are located in Germany; six are in Poland; four are in Romania; three are in Bulgaria and the United Kingdom, two are located in Greece; and the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy and Slovakia all have one each.

    © EEA

  6. Air pollution has serious health impacts, a recent WHO study concluded that about 7 million people around the world died in 2012 as a result from exposure to air pollution. And it’s expected that 29 000 people die too early as a result of air pollution in the UK alone. Now the UK government has admitted that they don’t expect to meet EU’s legal limits for nitrogen dioxide air pollution in at least three major cities until after 2030 – over 20 years too late and five years later than previously admitted. The UK was supposed to meet EU’s legal air pollution limits back in 2010 but the progress to reduce the emissions has been slow. The failure to meet the deadline has resulted in legal procedures against the UK which could result in fines of £300m a year. EU Commission lawyers has described the case as “a matter of life and death” and said this would be “perhaps the longest running infringement of EU law in history”. Judges at the Court of Justice of EU, where the legal case is currently being handled, was told earlier last week by representatives from ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation, and European Commission lawyers that the UK Government won’t meet nitrogen dioxide limits in London, Birmingham and Leeds until after 2030. Representatives from the UK Government tried to suppress this information using rules on legal privilege, but later during the proceedings they admitted to it as it became clear that the DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK) had published information in support of this claim the day before on its website. “It’s bad enough that the government has no intention of complying with these limits in the foreseeable future. It’s even worse that they’re trying to hide behind legal procedural rules to keep this quiet,” Alan Andrews, ClientEarth lawyer, said in a statement. “Another five years of delay means thousands more people will die or be made seriously ill. The UK needs to act now to get deadly diesel vehicles out of our towns and cities.” Until now, the UK government has maintained it would meet nitrogen dioxide limits by 2025 in London and by 2020 in 15 other zones. But the new admissions means that London is expected to meet the targets five years later than previously acknowledged, and 10 years later for Birmingham and Leeds. The air pollution reduction target has also been delayed and pushed back in many other cities around the UK. “These air quality rules should already have been met. Government, councils and the London Mayor must make this issue an urgent priority, and end this national scandal,” Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said. “Rapid steps to ban the dirtiest vehicles and cut traffic levels must be taken, and road-building plans that will simply add to the problem should be abandoned.”
  7. Recycling rates in Europe

    Ever wondered which European country is the best at recycling? The graph below shows the recycling rates in each country in the European Union, and the result might surprise some.     Austria, Germany and Belgium has the higest recycling rates in EU, this means they have recycled the largest proportion of municipal waste in Europe. Sweden - my own country - which is known for its good recycling efforts is far behind.    Overall 39 percent of municipal waste is recycled in Europe, a significant improvement on 23 percent in 2001 and 35 percent in 2010. By looking at the graph, it's hard to see how the majority of the countries will be able to meet EU-mandated targets to recycle 50 percent of household and similar waste by 2020. Each person in the EU-28 generates 92 kg of municipal waste every year - with the majority of the waste going into landfills.   How well is your country performing?
  8. The warning, issued in a new report by the EU Commission’s Joint Research Center, provides the most compelling evidence for climate action in the European Union. The study (pdf) offers a comprehensive view of the impacts of unrestrained climate change on agriculture, rivers, coasts, tourism, energy, forests, transport infrastructure and human health in Europe. The authors of the study say their estimates are conservative – as in, they underestimate the negative effects from climate change. The study is based on current population and economic growth levels which is used to make predictions 60 years into the future. But things change, and Europe will look completely different in terms of population levels and economic growth and development just 60 years from now. This means that the consequences of inaction could be much higher. Some impacts such as damages to biodiversity or ecosystem losses cannot be monetised and have therefore been left out from the study's calculations of welfare loss. Abrupt climate change or the consequences of passing climate tipping points (such as the Arctic sea-ice melting) are also not integrated in the analysis. Despite this, the study paints a grim enough picture. Over 8,000 square kilometres of forest could burn down if Europe fails to take adequately action against climate change. There will also be extensive damage from floods, which could exceed costs of €10bn every year by 2080. At the same time, coastal damage from rising sea levels will treble and amount to losses of €42 billion. Drought affected areas is expected to increase by sevenfold, and as a result the losses in the agriculture sector is expected to reach around €18 billion. Premature death from heat stress or other climate-related impacts will soar to 200 000 people annually. All in all, the European Union will lose €190 billion annually in economic losses from unrestrained climate change, which is estimated at a net loss of 1.8% of Europe's total GDP. Southern and south central Europe would be the worst-hit regions and bear 70% of the burden. If Europe adheres to the current international target of 2 degrees Celsius there will still be consequences, the study notes. But they won’t be as severe. The total bill would be reduced by at least €60 billion, save 23 000 lives from premature deaths, and improve the overall quality of life for Europeans by reducing air pollution. “No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all,” said Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, in response to the new study. “Why pay for the damages when we can invest in reducing our climate impacts and becoming a competitive low-carbon economy?” “Taking action and taking a decision on the 2030 climate and energy framework in October, will bring us just there and make Europe ready for the fight against climate change,” Hedegaard said. Unfortunately there are EU member states, such as Poland and other eastern states, which are willing to oppose new and tougher climate goals for Europe. So despite this study, and other economic and climate analysis, Europe remains divided on which approach to choose – climate action or business-as-usual.
  9. Ahead of this week's European parliament elections (22-25 May), PollWatch has published it's latest and final prediction.     EPP, the conservative party group, would receive the majority of the seats in the parliament, according to their pre-election polls. The Socialists would be the second largest political group. EPP would get 217 seats, 16 more than the Socialists. The Greens would actually lose seats, going from their current 58 seats to 44 seats. This would mean that the main EPP candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker could soon become EU's most powerful politician.   This is just sad, albeit not surprising. Juncker is boring, white, old, and a man. He is basically the epitome of conservatism. It would also mean bad news for the climate and our environment with an EU that will continue to lack political will to combat the climate crisis. In debates, Juncker has used the term "floodgates" to talk about migrants. He has claimed he "don't know anything" about the TTIP mandate. And his political group supports "fracking" and austerity measures, among many things.   If you are eligible to vote in the European elections, please use that right and vote for a greener Europe with more solidarity.
  10. European Parliament elections 2014

    The European Parliament Elections start today with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands [22/5/14] Tomorrow - 23/5/14 - Ireland and the Czech Republic go to the polls. [The Czech Republic citizens will be voting over two days 23/5 and 24/5.] 24/5/14 - Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, French Overseas Territories and the Czech Republic 25/5/14 - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Spain go to the polls.
  11. Eu debate

    The candidates for the European Commission presidency debating on 15 May, 2014. From left, Alexis Tsipras from Greece, Denmark's Ska Keller, Germany's Martin Schulz,Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, and Belgium's Guy Verhofstadt.
  12. Today the first polls for the European Parliament election opened. People in the Netherlands and Britain will be among the first Europeans to cast their ballots in the marathon election spanning 28 countries in four days. And this election might be the most important one in recent history. Extreme far-right parties are making gains throughout Europe, spreading dangerous xenophobia and hate. And a low voter turnout could be in their favor. It’s therefore important to participate and vote for democracy, for equality and human rights. Let’s show these hateful and ignorant people that we Europeans have learned from our dark past. That we won’t forget. And that we won’t accept their sick and misguided worldview. It’s an important election, for many reasons. But the most pressing issue of our time is obviously climate change. It is the crisis that could destroy everything that we and generations before us have worked so hard to achieve. We have known about climate change for decades now. But we have done nothing. And we can’t blame it on ignorance – that we didn’t know any better. In a sense, the climate crisis could really be the biggest political failure in human history. The European Union is the world’s largest economy. The largest share of capital and the largest state budgets are all located within Europe. Together, Europe is an economic powerhouse capable of anything. But climate action cost. It’s estimated that we need to spend a few thousand billions annually to save the climate. That might sound like too much – especially in the wake of an economic crisis. But it’s not much compared to the EU’s total GDP, which is over €13 trillion. Combating climate change clearly wouldn’t hurt us economically. It wouldn’t even cost us one percent of EU’s total GDP. Climate change is supranational, it’s a global problem that doesn’t care about nations or borders. Therefore the solutions need to be supranational. And despite all it flaws – believe me, there are many – the European Union is this solution. Together, the European Union could create a common energy market that favors renewable energy over dirty fossil fuels. The EU could easily promote cleaner and greener modes of transportation. We could create a unified transportation system which makes it possible for people to travel across Europe, quickly and comfortable. There are of course many other examples. But none of this is possible to accomplish for nations on their own – it would simply take too long. And it doesn't help that the current energy market is based on national monopolies and cartels. These are corporations that profits from tariffs, restrictions and lousy energy transfers between countries. Changing this outdated business model is a daunting task for the EU alone, but it will be even harder to accomplish if countries try to negotiate possible solutions with neighboring countries on their own. It would be like the current railroad system, where Swedish trains cannot travel in Europe because the railway tracks and systems differs between countries. A unified Europe is something we should strive for – it’s in our best interests. But which party should get your vote? The conservatives doesn’t seem to grasp the severity of climate change. The liberals put their faith in the market, hoping the market will solve the climate crisis on its own terms - the very same solution they advocate for every problem. The Social Democrats seems too keen to safeguard national economic and industry interests. And the socialists, well they unfortunately don’t see the possibilities of a unified Europe. For a democrat, the remaining choice are the European Greens. They are the only political group that has constantly pushed the hardest for human rights, solidarity, and real and meaningful action against climate change in the EU. But PollWatch published its final election prediction a few days ago. And according to their numbers, the conservative party group, the EPP, would again receive the majority of the seats in the parliament. The Social Democrats would be the second largest political group. EPP would get 217 seats, 16 more than the Social Democrats. The Greens would actually lose seats, going from their current 58 seats to 44 seats. This would mean that the main EPP candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker could soon become EU's most powerful politician. This would be a sad outcome. Juncker is basically the epitome of conservatism. He is old, white and male. In debates, Juncker has used the term "floodgates" to talk about migrants. He has claimed he "don't know anything" about the TTIP mandate. And his political group - which includes abortion opponents, homophobes and nationalists - supports "fracking" and austerity measures, among many things. Juncker and the EPP would surely mean bad news for our environment, and an EU that will continue to lack the political will to modernize and combat climate change head on. It’s clear that the green voice must be strong if the European Parliament should make any meaningful progress on climate. I therefore ask you to take part in the elections, and that you vote for a greener and fairer Europe.
  13. EP 2014, pre-election poll

    From the album Random images

    PollWatch's final pre-election poll.
  14. Every year around 100 billion plastic bags are manufactured, sold and used on the European market. In 2010, there was 200 plastic bags for each person living in Europe. As one can imagine, many of these plastic bags end up as litter in nature where they pollute the environment, especially aquatic ecosystems, and harm wildlife. But this past Tuesday, the European Union moved one step closer to reduce the use of plastic bags in Europe. It was the European Parliament which voted in favor of a proposal from the European Commission to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic bags by half in 2017 and by 80 percent in 2019, compared to 2010 levels. It’s hoped that the so-called light bags, which are mainly used to wrap up loose food, will gradually be replaced by biodegradable and compostable bags by 2019 in Europe. The vote, however, was just the first reading of the bill and the future of this legislation will be decided on after the upcoming European Parliament elections at the end of May. “MEPs have today voted to significantly strengthen draft EU rules aimed at reducing plastic bag use and waste, notably to include obligatory European reduction targets and a requirement that plastic bags come at a cost,” said Margrete Auken, a Danish MEP who is a member of the Green group, shortly after the vote. “As front-running countries have demonstrated, dramatically reducing the consumption of these disposable bags is easily achievable with a coherent policy.” This reduction could be achieved by imposing taxes or fees on plastic bags, issuing advertising rules or even banning the use of plastic bags in certain shops. But it will be up to each member state to enforce their own rules and guidelines. This legislation advocates for a mandatory charging of carrier bags in the food sector and a recommendation to charge for plastic bags in the non-food sector. “The huge and growing consumption rates of plastic bags - 100 billion bags per year in the EU alone - demonstrates a reckless waste of resources. Plastic bags are a symbol of our throw-away society and unsustainable lifestyles,” said the European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potocnik in a statement. “We use them for a few minutes, but their legacy lasts for hundreds of years, often as harmful microscopic particles that are damaging the environment worldwide, especially the marine environment. In the North Sea, the stomachs of 94 percent of all birds contain plastic,” Potocnik added.
  15. A new nationwide poll in Poland shows that 88 percent of its citizens want their country to shift to renewables, take serious action against climate change and for their political leaders to stop blocking important EU climate action.   "The vast majority of Poles want their country to take strong action on climate change and shift to renewable energy. This is the result of a representative nationwide poll by TNS Polska in March 2014 commissioned by campaigning community Avaaz," writes Diana Maciąga over at 350.org. "This poll shows very clearly that Polish citizens want our country to take strong action on climate change and shift to renewable energy sources. Our government has to stop blocking EU climate action and we cannot allow private projects such as Elektrownia Północ, which put us on the worst possible path for our energy future."   Read it: Poles want energy transition to renewables = no new coal!
  16. Ska Keller, from Germany, and José Bové, from France, have been selected to lead the European Green Party in their upcoming European campaign. After closing the polls yesterday, the election result was presented at a press conference earlier this morning. "I’m looking forward to an enthusiastic election campaign, for the whole of the European Union," Ska Keller said during today's press conference. "It will be our task as top candidates to bring a European dimension to the national Green campaigns." "In our campaign, we Greens will be clear about what our Green alternatives are for Europe: a fair and Green way out of the crisis, putting youth unemployment on the top of the agenda, protecting the rights of refugees and migrants, fair trade not free trade, more ambitious climate targets, and more democracy," Keller said. The European Green Party, which is a transnational political party consisting of 40 green parties from throughout the European Union, asked people whom shared their "values" to choose their party's two green leading candidates for the upcoming European Elections, which are held between 22 and 25 May later this year. This was the first ever Europe-wide online election for a parliamentary group in the European parliament. But the election had quite a low voter turnout with only 22,676 people participating. It's therefore doubtful that the result is representative for the members of the green parties in Europe.
  17. The European Green Party, which is a transnational political party consisting of 40 green parties from throughout the European Union, are asking you to choose the two green leading candidates for the upcoming European Elections which are held between 22 and 25 May this year. This is the first ever Europe-wide online election for a parliamentary group in the European parliament. José Bové, Monica Frassoni, Rebecca Harms and Ska Keller are the four contenders in the Green Primary and have participated in live-chats and debates in several European cities, such as Berlin, Prague and London. All four of them are green politicians from across the EU who want to represent the Greens on a European level in the European elections 2014. Before they become contenders of the Green Primary, they were nominated by their national Green party and their candidacy had to be supported by at least four Green parties from across the EU. In an effort to counteract declining trust in the EU, the European Greens wants to give people a stronger voice in European decision-making. And they see the Green Primary as a way to reinvigorate European democracy. “This is an important step in European democracy,” EGP Co-Chair Reinhard Bütikofer MEP said. “Amidst the declining trust in EU institutions, we need new ideas. The Greens are the first to invite citizens to select our two leading candidates in an open Europe-wide online primary. Our innovative e-democracy project promotes the idea of giving Europe back to the people.” Voting ends tomorrow (Janurary 28) at 18:00 CET. So if you are an EU citizen, over the age of 16, and you share “the values, goals and work of the European Green Party” you can help choose the two leading candidates for the European Green Party. To vote, just go to www.greenprimary.eu and register. You will need an email address and a mobile phone. You can also vote with your smartphone or tablet. The contender with the highest number of votes will be elected. The second winner will be the person with the next highest number of votes who is from another national list to ensure that the two leading candidates represent different parts of Europe. Meet the four candidates: Rebecca Harms My political work began in 1975 in the German anti-nuclear movement. As Co-Chair of the Greens/EFA Group in the EU Parliament, I have always fought hard for our ideals and aims. The continuing dispute over energy transition and climate protection tells me that we Greens, being a relatively small party, need not just passion, but a lot of patience for our big ideas. This also applies to Europe. We want and we need to take new steps on the path towards political union. We need passion and patience to regain the trust of the people for this idea. In our European campaign, I want to speak out against shortsighted policies and campaign for sustainability, solidarity and a good quality of life. Learn more about Rebecca Harms. Ska Keller I grew up in the Eastern Bloc, but have lived Europe for as long as I can remember. Anti-racism and internationalism became guiding principles as I worked on cross-border solidarity in my home on the Polish border. Young Greens and Green Parties of Europe spoke to this in a way that never quietened, but still calls me today. For our shared environment, for a united Europe of peace and freedom, capable of facing social, economic and international challenges, for the things that hold us together. A Europe of solidarity of generations and regions; for all people, against austerity. With your support, I will campaign in all parts of Europe to convince people that now is the time to vote green. Learn more about Ska Keller. José Bové Member of the European Parliament since 2009, I am first of all, a farmer of the world. On the Larzac, where I milked sheep for years, I struggled to save my land against the army. From Seattle to Porto Alegre, with NGOs, I claimed that our world is not for sale! Since 1970, when my opposition to nuclear power started, my life has been guided by ecology. I fought GMO with civil disobedience and ended up in jail, but in the end, we secured their banning. Years of mobilisation forced the French government to ban fracking. With the Greens, I am ready to be one of the 2 leading candidates for 2014 for an ecological Europe, the only subversive dream which empowers citizens and protect our planet. Learn more about José Bové. Monica Frassoni To restore our self-confidence and have a positive influence on world affairs, we have to transform the next EP Elections into a real competition. We must do it noisily by stirring controversies and debates with the other parties, by mobilising our members and finding new support. We have to convince citizens that they have a say in EU affairs and that, unless they speak up, EU will split again. If they don't, we will not solve the crisis and our collective irrelevance will be inevitable. My decision to run in this Primary stems from an ambition to participate in a team with the other contenders to make our proposals visible and credible across the EU, well ahead of the EU elections. Learn more about Monica Frassoni.
  18. The issue of waste plastic is of huge concern globally and in the UK alone, approximately 4.5 million tonnes of plastic enters the waste stream every year. As a keen reader of Green Blog I thought that it might be interesting to summarise the latest developments in the field of recycled packaging, here in the UK and Europe. Approximately half of the EU's waste plastic currently ends up being sent to landfill, as highlighted by a Green Paper released by the European Commission in early March. This is obviously a huge waste of energy - in fact, disposing of waste plastic in landfill has been estimated as the equivalent of burying 12 million tonnes of crude oil annually. In a world of finite energy resources this is clearly unsustainable and unacceptable. The Green Paper also highlighted the problem of single use plastic bags. It is estimated that 200 plastic bags are used per person each year in the UK, a statistic that has led some to call for non-biodegradable carrier bags to be banned. In fact, non-biodegradable bags were banned in Italy over two years ago - with other European countries taking steps to discourage their use. Ireland, Bulgaria and Denmark have introduced a plastic bag tax which has hugely reduced the number of bags used.In Ireland there was a 90% fall in their use following introduction of the tax, figures mirrored in the UK when leading retailer Marks & Spencer started to charge for bags and saw a drop in their use of 80%. Northern Ireland is the latest country to implement a carrier bag tax, when in April retailers began charging at least five pence (eight US cents) a bag, with the proceeds being forwarded to the British government's Department of the Environment. Urgent action is required because, as many of us realise, our environment is being massively contaminated by plastic - a fact starkly portrayed recently in the documentary Trashed. The documentary highlights various landscapes that have been polluted by waste, including the "˜Great Pacific Garbage Patch', a massive concentration of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean. Seaborne waste is not merely visually unpleasant - it is a real danger to animal and human health. Plastic particles in the sea attract chlorinated dioxins, which are then eaten by marine creatures. Humans ingest the harmful chemicals when they eat fish and other sea life. As well as wasting energy resources, the disposal of plastic through burial and incineration is hugely damaging to the environment. Greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are emitted when waste breaks down or is burnt, and these gases contribute to global warming. Raised global temperatures cause ice caps to melt, releasing into the oceans even more toxins that had previously been stored in the ice. Recycling waste plastic is a good way of cutting down on the amount sent to landfill or incinerated. Here in the UK 92% of local authorities collect plastic bottles for recycling; bottles are typically made from two of the most easily recyclable plastics, PET and HDPE. Some plastics are unfortunately harder to recycle - the type used to make yoghurt pots and margarine tubs, for example - but large investments are currently being made in the UK into new plastics recycling technology, so hopefully it will not be too long until we significantly reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill or incinerated. Whilst we still have a long way to go, the signs are very positive that here in the EU we are starting to take the problem of waste plastic seriously.