European Parliament Agrees Climate Change Package

December 18, 2008

The EU leads the world on measures to combat climate change. In a historic vote yesterday, the European Parliament voted to implement a package of proposals to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. These measures are now binding on the EU, and it is to be hoped that other major economies will now follow suit.

The targets of the European Union are: a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, and a 20% share for renewables in the EU energy mix.

The EU Press Release follows:

Revising the EU’s Emission Trading System – report by Avril Doyle (EPP-ED, IE)

The revised EU Emission Trading System (ETS) is a key tool for achieving the EU’s aim of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. It will apply from 2013 to 2020 and should lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 21 % compared to reported 2005 levels. The EU ETS is a “cap and trade” system: it caps the overall level of emissions allowed but, within that limit, allows participants buy and sell allowances as they require, so as to cut emissions cost effectively. The Community-wide quantity of allowances issued each year will decrease in a linear fashion, so as gradually to reduce the overall level of emissions each year.

The ETS currently covers over 10,000 installations in the energy and industrial sectors, which are collectively responsible for close to half of the EU’s emissions of CO2 and 40% of its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (the remaining 60 % will be covered by the ‘non-ETS’ Effort Sharing decision).

In the first and second ETS trading periods (2005 -2012) the great majority of allowances were allocated free of charge to installations. The revised directive establishes auctioning from 2013 in principle (as proposed by the Commission and backed by the Environment Committee) but it includes several exceptions, as advocated by the European Council on 12 December 2008.

The legislative resolution was adopted with 610 votes in favour 60 against and 29 abstentions.

Effort sharing: Member States targets for CO2 reduction – report by Satu Hassi (Greens/EFA, FI)

The “effort sharing” decision sets binding national targets for each EU Member State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from non-ETS sources (e.g. road and sea transport, buildings, services, agriculture and smaller industrial installations), between 2013 and 2020. These sources currently account for about 60% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions. The decision aims to reduce these emissions by 10% overall between 2013 and 2020, so as to contribute towards the EU’s overall aim of a 20% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The effort sharing decision is the first of its kind worldwide.

National targets for UK and Ireland

Member State greenhouse gas emission limits by 2020 compared to 2005 greenhouse gas emission levels for sources not covered under Directive 2003/87/EC:

Ireland – minus 20%
United Kingdom – minus 16%

The legislative resolution was adopted with 555 votes in favour, 93 against and 60 abstentions.

Equipping power plants to store CO2 underground – report by Chris Davies (ALDE, UK)

Parliament also approved a proposed directive providing for the legal framework for the new carbon dioxide capture and storage technology (CCS). To cut their CO2 emissions, industrial installations and power plants could in future use this new technology to capture CO2 and store it “permanently and safely underground” in geological formations. MEPs secured the funding of demonstration projects by ensuring that 300 million ETS allowances will be awarded to large scale CCS projects in the EU.

The legislative resolution was adopted with 623 votes in favour, 68 against and 22 abstentions.

20% renewable energy in the EU’s energy mix by 2020 – report by Claude Turmes (Greens/EFA, LU)

A new directive will lay down mandatory national targets to be achieved by the Member States through promoting the use of renewable energy in the electricity, heating and cooling, and transport sectors in order to ensure that by 2020 renewable energy makes up at least 20% of the EU’s total energy consumption. The agreement foresees that by 2020 renewable energy – biofuels, electricity and hydrogen produced from renewable sources – account for at least 10% of the EU’s total fuel consumption in all forms of transport.

The legislative resolution was adopted with 635 votes in favour, 25 against and 25 abstentions.

National targets for UK and Ireland

National overall targets for the share of energy from renewable sources in final consumption of energy in 2020.

Share of energy from renewable sources in final consumption of energy, 2005 (S2005)
UK – 1.3%
Ireland – 3.1%
Target for share of energy from renewable sources in final consumption of energy, 2020 (S2020)
15% UK
16% Ireland

Reducing CO2 emissions from new cars – report by Guido Sacconi (PES, IT)

A new regulation will set emission performance standards for new passenger cars registered in the EU. The compromise backs the Commission’s proposed target of an average of 120g of CO2/km for the whole car industry by 2012, compared to the current levels of 160g/km. The regulation sets an average target of 130g CO2/km for new passenger cars to be reached by improvements in vehicle motor technology. It will be supplemented by additional measures to achieve a further 10g/km reduction, so as to reach the 120g/km target, through other technical improvements. The compromise introduces a long term target for 2020 for the new car fleet of average emissions of 95 g CO2/km.

Manufacturers will be given interim targets of ensuring that average CO2 emissions of 65% of their fleets in January 2012, 75% in January 2013, 80% in January 2014 and 100% from 2015, have to comply with each manufacturer’s specific CO2 emissions target. In case the average emissions of CO2 exceed the targets, manufacturers will have to pay fines.

The legislative resolution was adopted with 559 votes in favour, 98 against and 60 abstentions.

Less greenhouse gas emissions from fuels – report by Dorette Corbey (PES, NL)

The revised fuel quality directive requires fuel suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by extraction or cultivation, including land-use changes, transport and distribution, processing and combustion of transport fuels (i.e. fossil fuels like petrol, diesel and gas-oil and also biofuels, blends, electricity and hydrogen) of up to 10% by 2020.

The legislative resolution was adopted with 670 votes in favour, 20 against and 25 abstentions.

From http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/064-44858-350-12-51-911-20081216IPR44857-15-12-2008-2008-false/default_en.htm

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Emergency Number 112

December 16, 2008

I don’t know about you, but every day that goes by, I find a new thing to learn about the European Union. Did you know that there is now (as of today) a single number you can dial from any phone anywhere in the EU to contact the emergency services? It’s good to know that you can do this, you don’t have to remember a different one for each country, or have to remember which of the member states you happen to be in! Just that one number 112 is all you need.

Below is a quote from the EU press release.

People can now reach emergency services from anywhere in the EU, simply by dialling 112, the single European emergency number. Now that 112 can be called from any phone in Bulgaria, it has achieved complete availability just before the Christmas period when thousands of people travel between EU Member States to visit family, hit the slopes or look for winter sun. It also crowns the combined efforts of the European Commission and EU Member States to make 112 fully available everywhere so that Europeans will always have a lifeline in the EU.

“112 working everywhere in the EU is a nice present to all Europeans, and the timing is perfect: during the holiday season of hectic travel people will spend a lot of time in other EU countries. From now on I expect 112 to be an essential travel companion for holiday makers in every corner of the EU,” said Viviane Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner. “There is still work to be done by the EU Member States, but the first target of having a single emergency number has been achieved. I am very glad that our efforts to make sure Member States get the common emergency number in place have paid off, because now we can see how the Europe of results can help people in everyday life.”

You can read the full story on European emergency number 112 now works in all EU Member States


The Cultures of Germany, Italy, and France

December 11, 2008

I did a post a couple of days ago that was prompted by a question someone had asked on BlogCatalog and which I just randomly happened to see on there. The question was “What comes to mind when you think of Sweden?”

Well, I was thinking a bit more about this, and I decided to do a similar thing for all the other countries of the European Union, and in that way, I can compile my own personal view of the EU. To keep this a bit manageable, I will start with just a few of the 27 countries. I’ll start by looking at the bigger countries, and the ones I know most about, the larger countries of Western Europe. These are Germany, Italy and France.

When I think of Germany, it is music that comes to mind. Among my favourite classical composers are Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler. This is cheating slightly because two of these were from Austria, and another spent most of his life in Austria, but as Germany and Austria are both in the EU it doesn’t matter, because in a sense, they are now both part of the same country.

When I think of Italy, it is food and painting that comes to mind. I love Leonardo and Michelangelo, and also Botticelli and Masaccio and Caravaggio and Tintoretto and many others. I also like pizza and pasta and ice cream.

When I think of France, it is science and mathematics that comes to mind. The list of French scientists is much too long to be contained in one blog post. I also think of Paris, which is the greatest city on earth.

My aim is to post in detail on all of the above topics in the coming weeks. Also, I intend to look at all the other countries of the European Union in the same kind of way.

So I suggest that you bookmark or favourite or follow or subscribe to this blog, to partake of the delights that are to come! And I will welcome any comments (nice polite ones please) with any thoughts you may have about the EU and its amazing culture, or about any of the individual countries.


EU Energy Targets Agreement is Welcome

December 10, 2008

The latest agreement of EU states on targets for 2020 for renewable energy will have a very positive impact on energy consumption across the EU, and on the reduction of carbon emissions. It will also reduce the dependence of some regions of the EU on oil and gas from the increasingly unpredictable country of Russia.

See timesonline – Europe agrees energy targets for 2020 and You Tube – Europe energy highlights reliance on Russia


An Expansion of the Horizon

December 9, 2008

Sometimes things happen in a flash. One minute you’re thinking one way, and then all of a sudden everything seems to turn upside down, or semms to turn inside out, or seems to expand to new and larger limits, an expansion of the horizon. No, I’m not talking about some new kind of drug on the market!

I’m going to tell you about the first time when I suddenly realised that I’m a European. Well of course I’ve always been that, because of being born in that continent, but I’m talking about something more than that. I was born in London and that’s where I now live. So that makes me English, or British, depending on how you define it.

But one day not long ago, I was in a car that was belting along on a motorway in Spain, doing about 120 km/h, and I remember that the track playing on the car stereo (loud) was Bodyrock by Moby. (I don’t know if the music is relevant to this but I include it because it was part of the experience.) All of a sudden I just felt that I wasn’t in a foreign country, that Spain was MY country, or at least, it was a PART of my country. I knew that whenever I want, I can travel to Spain and nobody can stop me, there are no checkpoints. I can buy a house there, I can get a job and I don’t need a work permit, I can get free health care, I can claim state benefits, I can even vote in the elections for the Spanish government. How cool is that?

And it’s not just Spain, I can do the same thing anywhere from Ireland to Estonia. In other words, anywhere in my country, the European Union. Many people now are coming to this realisation. Nationalism is on the way out for those people. They might live in Seville, or Edinburgh, or Vienna, but they are citizens of Europe.

Here’s the link to the track that was playing, if you want to hear it. Maybe it’ll do the same for you as it did for me! Bodyrock by Moby


Dulce et Decorum Est

December 8, 2008

There’s a lot of debate around at the moment as to why the Europeans have made the European Union. Are they fools to willingly surrender their sovereignty? Is it a giving up of democratic rights? Is the EU just a big business conspiracy? Will the EU challenge the USA to a duel?

But if you want to know the real reason, deep down, why the Europeans have made the EU, I think you’ll find it’s very simple. The Europeans are sick to death of war. That’s why, however much we may criticize, however Eurosceptic we may profess to be, if we really think hard about it, we love the European Union. Because it guarantees peace in Europe. In fact it makes war in Europe impossible.

Below is one of the most influential pieces of writing that set the Europeans on the road to creating peace. It was written by an English soldier, Wilfred Owen, during World War One. If you read this, why will you need to ask again why we made the European Union?

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Note: The phrase Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a quote from a poem by the Roman poet Horace. It means “How sweet and fitting it is to die for your country.” It was widely quoted at the beginning of the War to encourage young men and boys to join the army.


The Schuman Declaration

December 6, 2008

In the previous post, I said that there is no one particular day when the European Union could be said to have been formed, and that is true. The essence almost of the EU and its formation is in its gradualism. As I said then, the ideas of a peaceful integration of the states of Europe has its origins as early as the First World War or even earlier.

But if you had to choose a day above all others which could act as the European counterpart to the American Declaration of Independence, which set that great nation on its path, then it would have to be May 9th 1950, the day of the so-called Schuman declaration. Many commentators agree that this was an historic day for Europe, and as such, May 9th is celebrated as a holiday (Europe Day) in many places within the borders of the EU.

The reason it is so momentous is that once the Schuman plan was put into effect, a process was begun which would not be easy to reverse, and as the years went by, became increasingly less likely to be reversed. Perhaps at the time, many of the participants in the plan were not aware of how irrevocable it was, but it has now become clear that the European Union as it is now is a direct result of that decision. So the Schuman Declaration, more than anything else, could be said to be the cause of the European Union.

It is true that the council of Europe, for example, had already been in existence since 1948, but it was the agreement to follow the Schuman plan which tied the Six together in an economic agreement. In particular, it meant that, ever after, France and Germany had no choice but to work in partnership.

On this link, you can watch the ceremony of the unveiling of a sculpture of Robert Schuman at the University of Cork in Ireland, and some beautiful readings by children from France and Ireland. http://eurofile/2008/12/robert-schuman