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Health officials 'protected use' of 32 dangerous #Pesticides

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Newly released European Commission documents reveal a fight to cripple important European pesticide protections. The haul of over 600 documents was obtained after a two year legal battle won by the Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN). They show top officials trying to protect chemical and farming interests from incoming European rules that were expected to directly ban up to 32 (page 115) endocrine disrupting (EDC) pesticides. The law set out specifically to protect human, animal health and the environment and followed 25 years of mounting scientific evidence linking EDC pesticides to severe human health impacts and gender-bending effects on animals. They may be the cause ofbirth defects that shocked France last year and made international news headlines.

The secret papers, released by order of European Court of Justice, show an internal struggle to define scientific criteria for identifying and banning EDC pesticides. Outnumbered environment and research department officials are seen resisting attempts by agriculture, enterprise, industry and even health department officials to water down the criteria by introducing non-scientific factors, such as farming profitability. They were joined by the Commission secretary general who orchestrated [documents 42559] a flawed impact assessment process. Its bizarre early results downplayed health impacts [document258]; found that the more pesticides that remained in use, the less the impact on health and the environment [document 560]; and that the fewer EDC pesticides identified, the better [document 273].

The two year row was brought to an end by the European Court of Justice. In a case brought by an alarmed [document 259] Swedish government, the court ruled that non-scientific aspects should play no part in setting of EDC criteria and the impact assessment was illegal.

The hostile majority of departments were trying to derail a “golden shield” protection for health and environment known as the ‘hazards approach’ to pesticides, according to PAN. Unique to Europe, the legal principle means that any pesticide found to be either EDC, carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic, persistent or bioaccumulative, even at very low doses, will be quickly banned throughout Europe. This has led to rejected food imports and trade friction with regions with weaker protections.

The endocrine criteria were finally published on 19 April 2018, five years overdue. The hazards approach survived, but the criteria were crippled in other ways. Eight of the 32 pesticides have been withdrawn for reasons other than EDC criteria. None have been banned because of the EDC rules and few will be, PAN says.

The hazards approach continues to come under attack. Agrafacts reported on 5 April that DG Sante is reviewing a family of endocrine laws, with a view to changing them and singling out the hazards approach, despite them being under a year old. A new report for the Commission, written together with industry-linked experts and supporters of anti-regulation pressure groups, recommends scrapping the hazards approach.

PAN Europe Chemicals Policy Co-ordinator Hans Muilerman said: “It took us years to get these documents. They did everything they could to keep them secret. What the papers revealed shocked me, even after 15 years working on pesticides. How can health officials try and twist a law designed to protect people into something that does the opposite, on behalf of industries causing serious illnesses? We think they want to see a globalised farming system in the mould of Monsanto, free of meaningful regulations. They aimed to allow pesticide exposure higher than what the law intended.

"These revelations could fuel popular concern that business interests run Brussels. We understand that concern, and see the deregulation forces at work. But some departments are seen fighting for fair, fact-based decisions. It was a clear political decision that gave Europe the hazards approach, a golden shield against toxic pesticides that officials must dutifully use in full. We hope the upcoming European elections will bring fresh leadership in Brussels to breathe new life into this and many other good EU laws.”

In the decade to 2019, the number of EU approved pesticides doubled to about 500. A 2012 UNEP/WHO report suggests endocrine-related diseases are rising globally, with chemical exposure playing an important role. A 2016 Lancet article put the related disease costs in Europe at €217 billion per year. Phasing out a range of pesticides will substantially improve the situation, PAN said. Swedish chemical agency KEMI in 2008 advised that 14 EDC pesticides should be banned without delay. Several remain on the market, including Epoxiconazole, Mancozeb, Metconazole, Thiacloprid and Tebuconazole.

Individual states, the European Parliament and Court of Justice are increasingly pushing back against the Commission’s handling of chemical laws. France cites consistentconcerns voiced by citizens about chemical exposure in their daily lives. European elections start in two weeks on 23 May. Official polls consistently find that Europeans are concerned about chemical exposure. Over a million signed a petition against pesticides. A European Parliament resolution calls for full and uniform use of the hazards approach.

A document guide is available here.

Environment

European Green Deal: New financing mechanism to boost renewable energy

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The European Commission has published the rules for a new EU Renewable Energy Financing Mechanism, to apply from the start of 2021. This Mechanism will make it easier for member states to work together to finance and deploy renewable energy projects – either as a host or as a contributing country. The energy generated will count towards the renewable energy targets of all participating countries and feed into the European Green Deal ambition of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “To reduce Europe's greenhouse gas emissions by at least by 55% by 2030, we need to significantly increase the share of renewable energy. This mechanism provides an additional tool to facilitate investment in clean energy projects. It will encourage cooperation between member states and give a practical boost to our green recovery efforts in the coming years. It can help stimulate Europe's economies by getting large-scale projects off the ground and by supporting local SMEs and creating jobs.”

As foreseen under the Energy Union Governance Regulation, this Mechanism will be managed by the Commission, bringing together investors and project developers through regular public tenders. It enables ‘contributing member states' to pay voluntary financial contributions into the scheme, which will be used for renewable energy projects in interested member states (‘hosting member states'). More information is available here (including a link to the implementing regulation), in this factsheet and on the Renewable Energy Financing Mechanism webpage.

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European Green Deal Call: €1 billion investment to boost the green and digital transition

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The European Commission has decided to launch a €1 billion call for research and innovation projects that respond to the climate crisis and help protect Europe's unique ecosystems and biodiversity. The Horizon 2020-funded European Green Deal Call, which will open tomorrow for registration, will spur Europe's recovery from the coronavirus crisis by turning green challenges into innovation opportunities.

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “The €1 billion European Green Deal call is the last and biggest call under Horizon 2020. With innovation at its heart, this investment will accelerate a just and sustainable transition to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. As we do not want anyone left behind in this systemic transformation, we call for specific actions to engage with citizens in novel ways and improve societal relevance and impact.”

This Green Deal Call differs in important aspects from previous Horizon 2020 calls. Given the urgency of the challenges it addresses, it aims for clear, discernible results in the short to medium-term, but with a perspective of long-term change. There are fewer, but more targeted, larger and visible actions, with a focus on rapid scalability, dissemination and uptake.

The projects funded under this call are expected to deliver results with tangible benefits in ten areas: eight thematic areas reflecting the key work streams of the European Green Deal and two horizontal areas - strengthening knowledge and empowering citizens - which offer a longer-term perspective in achieving the transformations set out in the European Green Deal. More information is available in this press release and in this factsheet.

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#GreenDeal - Measures to step up the fight against global deforestation

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MEPs outline how the EU can contribute to tackling worldwide deforestation and call for domestic policies to be revised to protect European forests.

In the non-binding resolution adopted on Tuesday with 543 votes to 47 and 109 abstentions, in response to a Commission communication, MEPs call for more support to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests, protect biodiversity and carbon sinks, as well as to recognize forests’ productivity and ecosystem services.

Binding targets and effective rules

The plenary wants binding targets to protect and restore forest ecosystems, especially primary forests, consistent with the EU 2030 biodiversity strategy’s proposals. MEPs call on the Commission to propose due diligence rules for financial institutions that would prevent EU financial entities or banks from being linked directly or indirectly to deforestation, forest degradation or degradation of natural ecosystems, which often causes indigenous residents to be subjected to human rights violations.

Supply chains and trade agreements free from deforestation

The Commission should propose measures to ensure sustainable and deforestation-free supply chains for products and commodities placed on the EU market, with a particular focus on tackling imported deforestation, says the text. Moreover, future trade and investment agreements must contain binding provisions to prevent deforestation, says the draft resolution. Finally, MEPs want the European Green Deal’s external dimension to be strengthened through alliances and partnerships with third countries, to address climate change and biodiversity loss.

Protection of primary forests

Between 1990 and 2016, an area of 1.3 million square kilometres of the world’s forests was lost, with a destructive effect on biodiversity, climate, people, and the economy.

Afforestation, where trees are planted in an area not previously forested, could under certain conditions, help the EU to reach climate neutrality by 2050, the MEPs said. However, newly planted forests cannot replace primary forests, which provide more carbon dioxide storage and more essential habitats than younger and newly planted ones.

More information

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