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EU, Norway and UK can deliver on leaders' pledge for nature this week by ending overfishing

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Photo credit: Agencja Fotograficzna Caro/Alamy Stock Photo

As officials from the EU, Norway and the UK meet virtually this week to negotiate fishing limits for shared fish populations in 2021, the Our Fish campaign today called on all three parties to make 2021 the year they collectively fish within scientific advice.
 
A recent analysis of joint EU, Norwegian and UK fishing practices, published by Our Fish, demonstrates how for the last 20 years, Norway and the EU, including the UK, have consistently set annual fishing limits for shared stocks above scientific advice. On average, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) as part of the EU-Norway Agreement exceed scientific advice by an average of 11% between 2001 and 2020.

“2021 will be different for the EU, Norway and the UK on many fronts - one of these changes must include a new commitment to end overfishing of shared fish populations, in order to ensure their common seas can continue to support jobs and communities on all our coasts, and to build the resilience needed to bolster our oceans against the pressure of climate change,” said Our Fish Programme Director Rebecca Hubbard.

“Our Fish is calling on the EU to deliver on its legal obligation to end overfishing, by working with Norway and the UK fishing limits within the scientific advice provided by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea). Our analysis demonstrates clear proof of overfishing - and all three parties bear responsibility for this.

“Instead of Norway blaming the EU and UK for uncontrolled discarding of fish at sea, while the EU and the UK blame Norway for pushing fishing limits above scientific advice for Maximum Sustainable Yield, all three must work together for their common, mutually beneficial objective of ending overfishing, and to show global leadership on ocean and climate action.

“The fishing limits for iconic fish such as North Sea cod will be decided during these negotiations - this is the moment for the UK, the EU and Norway to restore ocean health and deliver on their recent Leaders Pledge for Nature by putting a clear and definite stop to overfishing. This is their chance to show they are serious, and not just full of hot air.”

 The briefing, Agreed TACs Compared to ICES Scientific Advice in the Norway Agreement, can be downloaded here.

See also: AGRIFISH: EU Decision to Continue Overfishing Branded 'Shameful' (December 17 2020)

During AGRIFISH Council in December, fisheries ministers agreed on the Commission’s proposed roll over of 25% of 2020 TACs shared with the UK and Norway, as a contingency plan for January – March 2021 (to ensure fishing of shared stocks can continue until a more permanent agreement for fishing in 2021 is made).

Q&A

  • Who is responsible for all of this overfishing?

EU member states, along with Norway and the UK. On average, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) - catch limits, expressed in tonnes - as part of the EU-Norway Agreement exceed ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) scientific advice by an average of 11% (from 2001 to 2020). As each TAC has differing quota shares between the parties, and a different assessment compared to ICES scientific advice, it is possible to make this calculation for the EU, the United Kingdom, and Norway. This approach follows the methodology of the New Economics Foundation’s Landing the Blame report series for TACs agreed by the EU Council. The results reveal that whereas the EU and the United Kingdom are slightly above the 11% overfishing average for both the joint management and joint quotas in the EU-Norway Agreement, Norway is below the average, exceeding ICES advice by 9% for jointly managed TACs.

There are two notable exceptions where there is a large Norwegian share of a TAC that exceeds ICES advice by a large percentage: North Sea cod, which is jointly managed, and horse mackerel in area 4b,c (southern North Sea), which has joint quotas and an annual transfer of quota from the EU to Norway. In these two cases it can be questioned whether the voice of Norway in the quota negotiations had been calling for TACs in line with ICES scientific advice (although the TAC for horse mackerel has followed advice in recent years).

  • Where is this overfishing taking place?

In the North East Atlantic and North Sea

  • Is this really overfishing? 

Yes, data shows these TACs have been repeatedly set above scientific advice for 20 years. The scientific advice is for the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and is intended as a bare minimum requirement for sustainable fisheries management; in fact if fishing pressure were set lower at Maximum Economic Yield for example, the populations, and in the long run the industry catches, could be even greater.

  • Surely if overfishing has been going for 20 years wouldn’t stocks have crashed by now? If they’re still fishing then everything must be ok, right?

North Sea cod is a prime example of how setting TACs above scientific advice will result in fish population crashes.

A good example is fishing limits for the Skaggerak and Kattegat. They are agreed during these shared stock negotiations, where a number of fish such as herring, cod, whiting, hake and ling have been overfished, and populations of herring and cod have collapsed. This not only undermines ocean health but leads to constantly decreasing fishing opportunities and profits for the industry.

  • Where are you getting your numbers? Our country doesn’t overfish!

Landing the Blame uses numbers published in the Agreement between the EU and Norway on shared stocks, and the final TAC and Quota regulation of the EU, and compares them with the scientific advice from ICES

  • Why are you picking on Norway? Clearly Norway is not the villain here, the EU and UK are clearly overfishing more. 

Norway is, on average, overfishing less than the EU and UK, however in 2012 and 2019 they were significantly worse. In any case, being “less bad” than the worst doesn’t mean that Norway is the good guy here!

  • Who is responsible for ending this overfishing?

The EU, Norway and the UK are all responsible for ending this overfishing because the negotiations require agreement between all parties.

  • How do we fix this problem?

The easiest and most direct way to fix this problem is for the EU, Norway and the UK to set TACs in line with the ICES advice, and not exceed it. Making science the decider can take the political sting out of tough decisions.

  • What should Norway do to end this joint overfishing?

Norway is a founding member of the 14-country Ocean Panel; in December 2020, Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged to protect its collective waters, end overfishing and to follow scientific advice. Not only should Norway make good on this commitment, it would do well to demand that its partners, the EU and the UK follow its example.

  • What should the UK do to end this joint overfishing?

The UK needs to commit to ending overfishing immediately and following scientific advice, which its new Fisheries Bill fails to do. No increase in “control of its own waters” will help its fishing industry if it does not stop overfishing, which undermines the very resource it depends on.

  • What should the EU do to end this joint overfishing?

The EU should stick to its guns and implement the CFP by never setting TACs above scientific advice. This is the basic fundamental principle of ending overfishing, which the EU has been fighting for decades, and it cannot hope to advance to ecosystem-based management or climate-smart fisheries if it can’t even set individual fishing limits at sustainable levels.

  • If Norway, EU, and UK end overfishing, will there be negative consequences, won’t it mean poverty, loss of jobs etc.?

Ending overfishing will actually improve conditions for the fishing industry - we will have more fish, which will be able to support even more jobs, fishers will not have to go so far and fish for as long, and this will translate into profits and ultimately more seafood. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) estimates that if we ended overfishing of all EU stocks, we could have food for an additional 89 million EU citizens, an extra €1.6 billion in annual revenue, and generate over 20,000 new jobs.

  • When will shared stock quotas for 2021 be set?

Normally these are negotiated during November and decided by early December, however the failure - so far - to reach an EU-UK agreement means that these negotiations are taking place in January 2021.

  • Who makes these decisions? 

Previously, it was the Head of Delegations for the EU (provided by the European Commission) and Norway who would negotiate the outcome together - they will be joined by a Head of Delegations from the UK for 2021 quota negotiations. The delegations normally meet for 1 week at a time, 1-3 times until they agree. In recent years, the delegations from each state have included their scientific advisors, industry representatives and government representatives. The negotiations are (normally) held behind closed doors, with no access for the public, no publication of positions, and even less transparency than EU AGRIFISH Council meetings. NGOs have been refused entry to these delegations. Here’s something Our Fish wrote last year about this problem.

Climate change

Big business seeks unified, market-based approaches ahead of climate summit

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Corporate executives and investors say they want world leaders at next week’s climate summit to embrace a unified and market-based approach to slashing their carbon emissions, write Ross Kerber and Simon Jessop.

The request reflects the business world’s growing acceptance that the world needs to sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its fear that doing so too quickly could lead governments to set heavy-handed or fragmented rules that choke international trade and hurt profits.

The United States is hoping to reclaim its leadership in combating climate change when it hosts the 22-23 April Leaders Summit on Climate.

Key to that effort will be pledging to cut US emissions by at least half by 2030, as well as securing agreements from allies to do the same.

“Climate change is a global problem, and what companies are looking to avoid is a fragmented approach where the US, China and the EU each does its own thing, and you wind up with a myriad of different methodologies,” said Tim Adams, chief executive of the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based trade association.

He said he hopes U.S. President Joe Biden and the 40 other world leaders invited to the virtual summit will move toward adopting common, private-sector solutions to reaching their climate goals, such as setting up new carbon markets, or funding technologies like carbon-capture systems.

Private investors have increasingly been supportive of ambitious climate action, pouring record amounts of cash into funds that pick investments using environmental and social criteria.

That in turn has helped shift the rhetoric of industries that once minimized the risks of climate change.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil companies, for example, said last month it supported steps to reduce emissions such as putting a price on carbon and accelerating the development of carbon capture and other technologies.

API Senior Vice President Frank Macchiarola said that in developing a new U.S. carbon cutting target, the United States should balance environmental goals with maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

“Over the long-term, the world is going to demand more energy, not less, and any target should reflect that reality and account for the significant technological advancements that will be required to accelerate the pace of emissions reductions,” Macchiarola said.

Labor groups like the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of U.S. labor unions, meanwhile, back steps to protect U.S. jobs like taxing goods made in countries that have less onerous emissions regulations.

AFL-CIO spokesman Tim Schlittner said the group hopes the summit will produce “a clear signal that carbon border adjustments are on the table to protect energy-intensive sectors”.

Industry wish lists

Automakers, whose vehicles make up a big chunk of global emissions, are under pressure to phase out petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines. Industry leaders General Motors Co and Volkswagen have already declared ambitious plans to move toward selling only electric vehicles.

But to ease the transition to electric vehicles, US and European automakers say they want subsidies to expand charging infrastructure and encourage sales.

The National Mining Association, the US industry trade group for miners, said it supports carbon capture technology to reduce the industry’s climate footprint. It also wants leaders to understand that lithium, copper and other metals are needed to manufacture electric vehicles.

“We hope that the summit brings new attention to the mineral supply chains that underpin the deployment of advanced energy technologies, such as electric vehicles,” said Ashley Burke, the NMA’s spokeswoman.

The agriculture industry, meanwhile, is looking for market-based programs to help it cut its emissions, which stack up to around 25% of the global total.

Industry giants such as Bayer AG and Cargill Inc have launched programs encouraging farming techniques that keep carbon in the soil.

Biden’s Department of Agriculture is looking to expand such programs, and has suggested creating a “carbon bank” that could pay farmers for carbon capture on their farms.

For their part, money managers and banks want policymakers to help standardize accounting rules for how companies report environmental and other sustainability-related risks, something that could help them avoid laggards on climate change.

“Our industry has an important role to play in supporting companies’ transition to a more sustainable future, but to do so it is vital we have clear and consistent data on the climate-related risks faced by companies,” said Chris Cummings, CEO of the Investment Association in London.

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Brexit

UK asks for more time to respond to EU Brexit legal action: RTE TV

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Britain has asked for more time to respond to legal action taken by the European Union over its unilateral decision to ease requirements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Ireland’s RTE television reported on Wednesday (14 April), writes Conor Humphries.

“The request came in two letters from the UK’s chief Brexit minister David Frost,” RTE correspondent Tony Connelly said in a Twitter post.

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EU

Team Europe increased Official Development Assistance to €66.8 billion as the world's leading donor in 2020

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The EU and its 27 member states have significantly increased their Official Development Assistance (ODA) for partner countries to €66.8 billion in 2020. This is a 15% increase in nominal terms and equivalent to 0.50% of collective Gross National Income (GNI), up from 0.41% in 2019, according to preliminary figures published today by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC). The EU and its member states thereby confirm their position as the world's leading donor, providing 46% of global assistance from the EU and other DAC donors, and have taken a major leap forward towards meeting the commitment to provide at least 0.7% of collective GNI as ODA by 2030.

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said: “Team Europe has significantly increased its contribution of Official Development Assistance compared to last year. This is crucial at a time when so many people in our partner countries face significant health, economic and social challenges linked to the COVID-19 crisis. The latest figures show that 10 years ahead of the due date to deliver on our commitment to provide 0.7% of our collective GNI as ODA, we are more determined than ever to achieve this target.”

Overall, 17 Member States increased their ODA in nominal terms in 2020 compared to 2019, with the strongest nominal increases coming from Germany (+€3.310bn), France (+€1.499bn) and Sweden (+€921 million), and further increases coming from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The EU institutions' ODA (meaning the European Commission and the EIB) increased by €3.7bn (27%) overall in 2020 in nominal terms. 15 member states improved their ODA relative to their GNI by at least 0.01 percentage points: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. In Cyprus and Greece, ODA as a share of GNI decreased by at least 0.01 percentage points.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the EU, its member states, and the European financial institutions, together with the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have combined their financial resources as Team Europe, mobilising over €40bn in support to partner countries in 2020. 65% of this amount was already disbursed in 2020 in support of the immediate humanitarian needs; health, water, sanitation and nutrition systems, as well as tackling the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis has put a huge stress on public finances and debt sustainability of many developing countries, affecting their ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This is why, in May 2020, President von der Leyen called for a Global Recovery Initiative, linking debt relief and investment to the SDGs to promote a green, digital, just and resilient recovery. The Global Recovery Initiative is about shifting to policy choices supporting green and digital transitions, social inclusiveness and human development while enhancing debt sustainability in partner countries.

ODA is one of the sources of financing to deliver on the SDGs, although more transparency is needed on all sources of finance for sustainable development. As an important step in that direction, data on Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) has been collected and published for the first time, increasing transparency on all officially-supported resources for the SDGs, including South-South co-operation, support to global public goods such as vaccine research and climate mitigation as well as private finance mobilized by official interventions.

Background

The data published today is based on preliminary information reported by the EU Member States to the OECD pending detailed final data to be published by OECD by early 2022. EU collective ODA consists of the total ODA spending of EU member states and the ODA of the EU institutions not attributed to individual member states or the UK (notably own resources of the European Investment Bank and, for the first time in 2020, special macro-financial assistance loans on a grant equivalent basis).

Despite its withdrawal from the European Union taking effect on 1 February 2020, the United Kingdom still contributed funding in the form of ODA to the EU budget and the European Development Fund in 2020. This is included in the EU institutions' ODA. However, in order to avoid double-counting between the ODA reported as EU collective ODA and the ODA reported by the United Kingdom itself, the United Kingdom's contribution to EU institutions is not included in what is reported as EU collective ODA.

Four EU member states already exceeded the 0.7% target of ODA as a share of GNI in 2020: Sweden (1.14%), Luxembourg (1.02%), Denmark (0.73%) and Germany (0.73%).

When highlighting the member states which increased or decreased their ODA as a share of GNI, only cases where the change amounts to at least 0.01 percentage points (based on exact rather than rounded values) are taken into account, while member states for which the change is smaller than 0.01 percentage points in either direction are considered to have kept their ODA as a share of GNI stable.

The EU and its member states thereby perform significantly above the average of non-EU DAC donors in terms of their ODA as a share of GNI, standing at 0.50% compared to 0.26% by the aggregate of all non-EU DAC donors.

In May 2015, the European Council reaffirmed its commitment to increase collective ODA to 0.7% of EU collective GNI by 2030. Since 2015, on a flow basis, ODA by the EU and its current 27 member states has grown by 37% (€18.7bn) in nominal terms while the ODA/GNI ratio has increased by 0.1 percentage points. The year 2020 marks a turn in the previous trend of declining ODA since the 2016 climax when the EU and its then 28 member states' ODA reached 0.52% of GNI. This turn is due partly to an absolute increase in collective ODA in nominal terms, and partly to an absolute decrease in collective GNI in nominal terms. The EU is also committed to give collectively between 0.15% and 0.20% of the EU GNI in the short term to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 0.20% by 2030. Since 2015, on a flow basis, ODA by the EU and its current 27 member states to LDCs has grown by 34% (€3.5bn) in nominal terms to reach €13.8bn (0.10% of GNI) in 2019, and the ODA to LDCs/GNI ratio has increased by 0.01 percentage points. Moreover, compared to 2018, the EU and its then 28 member states increased their aggregate ODA to Africa by 3.6% in nominal terms to €25.9bn in 2019. Data on ODA to LDCs, Africa and other specific recipients for 2020 are expected by early 2022.

Scaling up sustainable finance and private sector engagement in partner countries is essential, coupled with reforms to enhance business climates, as meeting the challenges of the Global Recovery Initiative cannot be achieved by ODA alone. The EU has been instrumental in bringing together aid, investment, trade, domestic resource mobilisation and policies designed to unlock the full potential of all financial flows. The European Fund for Sustainable Development guarantee in particular has played a key role in unlocking additional finance for partner countries. Over the last year alone, the EU signed €1.55bn worth of financial guarantees with our partner financial institutions, leveraging over €17bn of investments – also helping to ensure that recovery from the pandemic is green, digital, just and resilient.

More information

Q&A on preliminary figures on 2020 Official Development Assistance for the EU and its member states 

Annex Preliminary Figures on 2020 Official Development Assistance, Tables and Graphs for the EU and its member states

Commission's publication of figures on the global COVID-19 response

OECD press release

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