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#SaveTheBees coalition: 80 EU NGOs gather to demand a full ban on neonicotinoids

EU Reporter Correspondent

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In December 2013, the European Commission restricted the use of three highly bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, namely imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. On the 4th anniversary of the partial ban on these substances, new scientific knowledge confirms that these restrictions do not go far enough.

Therefore, more than 80 EU NGOs are gathering to ask EU decision-makers to completely ban neonicotinoids without further delay. A proposal from the European Commission to extend the ban to all outdoor crops will be discussed on 12-13 December and member states may be asked to vote on the proposal.

The UK, Ireland and France have recently indicated that they support a tougher ban but other member states have not made their positions known.     The Commission’s proposal is based on the conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority that bees are at risk from neonicotinoid use on all outdoor crops not only from use on flowering crops that they are feeding directly on.  Several new studies also show how neonicotinoids contaminate the environment and can be found in water and wildflowers putting wildlife at risk.

Martin Dermine, PAN Europe’s pollinator expert said: "In 2013, there was enough evidence to totally ban neonicotinoids. Their toxicity is not compatible with sustainable food production. Our bees and insect populations in general need special attention as their decline is dramatic. Evidence shows that, despite scaremongering information spread by the pesticide industry, the 2013 restrictions did not lead to any reduction in crop yields. There is thus no point to maintain their use and the environmental collapse they generate."

In 1994, when imidacloprid was first authorized on sunflowers in France, French beekeepers immediately noticed the major negative impact of these chemicals on the health of their hives. Sunflower fields shifted from being a major source of French honey production to a source of decline of French beekeeping industry. The French story expanded to the EU and the entire world along the spread of the use of neonicotinoids.

After 19 years of beekeepers and environmentalists mobilization, the European Commission decided in 2013, to ban the use of neonicotinoids on bee-attractive crops. The EU executive also asked the producers from these substances, Bayer and Syngenta, to provide so-called ‚confirmatory data‘ in order to better evaluate the toxicity of these substances.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed these confirmatory data and published its evaluations in November 2016[1]. The EFSA confirmed that these substances were highly toxic to bees, bumble bees and solitary bees. The Authority also confirmed there were still data gaps impeding a proper risk assessment, in particular for wild bees.

EFSA also warned that bees could be exposed to neonicotinoids outside crops as these insecticides spread rapidly in the environment, contaminating wild flowers as well. Further, independent science have shown that the toxicity of neonicotinoids goes far beyond honey bees: bumble bees, wild bees as well as the entire world of bugs. A dramatic decline in insects was recently demonstrated (75% dropdown of insects‘ biomass in Germany nature areas over 27 years[2]) which the authors attribute to intensive farming practices, including pesticide uses. A recent update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessement on the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems has evaluated 500 scientific evidence published since 2014 and confirm the high risk posed by these substances not only to insects but also to vertebrates and wild life in general[3].

Following the November 2016 EFSA opinions, the European Commission sent in February 2017 a draft regulation to the EU member states to ban these three neonicotinoids from EU agriculture with an exemption being given to their use in permanent greenhouses. EU member states will discuss and possibly vote on the draft regulation at the 12-13 Standing Committee on pesticides and member states might have the possibility to vote on the proposal.

More than 80 EU NGOs covering most of the European Union and comprising beekeepers, environmentalists and scientists are officially launching today the Save The Bees Coalition[4] to obtain the ban our environment needs. The Coalition will advocate that all EU member states vote in favour of the proposal from the European Commission to ban all uses of these neonicotinoids to protect our bees, including greenhouses as evidence shows that greenhouses are not closed systems and do not prevent leakage and environmental contamination. The Coalition will also demand that all other chemical pesticides are properly tested for their impact on bees so that all bee-harming pesticides will be banned in the EU. Therefore, member states need to approve without delay the 2013 EFSA Bee Guidance Document[5].

Members of the Save The Bees Coalition: Abella Lupa, Agrupació per a la protecció del medi ambient del Garraf, APIADS, Apicultura de huesca, Apiscam, Apiservices, Arieco, Asociación Bee Garden, Asociación de apicultores de la Región de Murcia, Asociación Española de Apicultores, Asociación Galega de apicultura, Asociación Medioambiental Jara, Asociación para a Defensa Ecolóxica de Galiza, Asociación RedMontañas, Asociación Reforesta, Associació Catalana d'Afectades i Afectats de Fibromiàlgia i d'altres Síndromes de Sensibilització Central, Avaaz, Baltic Environmental Forum Latvia, Bamepe, Bee Life - European Beekeeping Coordination, Bijenstichting, Buglife, BUND, Campact, COAG – Comunidada Valenciana, Confederación en Defensa de la Abeja en la Cornisa Cantábrica, Cooperativa El Brot, Deutsche Berufs und Erwerbs Imker Bund, Division of Apiculture- Hellenic Agriculture Organisation DEMETER, Earth Thrive, Eco Hvar, ECOCITY, ecocolmena, Ecological Council, Ecologistas en Acción, Estonian Green Party, European Professional Beekeepers Association, Federação Nacional dos Apicultores de Portugal, Federation of Greek Beekeepers' Associations, Foundation for the Environment and Agriculture, Friends of the Bees Foundation, Friends of the Earth Europe, Générations Futures, Gipuzkaoko Erlezain Elkartea, Glore Mill Sustainability Centre for Biodiversity and Energy, Greenpeace, Grup d'Estudi i Protecció dels Ecosistemes Catalans, Inter-Environnement Wallonie, INLUISAL SL, La Apnera, La Vinca, Lithuanian Fund for Nature, Melazahar, Melliferopolis, NABU, Natur&ëmwelt, Nature & Progrès Belgique, Pesticide Action Network Europe, Pesticide Action Network UK, Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk, proBiene, Proyecto Gran Simio, Quercus, Riet Vell, Romapis, Salvem la Platja Llarga, Slovenian Beekeepers` Association, Slow Food, SOS polinizadores, Spanish Society of Organic Farming, Statera NGO, SumOfUs, Territorios Vivos, Tot mel can ginesta, Umweltinstitut München, Unió de Llauradors I Ramaders, Union Nationale de l'Apiculture Française, Via Pontica Foundation, Vilde bier i Danmark, WECF France, WECF Germany, WWF España.

[1] https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4606  https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4607 
[2] Hallman et al. 2017 
[3] https://www.iucn.org/news/secretariat/201709/severe-threats-biodiversity-neonicotinoid-pesticides-revealed-latest-scientific-review 
[4] www.beecoalition.eu 
[5] https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/3295

Climate change

Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans attends Petersberg Climate Dialogue

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Today (7 May), Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans participates in the 12th Petersberg Climate Dialogue, an annual high-level political meeting of over 30 ministers from around the world, co-hosted by the German government and the COP26 Presidency. The meeting will start at 14h CEST  today with remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Their speeches will be live-streamed here. This year's Petersberg Dialogue will focus on the preparations for the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. It will address pressing issues such as enhancing countries' climate-resilience and adaptation capacity, scaling up international climate finance, and promoting transparent international carbon market rules. The meeting will be held virtually for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission will publish Executive Vice-President Timmermans' remarks climate finance on Friday here. For more information see here.

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Environment

EU sets plan to promote rapid green transition of key industries

Reuters

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The European Union aims to help industries slash greenhouse gas emissions by promoting a rapid expansion of investment in low-carbon technologies, partly through schemes with easier state aid rules, according to a draft policy plan seen by Reuters, writes Kate Abnett.

The EU's target to become climate neutral by 2050, helping curb dangerous global warming, will require a green transition in industrial sectors through a take-up of technologies like renewable hydrogen fuel and energy storage.

A draft of the European Commission's industrial strategy, to be published on Wednesday, outlines how Brussels will help speed investments in those strategic areas, plus others such as raw materials and semiconductors.

The EU is considering ways to support and speed up the rollout of Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI), where member states can pool resources for strategic technologies, the draft said.

IPCEIs allow EU governments to fund projects under easier rules pertaining to state subsidies and for companies to team up on projects that would be too large or risky for one firm alone.

"These projects could accelerate needed investments in the fields of hydrogen, 5G corridors, common data infrastructure and services, sustainable transport, blockchain or European Digital Innovation Hubs," the draft said.

It said some EU states plan to use money from a 672-billion-euro EU COVID-19 recovery fund towards these multi-country projects. Member states must spend 37% of their respective share of recovery funds to support climate objectives.

The Commission is also considering a support scheme, called "contracts for difference", that would guarantee a CO2 price to a project developer regardless of EU carbon market prices.

This could encourage investments in technologies like hydrogen produced from renewable energy. EU carbon prices soared to record highs on Tuesday, but remain far below the price at which analysts say renewable hydrogen could compete with the fossil fuel-based alternative. Read more.

The industry plan slots together with other EU measures to steer cash into green technologies, including its recently-agreed system to classify sustainable investments, and planned environmental standards for electric car batteries sold in Europe.

Brussels will also announce details this summer of a plan to impose carbon border costs on imports of polluting goods. That aims to level the playing field for EU industry and overseas firms by exposing them both to the same carbon price.

The draft industrial plan, reported by Reuters last week, updates a strategy the EU conceived before the COVID-19 pandemic heightened scrutiny of Europe's dependence on foreign suppliers in strategic areas. Read more.

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Agriculture

Commission extends flexibilities of Common Agricultural Policy checks for 2021

EU Reporter Correspondent

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With restrictions still in place across the EU, the Commission has adopted rules to extend to 2021 flexibilities for carrying out checks required for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support. The rules allow the replacement of on-farm visits with the use of alternative sources of evidence, including new technologies such as satellite imagery or geo-tagged photos. This will ensure reliable checks while respecting the restriction of movement and minimizing physical contact between farmers and inspectors.

Furthermore, the rules include flexibility around timing requirements for checks. This allows member states to postpone checks, notably to a period when movement restrictions are lifted. In addition, the rules comprise a reduction of the number of physical on-the-spot checks to be carried out for area and animal-related measures, rural development investments and market measures. These rules aim to ease the administrative burden of national paying agencies by adapting to current circumstances while still ensuring necessary controls for CAP support. More information on the CAP's management and control systems is available here. More information is also available here.

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