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#Pesticides - MEPs propose blueprint to improve EU approval procedure

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Tractor spraying pesticides on vegetable field with sprayer at spring Long-term toxicity should be taken into account during authorisation procedures, say MEPs 

Plans to boost trust in the EU approval procedure by making it more transparent and accountable were put forward by the special committee on pesticides.

Among many proposals, MEPs agreed last week that the public should be granted access to the studies used in the procedure to authorize a pesticide, including all the supporting data and information relating to the applications.

MEPs note that concerns have been raised about the right of applicants to choose a particular member state to report on the approval of an active substance to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as this practice is seen as lacking in transparency and could entail a conflict of interests. They call on the Commission to allocate the authorisation renewal to a different member state.

During the procedure, applicants should be required to register all regulatory studies that will be carried out in a public register, and allow for a “comment period”, during which stakeholders are able to provide additional existing data to ensure that all relevant information is taken into account before a decision is made.

Post-market evaluation and real-life impact

Post-market evaluation should be strengthened, and the Commission should launch an epidemiological study on the real-life impact of pesticides on human health, MEPs say. They also propose to review existing studies on carcinogenicity of glyphosate and to set maximum residue levels for soils and surface water.

Political accountability

MEPs finally stress the need to ensure political accountability when authorization is adopted in the form of implementing acts - in the so-called “comitology procedure”. Commission and member states should publish detailed minutes and make their votes public.

“We need evolution, not revolution. The adopted report underpins this spirit to expand and improve the best authorisation system in the world”, said co-rapporteur Norbert Lins (EPP, DE). “Today we put forward recommendations without overhauling structures which work. We want to make sure the authorisation procedure for plant protection products remains science-based and relies on independent, transparent and efficient processes”, he said.

“We ask for full transparency with regard to the studies used for the assessment, to make them more independent and based on scientific evidence, to avoid conflicts of interests, to fully test active substances, to thoroughly test pesticide products, including the cumulative effects and for stronger risk management measures,” said co-rapporteur Bart Staes (Greens/EFA, BE).

“There are common positions on the essential elements", said Committee Chairman Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR). "It is a question of revising the protocol for the authorization of molecules and making concrete recommendations. This is the mission we set ourselves in order not to get lost in the many challenges" he recalled. “In particular, we ask member states to no longer approve synthetic active substances,” he said.

Next steps

The recommendations were adopted with 23 votes to 5 and 1 abstention. The full House is to vote on the report during its 14-17 January plenary session in Strasbourg.

Background

Nine years after the adoption of the Plant Protection Products Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009) and following the controversy about the renewal of glyphosate, the European Parliament, on 6 February 2018, set up a Special committee on the European Union’s authorisation procedure for pesticides. The PEST Committee’s mandate, as laid down in Parliament’s decision of 6 February 2018, required the special committee to look into the EU’s authorization procedure for pesticides as a whole.

The co-rapporteurs presented their draft report in September 2018. It included many suggestions on how to improve the procedure, focusing on the issues laid down in the mandate, such as transparency, independence and resources.

Environment

EU takes aim at zero pollution for air, water and soil

Catherine Feore

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Today (12 May), the European Commission adopted its EU Action Plan: ‘Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil – a key deliverable of the European Green Deal’. 

The plan sets an objective of reducing pollution to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems, and lays out the steps to get there. The plan ties together all relevant EU policies to tackle and prevent pollution. The Commission will review existing legislation and identify remaining gaps that need to be closed.

European Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “The Green Deal aims to build a healthy planet for all. To provide a toxic-free environment for people and planet, we have to act now. This plan will guide our work to get there.”

“Environmental pollution negatively affects our health, especially the most vulnerable and socially deprived groups, and is also one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss,” said Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius. “The case for the EU to lead the global fight against pollution is today stronger than ever. With the Zero Pollution Action Plan, we will create a healthy living environment for Europeans, contribute to a resilient recovery and boost transition to a clean, circular and climate-neutral economy.”

To steer the EU towards the 2050 goal of a healthy planet for healthy people, the Action Plan sets key 2030 targets to reduce pollution at source, in comparison with the current situation.

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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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