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#Pesticides - MEPs propose blueprint to improve EU approval procedure

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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

Renovation Wave: Doubling the renovation rate to cut emissions, boost recovery and reduce energy poverty

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The European Commission has published its Renovation Wave Strategy to improve the energy performance of buildings. The Commission aims to at least double renovation rates in the next ten years and make sure renovations lead to higher energy and resource efficiency. This will enhance the quality of life for people living in and using the buildings, reduce Europe's greenhouse gas emissions, foster digitalisation and improve the reuse and recycling of materials. By 2030, 35 million buildings could be renovated and up to 160,000 additional green jobs created in the construction sector.

Buildings are responsible for about 40% of the EU's energy consumption, and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. But only 1% of buildings undergo energy efficient renovation every year, so effective action is crucial to making Europe climate-neutral by 2050. With nearly 34 million Europeans unable to afford keeping their homes heated, public policies to promote energy efficient renovation are also a response to energy poverty, support the health and wellbeing of people and help reduce their energy bills. The Commission has also published today a Recommendation for member states on tackling energy poverty.

European Green Deal Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “We want everyone in Europe to have a home they can light, heat, or cool without breaking the bank or breaking the planet. The Renovation Wave will improve the places where we work, live and study, while reducing our impact on the environment and providing jobs for thousands of Europeans. We need better buildings if we want to build back better.”

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “The green recovery starts at home. With the Renovation Wave we will tackle the many barriers that today make renovation complex, expensive and time consuming, holding back much needed action. We will propose better ways to measure renovation benefits, minimum energy performance standards, more EU funding and technical assistance encourage green mortgages and support more renewables in heating and cooling. This will be a game changer for home-owners, tenants and public authorities.”

The strategy will prioritize action in three areas: decarbonization of heating and cooling; tackling energy poverty and worst-performing buildings; and renovation of public buildings such as schools, hospitals and administrative buildings. The Commission proposes to break down existing barriers throughout the renovation chain – from the conception of a project to its funding and completion - with a set of policy measures, funding tools and technical assistance instruments.

The strategy will include the following lead actions:

  • Stronger regulations, standards and information on the energy performance of buildings to set better incentives for public and private sector renovations, including a phased introduction of mandatory minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings, updated rules for Energy Performance Certificates, and a possible extension of building renovation requirements for the public sector;
  • ensuring accessible and well-targeted funding, including through the ‘Renovate' and ‘Power Up' Flagships in the Recovery and Resilience Facility under NextGenerationEU, simplified rules for combining different funding streams, and multiple incentives for private financing;
  • increasing capacity to prepare and implement renovation projects, from technical assistance to national and local authorities through to training and skills development for workers in new green jobs;
  • expanding the market for sustainable construction products and services, including the integration of new materials and nature-based solutions, and revised legislation on marketing of construction products and material reuse and recovery targets;
  • creating a New European Bauhaus, an interdisciplinary project co-steered by an advisory board of external experts including scientists, architects, designers, artists, planners and civil society. From now until summer 2021 the Commission will conduct a broad participatory co-creation process, and will then set up of a network of five founding Bauhaus in 2022 in different EU countries, and;
  • developing neighbourhood-based approaches for local communities to integrate renewable and digital solutions and create zero-energy districts, where consumers become prosumers selling energy to the grid. The strategy also includes an Affordable Housing Initiative for 100 districts.

The review of the Renewable Energy Directive in June 2021 will consider strengthening the renewable heating and cooling target and introducing a minimum renewable energy level in buildings. The Commission will also examine how the EU budget resources alongside the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) revenues could be used to fund national energy efficiency and savings schemes targeting lower income populations. The Ecodesign Framework will be further developed to provide efficient products for use in buildings and promote their use.

The Renovation Wave is not only about making the existing buildings more energy efficient and climate neutral. It can trigger a large-scale transformation of our cities and built environment. It can be an opportunity to start a forward-looking process to match sustainability with style. As announced by President von der Leyen, the Commission will launch the New European Bauhaus to nurture a new European aesthetic that combines performance with inventiveness. We want to make liveable environments accessible to everyone, and again marry the affordable with the artistic, in a newly sustainable future.

Background

The COVID-19 crisis has turned the spotlight on our buildings, their importance in our daily lives and their fragilities. Throughout the pandemic, the home has been the focal point of daily life for millions of Europeans: an office for those teleworking, a make-shift nursery or classroom for children and pupils, for many a hub for online shopping or entertainment.

Investing in buildings can inject a much-needed stimulus into the construction sector and the macro-economy. Renovation works are labour-intensive, create jobs and investments rooted in often local supply chains, generate demand for highly energy-efficient equipment, increase climate resilience and bring long-term value to properties.

To achieve the at least 55% emissions reduction target for 2030, proposed by the Commission in September 2020, the EU must reduce buildings' greenhouse gas emissions by 60%, their energy consumption by 14%, and the energy consumption of heating and cooling by 18%.

European policy and funding has already had a positive impact on the energy efficiency of new buildings, which now consume only half the energy of those built over 20 years ago. However, 85% of buildings in the EU were built over 20 years ago, and 85-95% are expected to still be standing in 2050. The Renovation Wave is needed to bring them up to similar standards.

More information

Renovation Wave Strategy

Annex and Staff Working Document on the Renovation Wave Strategy

Memo (Q&A) on the Renovation Wave Strategy

Factsheet on the Renovation Wave Strategy

Factsheet on the New European Bauhaus

Energy poverty recommendation

Annex and Staff Working Document on the Energy Poverty Recommendation

Renovation Wave webpage

Energy Poverty webpage

 

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CO2 emissions

City leaders speak in favour of emission reduction targets up to 65% by 2030 with EU support

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Mayors of 58 major European cities say that “it’s time for a revision of the EU 2030 energy and climate targets to at least 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, legally binding at member-state level.” They also call for EU funding to be channelled to a green and just recovery in cities, especially to “unlock the full potential” of leading cities that have made even higher reduction targets of 65%. The call follows the vote by the European Parliament in favour of higher targets and ahead of the European Council meeting on 15 October in Brussels.

In an open letter to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in her role as President of the Council of the EU, and President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the mayors say their proposal would be, “a natural milestone on the road to a climate neutral continent by 2050”.

Cities are a critical part of the European Green Deal, but cannot act alone. “…that’s why we ask you to use EU funding and recovery policies to support leading cities aiming to do their part of this goal with an even higher reduction target of 65%. We will not be able to unlock the potential of Europe’s cities without an ambitious EU policy framework in place,” reads the letter.

The mayors, representing millions of Europeans, also call for:

  • Significant investments in public transport, green infrastructure and building renovations to enable the transition in cities. The EU’s recovery plan must be designed to deliver the highest political ambitions for emissions reductions;
  • EU funding and financing to be channelled to where it is the most needed – Europe’s cities – to boost the transformational power of urban areas for a green and just recovery, and;
  • recovery funding for fossil-fuel intensive sectors to be conditional to clear decarbonization commitments.

By adopting these measures, the letter concludes: “You will be sending a clear signal that Europe means business on green recovery and supports strong climate action ahead of COP26.”

Anna König Jerlmyr, mayor of Stockholm and president of Eurocities, said: “Cities are at the forefront of climate ambition in Europe and will be the engines of the European Green Deal. The EU must support them with a fit-for-purpose COVID19 recovery plan that directs massive investments to the green and just transition in cities.”

The letter was co-ordinated through the Eurocities network.

  1. The mayors’ open letter can be viewed here.
  2. The cities that have signed are: Amsterdam, Athens, Banja Luka, Barcelona, Bergen, Bordeaux, Burgas, Braga, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Budapest, Chemnitz, Cologne, Copenhagen, Coventry, Dortmund, Dublin, Eindhoven, Florence, Frankfurt, Gdansk, Ghent, Glasgow, Grenoble-Alpes Metropole, Hannover, Heidelberg, Helsinki, Kiel, Lahti, Linkoping, Lisbon, Ljubljana, London, Lyon, Lyon Metropole, Madrid, Malmo, Mannheim, Milan, Munich, Munster, Nantes, Oslo, Oulu, Paris, Porto, Riga, Rome, Seville, Stockholm, Strasbourg, Stuttgart, Tallinn, Tampere, Turin, Turku, Vilnius, Wroclaw
  3. Eurocities wants to make cities places where everyone can enjoy a good quality of life, is able to move around safely, access quality and inclusive public services and benefit from a healthy environment. We do this by networking almost 200 larger European cities, which together represent some 130 million people across 39 countries, and gathering evidence of how policy making impacts on people to inspire other cities and EU decision makers.

Connect with us at our website or by following our TwitterInstagramFacebook and LinkedIn accounts

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Animal welfare

Time to listen to citizens and trust technology when it comes to slaughter

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The conversation on slaughter without stunning is bouncing around Europe for different reasons: animal welfare, religion, economy. The practice means killing animals while still fully conscious and it is used in some religious traditions, such as the Jewish and Muslim ones, to produce respectively kosher and halal meat, writes Reineke Hameleers.

The Polish parliament and senate are voting on the Five for animals bill, which, among other measures, includes a restriction on the possibility of ritual slaughter. Jewish communities and politicians across Europe are calling on Polish authorities to scrap the ban on kosher meat exports (Poland is one of the biggest European exporters of kosher meat).

The request though doesn’t take into account what EU Citizens, Polish included, have just expressed in the opinion poll Eurogroup for Animals recently released. The majority clearly supports higher animal welfare standards declaring that: it should be mandatory to make animals unconscious before they are slaughtered (89%); countries should be able to adopt additional measures that ensure higher animal welfare standards (92%); the EU should require all animals to be stunned before being slaughtered, even for religious reasons (87%); the EU should prioritise funding for alternative practices for slaughtering animals in humane ways that are also accepted by religious groups (80%).

While the results unequivocally show the civil society position against slaughter without stunning, this should not be interpreted as a threat to religious freedom, as some try to picture it. It represents the level of attention and care Europeans have towards animals, which is also enshrined in the EU Treaty defining animals as sentient beings.

The EU law says that all animals must be made unconscious before being killed, with exceptions in the context of some religious practices. Several countries like Slovenia, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and two regions of Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia) adopted stricter rules with no exceptions to the mandatory stunning of animals before slaughter.

In Flanders, as well as in Wallonia, the parliament adopted the law almost unanimously (0 votes against, only a few abstentions). The law was the result of a long process of democratic decision making which included hearings with the religious communities, and received cross-party support. It is key to understand that the ban refers to slaughter without stunning and it is not a ban on religious slaughter.

These rules aim at ensuring higher welfare for animals being slaughtered in the context of religious rites. Indeed the European Food Safety Authority concluded that serious welfare problems are highly likely to occur after the throat cut, since the animal - still conscious - can feel anxiety, pain and distress. Also, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) acknowledged that “particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites that are carried out without pre-stunning are not tantamount, in terms of serving a high level of animal welfare at the time of killing”.

Nowadays reversible stunning allows for the protection of animals being slaughtered in the context of religious rites without interfering with the rites per se. It causes unconsciousness through electronarcosis, so the animals are still alive when their throat is cut.

Acceptance of stunning methods is increasing among religious communities in Malaysia, India, Middle- East, Turkey, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Given what citizens expressed in the opinion poll, and the possibilities offered by technology, European Member States should be able to adopt additional measures that ensure higher animal welfare standards, like the Belgian region of Flanders which introduced such a measure in 2017 and is now threatened to have it reversed by the CJEU.

It’s time for our leaders to base their decisions on sound science, unequivocal case law, accepted alternatives to slaughter without stunning, and strong democratic, moral values. It’s time to pave the way to real progress in the EU instead of turning the clock backwards.

The opinions expresed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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