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Environment

Commission launches Knowledge Centre to reverse biodiversity loss and protect Europe's ecosystems

EU Reporter Correspondent

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In the framework of the EU Green Week, the European Commission launches a new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity: a one-stop shop for science-based evidence to restore and protect the natural ecosystems that provide us with food, medicines, materials, recreation, and wellbeing. The Knowledge Centre will make the latest knowledge about biodiversity available to strengthen the impact of EU policies.

It will also help to monitor the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which aims to put Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by the end of the decade. Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “Only what gets measured gets done. If we want to deliver on the EU Biodiversity Strategy, we need to better connect all the dots, and for this we need sound data. Be it on the status of pollinators, environmental impact of pesticides, the value of nature for business or the economic rationale of nature-based solutions. We also need to make full use of the digital transformation, Earth observation and citizen science. The new knowledge centre will bring all this together, improving the way we generate and manage biodiversity knowledge, for use across policy areas.”

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, responsible for the Joint Research Centre,  added:  “Science has a crucial role to play in conserving our biodiversity. Led by our own scientists at the Joint Research Centre, the new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will help the European and global research community and policymakers to harvest and make sense of the vast array of information available, streamlining it into effective policies that protect Europe's ecosystems and the services they provide for European citizens.”

In addition, the first ever EU-wide ecosystem assessment has arrived,  which finds that a wealth of biodiversity data exists that could help in taking the right action to alleviate pressures on our ecosystems, but much of it remains unused. The assessment shows that we are becoming more and more dependent on our ecosystems, which themselves remain under high pressure from the impacts of climate change and human activities. The Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will directly address challenges uncovered by the assessment. More information is available here.

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

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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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