Connect with us

Environment

Health officials 'protected use' of 32 dangerous #Pesticides

Published

on

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

Reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement

Published

on

“To drive systemic change towards true circularity, regulation and action must be based on science and facts. Reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 calls for a revision in the way we use energy and natural resources and how we are able to create a circular economy today – as businesses, as governments, as individuals” – writes Charles Héaulmé, President and CEO of the Finnish food packaging producer Huhtamaki.

“This will not happen on its own. Innovation, investment and political commitment are key for making circular economy a reality. We must also foster a new culture of cooperation, where the best solutions lead the way.

Charles Héaulmé, President and CEO of the Finnish food packaging producer Huhtamaki

Charles Héaulmé, President and CEO of the Finnish food packaging producer Huhtamaki

For industry, designing for circularity remains a serious challenge, especially where structural gaps – such as the lack of common infrastructures – exist. This is particularly true for the packaging sector and dealing with these gaps must begin with an acknowledgment of the need for a systemic transition from a linear to a circular approach, where products are not just recyclable but they are actually recycled. As this paradigm shift affects all sectors and policy domains, we must join forces to develop and provide the most effective solutions together – in Europe, and on a global level.

This is no easy task. To succeed, we must ensure that what we do is based on science and facts. A good example is the issue of plastic waste, which is a serious environmental problem worldwide. Plastic is crucial for so many essential products and applications, such as in medicine, but its longevity brings about challenges at the waste disposal stage. As a result, we are seeing many governments tackle the situation by implementing rapid bans for certain single-use products that contain plastic.

But in reality, plastic is crucial to our world when used in the right way: what we are dealing with are the very visible failures in the end-of-life management of products made from plastic. These would be better handled through a combined effort of material innovation and efficient end-of-life management. So instead of concentrating on the life span of a product, we should be paying closer attention to what these products are made of – and how the materials themselves can be recycled and then reused. We should also not be afraid to recognize that what works in one country or region of the world might not immediately work in another. There are differences between nations reflecting size, population density, actual infrastructures and levels of economic development.

This focus on materials is, we firmly believe, a crucial part of the equation for systemic change. For businesses, innovation is the key to unlocking the competitive sustainable solutions needed to create a circular economy for the materials used to make packaging, reduce our carbon footprint and ensure resource efficiency.

While we must be bold in our vision and set clear goals on where we want to go, we must also remember that much innovation is incremental and disruptive innovation often requires significant time and investment. When seeking the most environmentally ambitious and viable solutions, we must take into account the entire life cycle of products and create circular business models that ensure the optimal use of our global resources while maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.

At the outset, we see four key elements to driving the necessary change:

An infrastructure revolution
We need to understand where gaps exist in each country’s current infrastructure related to circularity – such as waste labelling and collection, and end-of-life management – then introduce policies and mechanisms to bridge these gaps and provide waste management and recycling systems that meet the needs of the 21st  century. Material charges can prove to be good incentives, but we should also look at enhanced producer responsibility and new forms of ownership of materials.

Empowering transformative innovation
We must ensure that policies support continued innovation and competitive sustainability by creating a framework which provides incentives for innovation that will help us to deliver the Green Deal. Instead of picking the winners, policymakers should set clear directions to drive efficiencies and lower carbon. By using Life Cycle Thinking to assess the true impact of regulatory and legislative proposals, policymakers can also help embed outcome-focused policy design.

Incentivizing consumers to change
Circular business models should incentivize consumers to reuse, repair and recycle – for example, by ensuring that doing so offers them better quality products and services. In addition, education and inspiration are powerful tools that policymakers and business alike should use to end littering and pollution.

Science-led policy making

By ensuring facts and evidence are the foundation for consumer-behaviour, decision-making and regulation, we are far more likely to deliver the best environmental outcomes. We firmly believe we need enabling regulation founded on scientific evidence and facts, which supports and stimulates innovation

If we are to succeed, we need to be pragmatic and work together, agnostic of technology, material or sector. No one organization can do this alone. We must work with one another across the value chain and look at what actions are required in each region or country to enable efficient material use and to ensure that end-of-life solutions are not only attainable but more importantly, sustainable. We should create general conditions for circular businesses to flourish so that looking at each industry individually and creating rules per sector – whether for packaging, car parts or electronics, for example – becomes unnecessary.

The issue is not about single- or multi-use, but about raw materials. To deliver a truly systemic shift, we need to keep our eyes on the big picture. We need to base ourselves on the science and the expertise of those that, working together, can make a difference.

Now is the time for change. Industry and policymakers must come together to build the platforms that enable both value-chain and cross-value-chain working; and which are themselves linked to the organizations and mechanisms which policymakers have established. By using science, innovation and investment in a public-private partnership we can deliver the best solutions for people and the planet, starting today.

Charles Héaulmé
President and CEO
Huhtamaki

 

Continue Reading

Biodiversity

Public hearing on link between biodiversity loss and pandemics such as COVID-19 

Published

on

The Parliament hearing on 'Facing the sixth mass extinction and increasing risk of pandemics: What role for the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030' will be held today (14 January).

Organized by the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the hearing will address the loss of biodiversity and the extent to which this increases the risk of pandemics due to change in land use, climate change and wildlife trade. The role that the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 could play in countering biodiversity loss and in increasing the EU’s and the global commitment to biodiversity will be discussed.

Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Executive Secretary Dr Anne  Larigauderie and European Environment Agency Executive Director Dr Hans Bruyninckx will open the public hearing.

The detailed programme is available here.

You can follow the hearing live here from 9h today.

EU biodiversity strategy for 2030

On Thursday afternoon, Members will discuss the draft report by rapporteur César Luena (S&D, ES) which responds to the Commission's Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and welcomes the level of ambition in the strategy. The draft report underlines that all main direct drivers of change in nature must be addressed and expresses concern about soil degradation, the impact of climate change and the declining number of pollinators. It also addresses the issues of funding, mainstreaming and the governance framework for biodiversity, calls for a Green Erasmus programme focused on restoration and conservation, and emphasises the need for international action, including with regard to ocean governance.

You can follow the committee meeting live here from 13h15.

More information 

Continue Reading

Environment

Investment Plan for Europe backs construction and operation of new wind farms in Portugal

Published

on

The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide €65 million to EDP Renováveis S.A. (EDPR) to finance the construction and operation of two onshore wind farms in the Portuguese districts of Coimbra and Guarda. The EIB contribution is backed by a guarantee provided by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe. The wind farms are expected to have a total capacity of 125 MW and create approximately 560 jobs during the project's construction phase.

Once operational, the wind farms will contribute to Portugal meeting its energy and climate plan targets as well as the Commission's binding target of having at least 32% of final energy consumption coming from renewable sources by 2030.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “This agreement between the EIB and EDP Renováveis, supported by the Investment Plan for Europe, is a winner for both the climate and the economy. The financing, backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, will fund new onshore wind farms in the west and north of Portugal, helping the country to reach its ambitious energy and climate plan targets and creating new jobs in the process.”

The Investment Plan for Europe has so far mobilized €535 billion of investment across the EU, of which 16% for energy-related projects. The press release is available here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Twitter

Facebook

Trending