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Found 39 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. Plans to build the world’s biggest offshore wind farm has just been approved by the UK’s energy secretary. The massive offshore wind farm, named the Dogger Bank Creyke Beck project, will be located around 130 km off the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire. It will actually comprise of two offshore wind farms (Creyke Beck A and B.) with an installed capacity of up to 1.2GW each. But once built, it will act as a single wind farm and have up to 400 turbines generating a maximum of 2.4GWh per year – enough electricity to power almost two million homes. This means that this wind farm alone would fulfil 2.5 percent of the UK’s total electricity needs. The offshore wind project is also expected to boost the local economy. The government estimates that the wind farm will directly create up to 900 green jobs in Yorkshire and Humberside. “Making the most of Britain’s home grown energy is creating jobs and businesses in the UK, getting the best deal for consumers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports,” Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said. “Wind power is vital to this plan, with £14.5 billion invested since 2010 into an industry which supports 35,400 jobs.” RenewableUK, the wind industry association, says the project could create up to 4750 direct and indirect jobs and generate more than £1.5 billion for the UK economy. It’s estimated that the two offshore wind farms will cost somewhere between £6 billion to £8 billion. But the project could face construction problems and delays as it would be the furthest offshore farm that have ever been attempted. RenewableUK’s Director of Offshore Renewables Nick Medic said: “It will surely be considered as one of the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the wind industry. A colossal wind energy power station right in the middle of the North Sea, comprising hundreds of offshore wind turbines over 80 miles off shore.” “It is a project that pushes the offshore engineering envelope - demonstrating how far this technology has evolved in the ten short years since the first major offshore wind farm was installed in North Hoyle just 5 miles from shore.” A date for when construction starts has not yet been set, but is likely to be years away. The Forewind consortium, which the project is being developed by, has yet to make a final investment decision. The consortium includes the Scottish and Southern Energy, Germany’s RWE, and Norway’s Statoil and Statkraft.
  3. 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?
  4. Members of the UK Parliament group, the Environmental Audit Committee, have in a report released last Monday called for a moratorium on the controversial shale gas extraction technology; fracking. This comes in the same week that Lancashire City Council in the North of England, was meant to have decided upon whether to grant fracking company Cuadrilla permission for two shale gas wells. On Wednesday the council said that they would need to defer the decision for eight weeks in response to legal advice. Half of the Environmental Audit Committee’s 16 members called for a moratorium on fracking in the report, which had been ordered following an inquiry on the environmental risk of the activity. The Committee consists of seven Conservative MPs, six Labour MPs, two Liberal Democrat MPs and one Green MP. In related news, on Monday, a cross party group of ten MPs also proposed a fracking moratorium motion in Parliament. One of the MPs, Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi, said: "The public have serious concerns about fracking that need to be listened to. In Lancashire where the council is set to decide on whether to allow fracking imminently, two thirds of the public are opposed. The Government should follow the example of New York and bring in a moratorium so that the risks of fracking can be properly assessed." That motion failed overwhelmingly when a majority of MP’s voted against it, including a large group of Labour MPs. However Labour did manage to insert amendments into the Government’s Infrastructure Bill that would tighten fracking regulation, which were subsequently accepted. Last week, Labour said that if they win May’s general election they will impose stricter regulations on the fracking industry, including banning fracking activities near water aquifers. Supporters of the growing anti fracking movement will say that the case for banning fracking is getting stronger, highlighting decisions like the one by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo decision to ban fracking in the New York state in the US. Environmental group Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Donna Hume stated: ‘’The call for a UK moratorium by senior cross party MPs is a further blow to an industry still reeling from the recent ban on fracking in New York State due to health risks. The truth is people do not want a high-impact fossil fuel industry that would leave a legacy of pollution and disruption and would lock the world into further climate change.’’ But the UK government remains adamant that a fracking revolution should take place in this country, having unveiled a series of tax breaks for the fracking industry and saying it would be foolish not to relish the golden opportunity that a shale gas revolution would bring. Meanwhile Cuadrilla have asked for today’s Lancashire City Council decision to be deferred. Cuadrilla was responding to the news that planning officials were encouraging the council to deny the permit for the two wells and made amendments to their application. It was due to these amendments that the Council was asked to defer for eight weeks for legal reasons, angering anti fracking campaigners. The Council said they regretted the decision but said they were left with no choice due to the legal advice being presented to them.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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.”
  9. Check out this potential European high-speed rail network that connects all the major European cities and offer Europeans a fast, comfortable and eco-friendly mode of transportation. It's just too bad that with the current politics this is just a fantasy. But it's a fantasy that could become a reality if we just set our minds to it (just like the >DESERTEC project).   How would you design this high-speed rail network? Which cities would you connect?  
  10. Tesla Map Europe

    From the album Random images

  11. 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?
  12. 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.
  13. Will Germany really ban fracking?

    The German government says it will soon move to ban fracking in the country until 2021, which would make it the latest nation (after France and Bulgaria) to eliminate the destructive natural gas drilling process. In a press briefing, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environmental Minister Barbara Hendricks noted that legislation will be drawn up and approved in the final half of the year. "There won't be fracking of shale gas or coal gas for economic reasons in the foreseeable future," confirmed Hendricks. However, one can read in between the lines and see that there is still room for exploitation by natural gas corporations. Case in point: there are a number of "special circumstances" which would allow fracking to circumvent the legislation. An example is that the law's language states that "unconventional" fracking cannot take place more than 3,000 meters below the surface - but "conventional" fracking can. While this will still effectively prevent fracking from, in most cases, contaminating groundwater, it will not prevent it from triggering small earthquakes. Political parties including the Green Party have reacted with strong criticism; the chairman of the Greens' parliamentary group, Oliver Krischer, went as far as to call it a "fracking-enabling law," recognizing the distinction between this potentially deceptive proposal and an actual fracking ban - "a regulation that does not allow fracking in Germany and without loopholes that are as big as a barn door." Hubertus Zdebel of the Left party agreed, noting, "Fracking must be banned in Germany without any exceptions. To say that there is a fracking ban in the paper is window dressing. They want to enforce a regulation which mostly allows fracking under the guise of an alleged ban." Citing estimates obtained from the Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources, he added, "The planned restrictions will still allow the exploitation of half of all unconventional natural gas deposits in Germany." He also said there are other potential risks associated with allowing deep fracking, including uncontrolled methane gas emissions. Francisco Szekely, writer for EnergyBiz, remarked that the legislation is likely a play to quell environmentalists' fears while also reducing Germany's dependency upon Russia for gas imports. He said, however, "This decision is not a sustainable solution. The temporary relief of geopolitics should not be achieved at the long-term cost of environmental degradation. To put our economy and our world on a path to sustainability, governments and companies need to focus on doing real good for society and not just doing less harm, as seems to be the case" with this fracking issue. "With evidence of climate change becoming clearer than ever," he added, Germany should be "thinking carefully before allowing fracking in their territory. Moreover, whatever short-term promise fracking offers is also taking our sense of urgency away from transitioning to more renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power." So in short, one might conclude, Germany's "fracking ban" may be little more than a smoke-and-mirror tactic. Said Szekely: "To quote Albert Einstein, 'We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.'"
  14. Earlier this month, the parliament in Finland passed a new climate change act that obliges the country to reduce its emissions with 80 percent by 2050. Ville Niinisto, the Minister of the Environment, said that the new climate change legislation "is an attempt to establish Finland as a leader in low-carbon society." Besides the emission reduction targets the new climate change act also contains measures to improve climate policies and responsibilities for various state authorities, as well as a planning and monitoring system. The new climate change act mainly targets the public sector and does not impose any new obligations on businesses or other operators in Finland. Instead, the new climate laws will act as a tool for the Finnish Government and Parliament to make sure that the public sector and state authorities in the country reach their emission reduction targets. “Climate change and the efforts to mitigate it will change the world and human activities substantially in the coming decades,” Niinisto said. “The Climate Change Act will improve the operations of the public sector in terms of smart societal planning, so that Finland will still remain competitive while we work to reduce climate emissions.” The climate change act includes both medium-term and long-term plans to make sure that Finland actually reaches their reduction targets by 2050. The long-term plan will contain various options for reaching the 80 percent reduction target and will have to be approved by the Parliament at least once every ten years. The medium-term plan concerns reduction measures against emissions outside the emissions trading scheme – such as traffic, housing and agriculture. These reduction measures will need to be approved once per election term. In a recent poll, surveying the public’s opinions about the new climate laws, nearly 80 percent of the respondents said that they approved the new act. So public support for the new climate laws seems to be strong, but criticism from industry representatives remains. But Niinisto rejects fears that the new climate laws could hamper the Finnish industry and bring about additional costs for businesses. “In fact, this is an opportunity for Finnish industries,” Niinisto argued. “It’s a breakthrough that so many sectors seek to address these issues. We will commit to the emissions cuts cost-effectively in order to ensure that the economy thrives and the well-being of citizens increases,” Niinisto assured. “We will avoid unreasonable costs.”
  15. Nuclear power plants In Europe

    From the album Random images

    This map shows nuclear power plants in Europe.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. EP 2014, pre-election poll

    From the album Random images

    PollWatch's final pre-election poll.
  21. An escalating conflict between Ukraine and Russia could impact the construction of Chernobyl’s radiation shield. The gigantic $2 billion containment shield – one of the largest moveable structures ever constructed – is designed to keep the still highly unstable nuclear power plant safe from radiation leaks for approximately 100 years. The containment shield was planned to be placed above the leaking reactor by the end of next year. But the economic crisis in Ukraine, following the revolution and the ongoing conflict with Russia, could delay the construction with up to two years. The project is “ecologically vital to the region and should go on regardless of what is currently happening,” said Roksolana Stojko-Lozynskyj, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee. “It’s not only a matter of safety for Ukraine but for Europe as a whole.” The European Union has pledged to cover €250 million of the cost for the Safe Confinement project with the US pledging €182 million, Germany €60 million, the UK €53 million, Russia €15 million and Ireland €8 million. “In our financial analysis we are of course making the working assumption that [the Safe Confinement project] will not receive any money from Ukraine in the near term,” Vince Novak, director of nuclear safety at the EBRD said in a recent interview with Nuclear Engineering magazine. Ukraine was expected to contribute €45 million towards the cost of building the gigantic concrete sarcophagus over the reactor. But Ukraine is currently broke and in the middle of a conflict which could, in the worst case scenario, trigger a war with Russia. Work on the containment shield was halted earlier this month. But the new containment shield is becoming increasingly crucial as the old sarcophagus, which was hastily put in place after the nuclear accident in 1986, is deteriorating rapidly. Just last winter parts of the concrete coating on the old shield collapsed. So the containment new shield is essential to keep the region safe from further radiation leaks. “What can never be forgotten is that the destruction caused by the deadly explosion at Reactor No 4 at Chernobyl was triggered by the release of just 3% of the radioactive material in the plant; the remaining 97% of this enormous ‘ticking timebomb’ of highly unstable nuclear material is still inside the crumbling Chernobyl complex,” said Adi Roche, CEO of the humanitarian aid agency Chernobyl Children International. Roche’s organization has already been forced to suspend its life-saving cardiac surgery programme located in Kharkiv in the east of Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict. It’s estimated that around 6000 children are born with genetic heart diseases and defects in Ukraine each year. Medical experts there say these conditions are linked to radiation leaks from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident. “Because the situation in Kharkiv is so tense and volatile we felt we had no option but to cancel the operations which the children and their parents had been hoping for”, said Adi Roche. “This is very tragic because there are long waiting lists for these vital life-saving operations”. The work on the containment shield resumed just a couple of days ago. But the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) describe the current timeline, with a deadline in 2015, as “ambitious.” And if the current conflict in Ukraine worsens, the new containment shield could be further delayed.
  22. Nuclear risk map

    From the album Random images

    The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster occurred 28 years ago today. The area around the reactor remains permanently evacuated, and many people's lives are still ruined. You can see the evacuation zones around Europe's plants on this map: www.europeangreens.eu/nuclear
  23. 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.
  24. Recycling rates europe

    From the album Random images

    This graph shows the recycling rate in each EU member state. The highest recycling rates can be found in Austria and Germany.

    © EEA