On 24 February, the European Commission published the results of a study on due diligence requirements through the supply chain. This study shows that only one in three businesses in the EU are currently undertaking due diligence on human rights and environmental impacts.
Due diligence, in this context, means that for example a company checks their suppliers and operations to be sure it “does no harm”. It could imply that a company needs to check if their suppliers are not using child labour, or that they do not pour waste products into the rivers. 70% of the 334 business survey respondents agreed that EU-level regulation on a general due diligence requirement for human rights and environmental impacts could provide benefits for business.
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said: “Companies told us they believe that EU rules would here provide legal certainty and a harmonized standard for businesses' duty to respect people and the planet. As working towards climate neutrality is among the top priorities of this Commission, I will make sure the results of this important study are taken into account for future work.”
The study was launched in December 2018, as part of the Commission's Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth. It examines options for regulating due diligence in companies' own operations and through their supply chains for adverse human rights and environmental impacts, including relating to climate change. This study also feeds into the objectives of the European Green Deal, which highlights that sustainability should be further embedded into the corporate governance rules across the EU, as many companies focus too much on short-term financial performance compared to their long-term development and sustainability aspects. More information on the study can be found here.
After ten years of promises, authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina still don't tell the people who pollutes air in their towns
Air in Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the dirtiest in Europe (1) and in 2020, it was ranked 10th in the PM2.5 pollution worldwide (2). Despite that, citizens still have a hard time trying to understand: Who is responsible? Although the state authorities have been obliged to collect and publish the data on pollution since 2003, they are not able to launch an adequate system so far. Non-governmental organizations Arnika (Czechia) and Eko forum Zenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) published top-tens of the largest polluters for 2018 (3) based on those data available. They urge the governments to ensure access to information from all large industries. The top-ten of the largest polluters of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found here.
Not surprisingly, large factories that are usually considered as the culprits of pollution lead the top-tens for 2018: ArcelorMittal Zenica, thermal power plants Tuzla, Ugljevik, Gacko, cement kilns Lukavac and Kakanj, GIKIL coke plant, and refinery in Slavonski Brod. Arnika and Eko forum Zenica publish the data collected from the state authorities since 2011. For the first time, the alternative database shows industries from both entities of the country.
“There was a slight improvement in the data transparency by 2019, as the annual emission reports are finally publicly available online (4). However, the official websites are not user friendly and only experts can understand what the numbers represent. That is why we interpret the data and believe that the public will use them to act towards the polluters and the authorities. Without public demand, the environmental conditions will never improve,” Samir Lemeš from Eko forum Zenica said.
Comparison of the data from the last decade enables us to recognize which companies invest in modernization and technologies to protect the environment and human health. Decrease in pollution from coal power plant Ugljevik was caused by investment into desulphurisation in 2019. Emissions of ArcelorMittal Zenica also decreased, but it was caused by the drop in production related to the global economic crisis; citizens of Zenica are still waiting for modernization.
Some of the largest polluters are still hiding their environmental footprint - such as the coal power plant in Kakanj. While in the EU, coal power plants report emissions of about 15 pollutants, Bosnian plants - such as coal power plant Gacko - publish data only on 3-5 basic chemicals. For example information on heavy metals releases, that represent serious threats to human health, is entirely missing.
Analysis of Arnika and Eko forum Zenica shows that the data submitted by the Industrial companies are not reliable and contain a huge load of errors - almost 90% of the data are irrelevant. Moreover, entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina operate different systems using different methodologies.
“Although Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the PRTR Protocol (5) in 2003, the parliaments did not ratify it till today. Thus, the system is not obligatory for industries. Transparency of data on pollution is a key step on a way to cleaner air. Without access to information, the state authorities cannot act. The public and the media are not able to control the situation, and the polluters can keep doing their business as usual at the expense of the environment and public health," said Martin Skalsky, an expert on public participation from Arnika.
For comparison, in Czechia, 1,334 facilities reported emissions in 2018 and the reports included 35 pollutants into air and others into soil, wastewater and waste, while in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina it was only 19 air-polluting substances (6) and in the Republic of Srpska only 6 chemicals. The situation is not improving and the number of reported substances is basically the same today as it was back in 2011.
(3) 2018 is the year for which the latest data are available in responsible ministries of FBiH and RS.
(4) Two authorities are responsible for the data collection, as the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided by the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995 into two entities: Republika Srpska and a Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in 1999 a self-governing administrative unit Brčko District was formed.
Register for Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federal ministry for environment and tourism). Register for the Republic of Srpska (Hydrometeorological Institute of Republika Srpska).
(5) A mandatory information tool for the signatories of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the UNECE Aarhus Convention on environmental democracy, signed by Bosnia and Herzegovina back in 2003. However, the country did not ratify the PRTR Protocol till nowadays.
(6) Arsen, cadmium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead, zinc, ammonium, methane, HCL, HF, PAH, PCDD/F, NMVOC, CO, CO2, SO2/SOx, NO2/NOx, PM10. More on chemical substances and their impact on human health.
European Development Days 2021: Driving the global debate on green action ahead of Kunming and Glasgow Summits
The leading global forum on development co-operation, the European Development Days (EDD), began on 15 June to reflect on the road to the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) in Kunming in October and the Glasgow COP26 in November 2021. More than 8,400 registered participants and more than 1,000 organizations from over 160 countries are preent at the event, which ends today (16 June), with two main topics: a green economy for people and nature, and protecting biodiversity and people. The forum includes the participation of high-level speakers from the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President; Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships; and Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries; as well as the United Nations with Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General; Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director; HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, President of Fauna and Flora International; Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director.
This year's edition has placed a special emphasis on the views of young leaders with expertise and active contributions to find solutions for climate action. With an EDD virtual Global Village presenting innovative projects and ground-breaking reports from 150 organizations all around the world and special events on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, these two days are a unique opportunity to discuss and shape a fairer and greener future. The EDD's website and programme are available online as well as a full press release.
Greening of transport 'must provide realistic alternatives'
In an opinion adopted at its June plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) says that the energy transition must – without denying its objectives – consider the economic and social characteristics of all parts of Europe and be open to an ongoing dialogue with civil society organizations.
The EESC supports the greening of transport, but stresses that the energy transition must be fair and provide viable and realistic alternatives that take account of the specific economic and social territorial features and needs of all parts of Europe, including rural areas.
This is the main message of the opinion drafted by Pierre Jean Coulon and Lidija Pavić-Rogošić and adopted at the Committee's June plenary session. In its assessment of the 2011 White Paper on Transport, which aims to break the transport system's dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility, the EESC takes a firm stand.
Limiting modes of transport is not an option: the aim should be co-modality, not modal shift. In addition, the ecological transition must both be socially fair and preserve the competitiveness of European transport, with full implementation of the European Transport Area, as part of the full implementation of the Single Market. Delays in this respect are regrettable.
Commenting on the adoption of the opinion on the sidelines of the plenary, Coulon said: "Curbing mobility is not an alternative. We support any measures aimed at making transport more energy efficient and reducing emissions. Europe is going through a period of headwinds, but this should not lead to changes of course in terms of social and environmental expectations of the various European initiatives."
Continuous consultation of civil society organizations
The EESC encourages an open, continuous and transparent exchange of views on the implementation of the White Paper between civil society, the Commission and other relevant players such as national authorities at different levels, stressing that this will improve civil society buy-in and understanding, as will useful feedback to policy makers and those carrying out implementation.
"The Committee draws attention to the importance of securing the support of civil society and stakeholders, including through participatory dialogue, as suggested in our previous opinions on this matter", added Pavić-Rogošić. "A good understanding and broad acceptance of strategic goals will be extremely helpful in achieving results."
The EESC also highlights the need for more robust social evaluation and reiterates the statement made in its 2011 opinion on the Social aspects of EU transport policy, urging the European Commission to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the harmonisation of social standards for intra-EU traffic, bearing in mind that an international level playing field is also needed in this respect. Establishing an EU Social, Employment and Training Observatory in the transport sector is a priority.
Monitoring progress in a timely and effective manner
With reference to the evaluation process for the 2011 White Paper, the EESC points out that the procedure was launched late and that the Committee was only involved because it expressly asked to be.
The Commission should have a clear plan for monitoring its strategic documents from the beginning and publish progress reports on their implementation on a regular basis, so that it is possible to assess in a timely manner what has been achieved and what has not and why, and to act accordingly.
In the future, the EESC wishes to continue to benefit from regular progress reports on the implementation of Commission strategies and to contribute effectively to transport policy.
The 2011 White Paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system set the paramount objective of European transport policy: establishing a transport system that underpins European economic progress, enhances competitiveness and offers high-quality mobility services while using resources more efficiently.
The Commission has acted on almost all of the policy initiatives planned in the White Paper. However, the oil dependency of the EU transport sector, although clearly decreasing, is still high. Progress has also been limited in addressing the problem of road congestion, which persists in Europe.
Several initiatives in the context of the White Paper have improved the social protection of transport workers, but civil society and research organisations still fear that developments like automation and digitalisation could negatively affect future working conditions in transport.
The needs of EU transport policy are therefore largely still relevant today, in particular in terms of increasing the environmental performance and competitiveness of the sector, modernizing it, improving its safety and deepening the single market.
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