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VoxEeurop | Ecology and sustainable development

The talk of the continent


Cinema and advocacy: “A Turning Tide In The Life Of Man” — the citizen lobbying of John O’Brien

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 16:03:07 +0100

Occasionally, ordinary people succeed in having their voices heard and seeing their interests win out against those of multinationals in their appeals to European institutions. It’s rare enough to be worth exploring, and that’s what director Loïc Jourdain is doing in his documentary, A Turning Tide in The Life of Man, which has won many accolades and is now in cinemas.

Over many months, Jourdain followed the fishermen of the small island, Inishboffin. Competing with the deep-sea trawlers encouraged by the European Common Fisheries Policy which penalises small coastal fishing and favors industrial fishing, the fishermen find themselves deprived of their livelihood, and their traditional way of life seems threatened.

John O’Brien is one of those fishermen. He sees the results of his labour dwindle from day to day due to the industrial exploitation of fish stocks by large fishing companies, and the banning of drift nets by order of the European Union and Irish government policy. Then there is the plethora of regulations imposed by European bureaucracy on large as well as small fishing operations. O’Brien is sure that he and his fellow fishermen in Inishboffin are not the only ones in Europe experiencing this problem. So, low on options, he decides to head to Brussels to assert the interests of small coastal fishermen.

With the aid of the NGO, International Collective in Support of Fisherworkers (ICSF), the consultant Michael Earle and many generous experts, John O’Brien managed to unite fishermen all over Europe as well as other island communities, to encourage a better understanding of the particularity and specificity of their way of life. Forming around the Ocean 2012 coalition, O’Brien and his allies manage, after a self-evidently unequal legal battle against industry lobbies that lasted eight years, to influence the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, such that the conditions and interests of small fishing operations are taken into account and the more absurd measures abolished.

John O’Brien’s story is exemplary for demonstrating the way in which European citizens and local communities can successfully assert their needs and interests — indeed, the public interest — when they can organise themselves, just like the multinationals and industries. In fact, European institutions are not necessarily hostile to this form of citizen lobbying, especially when they can formulate new policies or reforms, and represent the public interest.

Unfortunately, the representatives of civil society have more modest means than industrial operations and multinationals. This obliges them to unite and work together with other interested parties . Thankfully, good-will is often easy to come by. This is an example, therefore, of the “Citizen lobbying” conceptualised by the Italian legal expert, Alberto Alemanno, as a tool for exerting pressure on institutions, and for democratic and participative development.

Waste management: What happens to our holiday garbage?

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 10:35:18 +0100

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa, Trento – In tourist areas across Europe, the waste generated by tourism is managed by recycling and disposal systems that are often inefficient, as data collected in various European countries reveals. See more.

Light pollution: The map showing the most illuminated parts of Europe

Tue, 08 Sep 2015 08:46:24 +0100

Europe is one of the regions with the highest light pollution in the world because of its demographic density and its high level of development. Using images of the earth at night produced by NASA, the geographer Benjamin D. Henning has published this map of Europe on his site.

The scale of different European regions have been modified according to their population, such that the most densely populated regions appear bigger, with each section of the map representing a similar number of inhabitants. As you might expect, the most densely populated zones – like London, the Benelux nations or the Ile-de-France region – are also the most brightly lit.

The map shows two interesting differences present in Europe. First, western Europe is on the whole clearly more illuminated than eastern Europe. Second, there are regions in Europe where the population is concentrated in a few large cities (in eastern Europe, but also in Paris, Madrid and Athens) and then there are regions characterised by a dense network of medium-sized cities, like in northern Italy, western Germany and the Benelux nations.

Climate change: Dutch government ordered to cut CO2 emissions

Mon, 29 Jun 2015 18:27:01 +0100

For the first time in history, a national government has been told to implement a more rigid climate policy, writes De Volkskrant. On June 24, a court in The Hague summoned the Dutch state to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 levels within the next five years. That is “much more than planned” – the government only anticipated 14-17%.

Environmental organisation Urgenda, which brought the suit, has argued for years that the government should do more to avoid crossing the 2°C maximum target for global warming. Their legal counsel says in The Guardian: “This is the first a time a court has determined that states have an independent legal obligation towards their citizens. That must inform the reduction commitments in Paris because if it doesn’t, they can expect pressure from courts in their own jurisdictions.”

According to De Volkskrant, the judge stated that –

The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts. […] Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this.

The Dutch governement will probably appeal to the decision.

Climate change – on the eve of COP21: How a ‘fiddled’ emissions scheme granted Serbia EU support

Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:00:39 +0100

The Guardian, London – Belgrade's emissions pledge ahead of December UN climate conference in Paris has been enthusiastically labeled as 'exemplary' by the European commission. But its scheme will involve a de facto 15% increase in CO2 emissions, warn EU sources. See more.

Climate change – on the eve of COP21: Krakow’s long fight against smog

Sun, 07 Jun 2015 20:15:29 +0100

The Guardian, London – Poles have historically heated their houses with coal and wood. The recent ban on these heat sources will have unprecedented repercussions on health and the economy, the Guardian reports. VoxEurop is joining the divestment campaign launched by the British daily in the run-up to December’s COP21 conference on the environment. See more.

Air pollution: A map of the health consequences of weak EU coal regulation

Thu, 21 May 2015 10:04:37 +0100

This map, by Zachary Davies Boren, from the Greenpeace Energy desk, shows how EU countries will likely be affected by premature deaths in the decade after 2020 due to the EU's weak proposed air emission standards.

According to a recent study by environmental economist Mike Holland, the EU’s draft power plant pollution regulations – called BREF – could lead to 71,000 avoidable deaths in 2020-2030 because the currently proposed standards do not require adoption of the latest, most effective techniques. The analysis comes two months after Energydesk revealed that the energy industry was disproportionately represented in the EU technical working group that helped write BREF; more than half of the group’s 352 members were found to have ties to the industry.

Biotechnology: ‘GMOs: France will be able to say no’

Fri, 13 Jun 2014 11:50:43 +0100

The environment ministers of the 28 EU member states agreed during a 12 June meeting in Luxembourg to “legislation that would give member states the leverage to ban GMOs [genetically modified organisms] on their territory”, writes French paper Le Monde, bringing an end to a fifteen-year debate. However, notes the daily, “decisions concerning the use of transgenic seeds would be made at the European level” —

To break this deadlock, the European Council hopes to facilitate authorisation of transgenic seeds within the Union by granting refractory states a stronger legal basis to ban GMOs on their own territory. Aside from exclusively scientific considerations, they will be able to cite socio-economic and ethical factors, as well as the interest of keeping public order.

Renewable energy: The Feldheim model

Fri, 13 Dec 2013 12:56:53 +0100

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich – This village near Berlin is the only place in Germany that is completely autonomous in terms of energy supply. Thanks to wind turbines in their backyard and an independent grid, residents pay minimum prices for electricity. It’s an example for environmentalists everywhere. See more.

COP19 in Warsaw: Poor forecast for the climate

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 12:02:25 +0100

Polityka, Warsaw – The 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference is under way in Warsaw but chances are slim that decision-makers will be able to overcome the current stalemate on reforms to cut the pace of the global warming. A Polityka columnist explains why. See more.

Spain: ‘No one will pay’

Thu, 14 Nov 2013 14:34:44 +0100

Eleven years after the Prestige oil tanker spilled its cargo across the Iberian Peninsula – the worst ecological disaster to strike the region – the trial against the captain and crew has ended without anyone being held to account for the environmental damage, writes La Voz de Galicia.

The Greek-operated tanker, which was registered in the Bahamas, was transporting 77,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil when it sank off the Galician coast on November 13, 2002, after its hull split open. The resulting spill polluted around 2,000km of beaches.

At the conclusion of a trial on November 13, the court issued a nine-month suspended sentence to the captain of the tanker for disobeying Spanish authorities, who instructed him to move away from the coast, but acquitted him, along with the ship’s chief mechanic and the head of the Spanish merchant navy, on charges of damaging the environment.

As to the amount of compensation for damages, which were estimated by the prosecution to amount to €4.32bn, the court ruled that €151m should be paid by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds. The Spanish state, and its ultimate authority, who at the time was Mariano Rajoy (the current prime minister), was exonerated from all responsibility for the catastrophe.

Estonia: The Green City not yet on the right track

Tue, 12 Nov 2013 13:30:38 +0100

Postimees, Tallinn – Despite Tallinn public transport becoming free from January 1, 2013, the number of city residents who use it have failed to increase. Why has this social and ecological experiment not transformed the city? Because town planners forgot to factor in what users actually needed. See more.

Fisheries: Mediterranean stocks running out

Wed, 06 Nov 2013 15:19:56 +0100

Fish stocks in the Mediterranean are “in agony”, warns La Repubblica following the adoption of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) rulebook for 2014-2020. According to the Italian daily —

The EU data is quite clear: 95 per cent of fish stocks in the Mediterranean are threatened by overexploitation, and will be beyond recovery unless fishing is reduced by a minimum of 45 to 50 per cent within the next five years.

Unfortunately, recent trends seem to be headed in the opposite direction: hardly anything of the €4.5bn EMFF budget for the development of sustainable fishing practices in the period 2006-2013 was actually used, notes La Repubblica. Italy was among the worst performers, spending only 23 per cent of a €900m allocation. The main ‘sustainability’ policy adopted so far, an annual 45-day fishing ban, is merely a vehicle for subsidy fraud, without any positive impact on fish stocks. As a result, in the 2000-2010 period productivity dropped by 48.84 per cent and incomes decreased by 31 per cent, threatening the livelihood of thousands of fishermen. As for consumers, La Repubblica notes —

We’d better prepare to eat jellyfish, because only their numbers are increasing.

Emissions reduction: Europe is united in failure

Thu, 24 Oct 2013 12:25:50 +0100

Il Sole-24 Ore, Milan – No European country will achieve the EU's 2020 environmental goals aimed at increasing the production of renewable energy and at lowering CO2 emissions, warns the European Environment Agency. While some argue that the benchmarks were unrealistic, others claim that even limited progress is a step forward. See more.

Romania : MEPs move to oppose Roşia Montana mine

Fri, 06 Sep 2013 14:00:54 +0100

"Various Hungarian and Romanian European MEPS, including the former vice-president of the Assembly, László Tőkés, have approached the European Commission" asking it to oppose the start-up of operations at the gold and silver mine at Roşia Montana, writes Adevărul.

In a letter to Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, the MEPs ask the commissioner to intervene “firmly" against the cyanide-based technologies to be used to extract the precious metals. Parliament had already asked the Commission to ban the use of cyanide in mining back in 2010, the newspaper reports.

On September 2, Hungary wrote to Romania and the European Commission to express its opposition to the reopening of Roşia Montana. Hungary fears a new ecological disaster on its borders: in 2000 at Baia Mare, 100,000 tonnes of cyanide spilled into the Somes and Tisza rivers, causing an ecological disaster that also hit Hungary.

Portrait: Isabella Lövin – The MEP who never gives up

Wed, 08 May 2013 13:02:27 +0100

Fokus, Stockholm – Since her election to the European Parliament in 2009, the Swedish MEP Isabella Lövin has pursued just one goal: to stop overfishing. Even if she has to upset the routines of elected officials and throw certain local communities out of work. See more.

Belgium: ‘Contaminated fire extinguishing water claims one life’

Mon, 06 May 2013 10:20:54 +0100

A man has died and 49 have been hospitalised after inhaling toxic fumes released when a train carrying chemicals derailed and caught fire in Wetteren, northwest Belgium, on May 4.

The exact causes of the accident are not known yet, although the train driver has admitted exceeding the speed limit on that part of the track.

A total of 250 people living within 500 metres of the crash site were immediately evacuated following the accident and people in nearby villages were told to remain indoors.

Some of the victims, and the dead man, were living beyond the security perimeter and are thought to have become sick after water used to douse the fire mixed with the toxic chemicals and washed into the drains. This has led to a polemic on the way the authorities managed the crisis.

Belgium: ‘Traffic is a bigger polluter than industry’

Mon, 15 Apr 2013 12:14:25 +0100

Both industry and automobiles have become cleaner over the last 10 years, however, this gain has been wiped out by an increase in the number of cars on Belgian roads.

According to a government report, cars — and in particular the diesel engine cars which are widespread in corporate car fleets — have now become the number one source of carcinogenic fine particle pollution.

The newspaper publishes a map of Europe, which shows that levels of nitrogen oxides — a.k.a. greenhouse gasses — are particularly high in Begium, the Netherlands, the area around Paris and northern Italy.

Biomass: Wood – Europe’s fuel of the future, really?

Thu, 11 Apr 2013 12:22:22 +0100

The Economist, London – In order to produce energy without further increasing CO2 emissions, what could be easier than using existing furnaces to burn trees that could be replaced as they are used? Although this idea has much financial backing, it is only efficient over the long term. See more.

Poland: Consigning waste to the scrapheap

Thu, 04 Apr 2013 12:12:01 +0100

Polityka, Warsaw – Eager consumers and producers of enormous quantities of waste, Poles are coming under pressure from the EU and will soon convert to a new approach to packaging – the religion of "re": reduction, recycling and reuse. See more.

Shale Gas: Brussels douses hopes of a “revolution”

Thu, 28 Mar 2013 13:35:52 +0100

"The shale gas revolution is not feasible," headlines Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad, following the March 27 meeting of European Union environment and climate ministers.

According to the newspaper, EU Commissioner for Climate, Connie Hedegaard, and the Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, sought to dampen the enthusiasm of some member states that aim to exploit shale gas reserves, which are thought to be considerable in Europe.

While some countries such as France and Belgium have imposed a moratorium, others such as the United Kingdom and Poland have already begun exploratory drilling. The newspaper notes that the EU Commission plans to establish a political framework, at the latest by the end of the year, which will regulate shale gas extraction in those member states wishing to take advantage of their reserves.

Shale gas extraction is "controversial" because of its negative environmental impact, explains the newspaper, which goes on to quote Commissioner Hedegaard, who says —

We should not fool ourselves. This is not going to be as cheap as in the US. [...] We don't have the same wide open spaces. We pay more attention to what local people think.

In addition, compared with the United States, where the price of gas is five times cheaper, Europe has stricter environmental legislation and the geological formations are different, which is why —

experts, including, among others, the International Energy Agency, have advised the EU against relying solely on shale gas.

Baltic: Chemical threat lurking beneath the sea

Tue, 26 Mar 2013 12:17:03 +0100

Uważam Rze , Warsaw – Thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons sunk in the Baltic Sea after WWII pose a lethal hazard to humans and the environment. After 70 years at the bottom of the sea, the corroded containers risk leaking deadly poisons, warns a Polish journalist. See more.

Netherlands: ‘Starve to death or be shot?’

Mon, 11 Mar 2013 12:10:03 +0100

Faced with the problem of approximately 2,000 deer, living in 3,000 hectares of dunes close to Amsterdam, which were causing extensive damage to protected ecosystems and even urban gardens, authorities built a 17km-long fence to contain the animals.

The solution had the advantage of being in line with public opinion, which is strongly opposed to hunting. However, it now appears that many of the deer are dying of hunger.

This week Amsterdam’s municipal council is set to vote on an alternative solution. It may choose the most benevolent option, which would be to shoot the deer before they die of starvation.

Food: Close shave

Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:14:27 +0100

L’Echo, Brussels – Cartoon. See more.

European Union: Water is first Citizens’ Initiative

Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:49:36 +0100

"For the first time in the history of the EU" a European Citizen's Initiative (ECI) has been registered by the European Commission, says Spanish business daily Cinco Días. A petition of one million signatures from people in at least seven EU countries, was deposited on February 11 by Right2Water a non-governmental organisation. The petition is against the deregulation of water utilities as proposed in a directive on services. Signatories are also asking the Commission to propose legislation that would make the right to clean drinking-water a human right. For Cinco Días, this is a "democratic turning point" for the EU, because

For the first time, the European Commission will have to "share" with the people a right to initiate proposals, which it held exclusively until now. Only 10 months after the regulation on citizen's initiatives came into effect, European people have taken advantage of the options offered by institutions that usually only open their doors to listen to lobbyists.

The Commission now has three months to decide how it will respond to the petition and to justify its decision," explains Cinco Días.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is also full of praise for the initiative and notes that Germans and Austrians are the principal signatories of the proposal. In both countries water utilities are publicly-owned and

even the most sober media has become enraged by the idea that the EU will force local governments to privatise water distribution.

European Parliament: Tackling the overfishing problem

Fri, 08 Feb 2013 14:45:34 +0100

By 502 votes to 137, MEPs voted on February 6 “to adopt a common policy on sustainable fishing. That may seem trivial, but it is in reality a historical vote,” announces Libération The goal “is to reduce pressure on fish stocks to levels that can see them renewed by 2020.” This decision, writes La Vanguardia, represents a “shift in course”, especially because from 2014 onwards, discards – which make up 23 per cent of the catches of EU fleets – will be banned and all the fish caught will have to be brought back to port. It continues –

The need to curb the current overfishing and restore depleted fishing grounds and the awareness of the need to reduce the sizes of the fleets, are the pillars of the current shift to promote rational and sustainable fishing [... ] The fisheries policy embraces ethical values to put an end to the unacceptable habit of throwing back into the sea marine life that has no commercial value [...] Till now, the former fisheries policy has only encouraged overfishing of European stocks: 48 per cent of the estimated stocks in the Atlantic Ocean and close to 90 per cent in the Mediterranean Sea are overexploited.

However, notes Le Monde,, the ban on discards did not meet with agreement all round –

Once landed at port, the fish that today are tossed back into the sea can be turned into fishmeal for animals, which itself brings a risk of developing this “accidental” fishing industry, note critics of this new system.

However, by opting for sustainable fishing, Europe, with the third-largest fleet in the world, may be putting itself at a disadvantage against its international competitors, writes Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany.

It would be naive and presumptuous to believe that its rivals [China and Peru] will follow Europe's noble example. In view of the power of the European fleet, though, much will be gained if the European vessels honour the principles of sustainability when they go fishing in non-European waters.

Greenland: The wealth that lies beneath

Wed, 06 Feb 2013 12:54:44 +0100

De Standaard, Brussels – For a long time, prawns were all that Greenland was famous for. However, the melting ice caps mean that natural resources are there for the taking. This development is both a curse and a blessing and one that puts the Danes in a difficult situation. See more.

Renewable energy: Ireland back in the green

Mon, 07 Jan 2013 16:43:56 +0100

La Repubblica, Rome – After two years of radical austerity the Irish economy is going through an upswing, thanks to new revenue the state is collecting from renewable energy and from taxing fossil fuels and rubbish. See more.

Biofuels: Brussels will have to revise its policy

Tue, 29 May 2012 11:46:22 +0100

Respekt, Prague – To achieve its CO2-emissions goals, the EU encourages biofuel crops to be grown on European farmland that once produced food. The result, though, is that the growing of the food crops is shifting to developing countries – along with the CO2 pollution and biodiversity impacts. Those unintended consequences are forcing the Commission to redraft its laws. See more.

Environment: Statistical fog in battle against CO2

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 11:07:49 +0100

The Guardian, London – The EU’s plan to reduce CO2 emissions is lauded for being the most ambitious scheme of its kind. But unclear criteria and wayward accounting put into doubt the success of steps taken so far. See more.

Fishing: Western Sahara sinks EU-Morocco accord

Thu, 15 Dec 2011 12:34:06 +0100

"European parliament vetos fishing agreement with Morocco over Western Sahara," headlines El País. On 14 December, MEPs decided not to renew the agreement, set to expire in February 2012, that allows 119 European boats (100 of which are Spanish) to fish in Moroccan waters. In exchange, Rabat receives 36 million euros per year.

The European Commission wanted to renew the agreement for a year, while holding talks on a new compromise. However, the Madrid daily explains that "concerns over Western Sahara and the environment" were deemed more important by Strasbourg “which expressed scepticism on the issue of respect for Sahrawi rights."

The vote in parliament was largely based on a report by MEP Carl Haglund, who raised the question of the legality of an agreement that included fishing rights off the coast of Western Sahara, a terriory annexed by Morocco, which is not recognised by the EU, and the question of the benefit to the Sahrawi people. The liberal Finnish parliamentarian also expressed concern over the “excessive exploitation of fishing resources” and the “poor cost-benefit outcome” of the agreement.

El País points out that the decision, which "goes against the opinion of the European Commission and EU member states," has prompted opposition from the Spanish government. Morocco immediately ordered all European boats to leave its territorial waters, including waters off the coast of Western Sahara.

Durban conference: Union hampered by its own polluters

Tue, 13 Dec 2011 15:27:45 +0100

Público, Madrid – The EU has been unable in Durban to reach a common position on greenhouse gas emissions quotas after 2012. The veto of the former communist countries of the EU, who defended the current quotas that are so advantageous to them, is partly to blame. See more.

Pollution: A time bomb under the Northern seas

Wed, 16 Nov 2011 15:57:45 +0100

Trouw, Amsterdam – The seas around Europe are threatened by a new source of pollution. Thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons will corrode and start to leak. In the Baltic, the possible consequences are being investigated. See more.

Italy: Italian waters still dragged by illegal nets

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 17:37:22 +0100

La Repubblica, Rome – The EU banned drift nets in 2002 to protect Mediterranean wildlife and paid out compensation to the fishers. But for many of the recipients, the tuna and swordfish fisheries are far too lucrative. And so they are getting around the ban, with the help of the Mafia. See more.

River transport: The Danube is running dry

Wed, 26 Oct 2011 15:42:43 +0100

NRC Handelsblad, Amsterdam – The Danube, Europe's second longest river, is one of the most poorly navigable rivers on the continent. Despite the EU’s Danube Strategy, the summer drought has resulted in even lower water levels, resulting in an enormous traffic jam. See more.

FOOD INDUSTRY: The great fish robbers have got away again

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 15:57:46 +0100

The Times, London – The EU plans to overhaul its fishing policy to stop complete depletion of our overfished seas. But the weight of industrial lobbies and the short-sightedness of some member states will make this a hard task. See more.

Climate change: Poland cold to more CO2 reductions

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 10:43:15 +0100

“Warsaw under EU climate pressure”, headlines Rzeczpospolita as the European Parliament debates further reductions of CO2 emissions.The assembly is expected to adopt a resolution urging the European Commission to pass laws that will reduce Europe’s emissions by 30 percent by 2020, a target 10 percentage points higher than provided for by the EU climate strategy. “For Poland, with its coal-fuelled power sector and energy-intensive heavy industry, that’s a real challenge”, stresses the conservative daily, warning that further cuts would threaten the viability of Polish steel plants, paper mills and fertiliser factories. It would also force the government to spend some 2 billion euro to buy extra emission rights and result in a rise of energy prices for consumers as high as 27 percent. The Warsaw daily calls these “monstrous costs” and reminds readers that two weeks ago at the ministerial conference in Luxembourg Poland alone vetoed the proposal to cut emissions by 30 percent, exposing itself to a “wave of criticism from the supporters of more restrictive climate protection”.

CO2: Bleak prospects for climate, warns IEA

Mon, 30 May 2011 10:39:49 +0100

“Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink,” headlines the Guardian, revealing latest estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showing that, “[g]reenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history.” In 2010, according to the Paris-based intergovernmental organisation, “a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009.” This “shock rise” puts “hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach”, the Guardian notes. One expert at the London School of Economics now anticipates a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100. “Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce," he said.

Sweden: Europe’s happy rubbish collectors

Mon, 23 May 2011 16:59:14 +0100

Polityka, Warsaw – While some local authorities are struggling to cope with the burden of domestic waste, their colleagues in other countries see it as an opportunity for financial gain. Polish weekly Polityka reports on Sweden’s booming waste industry. See more.

ICELAND: Europe under threat from new eruption

Mon, 23 May 2011 13:13:32 +0100

One year after Eyjafjallajokull eruption, which paralysed air traffic in 2010, European airspace has now come under threat from another Icelandic volcano, Grimsvötn, one of the most active in the country. In its biggest eruption in 100 years, Grimsvötn has sent a plume of smoke 20km into the air, explains Morgunbladid. For the moment, the cloud of volcanic ash which has descended on much of the country, forcing locals to wear gas masks whenever they go outside, has only affected air traffic to and from Iceland, and also to and from Greenland and Spitsbergen. However, experts have pointed out that low-altitude westerly winds could blow the ash towards continental Europe over the next few days.

Environment: Green energy — but not in my back yard!

Fri, 06 May 2011 08:42:49 +0100

Il Post, Milan – Odd as it may seem, the main victims of environmental conservation appeals are not nuclear power plants or incinerators, but the hydroelectric power stations, solar energy installations and wind farms much-loved by the Green and ecologically minded. See more.

Biodiversity: Brussels wants to save the animals

Wed, 04 May 2011 13:06:47 +0100

“A quarter of European animal species are threatened with extinction,” reports Spanish daily El Periódico. The evaluation was provided on May 3 by the EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, who presented the EU’s strategy to combat the loss of biodiversity in Europe. Objective: to restore at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems by 2020. Biodiversity loss “will eventually cost the EU some 50 billion euros per year,” notes El Periódico, which regrets that the strategy announced “lacks measurable objectives and represents, rather, a bundle of good intentions.”

El Periódico says that 88 percent of European fish stocks are overfished and that the survival of 22 percent of European species is threatened by “increasingly aggressive” species invading from other ecosystems.

For its part, French daily Le Monde condemns the “miserable failure” of the previous plan of the EU, and stresses that the objectives set on May 3 “mark a rift in the community approach” as “the document ceases to make biodiversity an autonomous sector and imposes its objectives on the sectoral policies of the Union – agriculture, forestry, fishing – where the impact is greatest.” Le Monde notes that Potočnik, with the ambitious objectives of the plan, “blithely tramples on the toes of his colleagues in agriculture and fisheries”, which could create “frictions” in Brussels and among member states. The document will be discussed in Parliament before the end of the year.

Portrait: Power, not nuclear

Mon, 02 May 2011 16:36:23 +0100, Bucharest – Founder of one of the first cooperatives for producing renewable energy, Germany’s Ursula Sladeck has won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in the United States. See more.

Lithuania: Rubbish champions

Fri, 29 Apr 2011 16:43:32 +0100

Veidas, Vilnius – Each year, every Lithuanian throws out 500 kilos of household waste and “forgets” to sort the recyclables. Slowly, though, attitudes are starting to change. See more.

Spain: The illuminati of Europe

Fri, 04 Mar 2011 10:59:26 +0100

“The lightship of the West”, leads El Periódico, reporting on a study by the University Complutense of Madrid that reveals that “the cities of Spain are leading [Europe] in expenditures on public lighting.” Spaniards are the Europeans who “waste” the most lighting, at 118 kilowatt hours per year per capita, against the 90 kilowatt hours of the French or the 48 kilowatt hours of the Germans. The daily seesthe crisis as an opportunity to change the public lighting system of Spain, the country with “the highest level of light pollution” in Europe.

Environment: Fish quota system to be overhauled

Wed, 02 Mar 2011 10:58:22 +0100

“Europe to ban 'discarding' of unwanted fish,” headlines the Guardian, after EU fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, called for an end to the “unethical” practice of throwing unwanted fish back into the sea. “Fishermen are driven to discard fish under the current quota systems because they can only legally bring home a certain quantity of the species they are allocated,” the London daily explains. “When they catch too many, or accidentally net fish for which they do not have a quota, they must dump the excess. As a result, as much as two-thirds of the fish caught in some areas are thrown back into the water, usually dead. About 1m tonnes are estimated to be thrown back each year into the North Sea alone.” Although alternatives to the current quota system are yet to be defined, the EU is “highly likely” to legislate on the issue in the next two years, the Guardian notes.

United Kingdom: Companies spy on environmentalists

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 11:00:36 +0100

"Revealed: how energy firms spy on environmental activists," headlines The Guardian. The daily has obtained leaked documents which show how, over the last three years, three major energy firms in the UK — the power companies E.ON and Scottish Power, and coal producer Scottish Resources Group — having being paying a private security firm to monitor environmental groups like the Climate Camp movement. The news that “business risk management” specialist Vericola has been joining mailing lists and infiltrating environmental groups comes at time when four official inquiries are currently investigating UK police who went undercover to join protest groups. As part of their defence, the police operatives pointed out that there were more corporate spies than undercover police infiltrating environmental groups.

Spain: Cities gasping for air

Wed, 09 Feb 2011 10:59:17 +0100

"From Madrid to hell," announces Público — an ironic paraphrase of the advertising slogan "from Madrid to heaven." The daily reports that over the last few days "the upsurge of pollution has set alarm bells ringing" in the Spanish capital. In 2010, Público recalls that "87% of the city’s air-quality control stations reported abnormally high levels of pollution," while "0% of drivers responded to a request from Mayor Albert Ruiz-Gallardon to avoid using their cars." As it stands, cars are responsible for 80% of air pollution in Madrid. And the problem also affects other major cities in Spain. In Barcelona, El Periódico notes that the local citizens "are unable to do anything about the level of pollution" and that "experts have demanded an emergency plan to deal with critical situations."

Environment : Europe devours Amazon, claims NGO

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 12:15:25 +0100

"European consumption threatens to destroy Amazon rainforest," warnsPúblico, in an article highlighting the findings of a report published by the NGO Friends of the Earth(FoE) on 25 January. According to the newspaper, the surface area of the rainforest could be dramatically reduced by 2020, "as a result of the steep increase in European consumption of meat, biofuels and animal feed from Brazil," a phenomenon "that is expected to increase exponentially over the next decade." The daily points out that the EU trade bloc, which is the world’s biggest importer of ethanol, is also home to the fourth largest market for imported meat and one of the main markets for GMO soya. Consumption of these "three pillars of the Brazilian economy" will lead to the permanent degradation of the Amazon Rainforest, which will have a "major negative impact on climate change, biodiversity and the lives of thousands of people," warns Adrian Bebb, agrofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe.

Público voices its support for several environmental groups that are hoping to weigh on the EU’s "review of the common agricultural policy (CAP)," which accounts for 40% its budget. The daily remarks that CAP policies, on the table for discussion at 24 January meeting of Europe’s agriculture ministers in Brussels, were responsible for the indifferent reception that greeted the "Meat Free Mondays" initiative when it was presented by singer Paul McCartney in Brussels last year. "Neither the European Commission or the governments of Europe’s 27 member states were willing to consider proposals put forward by the campaign," points out Público.

CO2: Hackers steal €200 million of carbon credits

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 11:14:22 +0100

Libération reportsthat hackers have stolen a huge haul of carbon credits from a number of European countries. There was "no forced entry. No safes were attacked with explosives… But a substantial quantity of pollution rights in national registers" were removed from the accounts of major Austrian, Greek, Czech, Polish and Estonian companies. According to the European Commission, in the raid, which was finally discovered on 19 January, the online fraudsters made off with carbon credits for three million tonnes of CO2 worth 200 million euros. "The latest break-in will further undermine the credibility of the emission allowance trading scheme," writes Libération. Over the last three years, the market, which "was launched by the EU in 2005 to reduce the level of industrial greenhouse gas emissions," has regularly been targeted by cybercriminals.