Connect with us

Environment

Greening of transport 'must provide realistic alternatives'

SHARE:

Published

on

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.

Advertisement

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.

Background

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.

Climate change

Commission adopts new guidance on how to protect future infrastructure projects against climate change

Published

on

The European Commission has published new technical guidance on climate protection of infrastructure projects for the period 2021-2027. These guidelines will allow climate considerations to be integrated into future investments and the development of infrastructure projects, whether they are buildings, network infrastructure or a series of systems and built assets. In this way, European institutional and private investors will be able to make informed decisions on projects deemed compatible with the Paris Agreement and the EU's climate objectives.

The guidelines adopted will help the EU to implement the European Green Deal, to apply the instructions of the European climate law and to contribute to greener EU spending. They are part of the perspective of a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of -55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050; they respect the principles of ‘primacy of energy efficiency 'and‘ not to cause significant harm'; and they meet the requirements set out in the legislation for several EU funds such as InvestEU, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund (CF ) and the Just Transition Fund (FTJ).

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Electricity interconnectivity

Commission approves €30.5 billion French scheme to support production of electricity from renewable energy sources

Published

on

The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a French aid scheme to support renewable electricity production. The measure will help France achieve its renewable energy targets without unduly distorting competition and will contribute to the European objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This aid measure will stimulate development of key renewable energy sources, and support a transition to an environmentally sustainable energy supply, in line with the EU Green Deal objectives. The selection of the beneficiaries through a competitive bidding process will ensure the best value for taxpayers' money while maintaining competition in the French energy market.” 

The French scheme

Advertisement

France notified the Commission of its intention to introduce a new scheme to support electricity produced from renewable energy sources, namely to onshore operators of solar, onshore wind and hydroelectric installations. The scheme grants support to these operators awarded via competitive tenders. In particular, the measure includes seven types of tenders for a total of 34 GW of new renewables capacity that will be organized between 2021 and 2026: (i) solar on the ground, (ii) solar on buildings, (iii) onshore wind, (iv) hydroelectric installations, (v) innovative solar, (vi) self-consumption and (vii) a technology-neutral tender. The support takes the form of a premium on top of the electricity market price. The measure has a provisional total budget of around €30.5 billion. The scheme is open until 2026 and aid can be paid out for a maximum period of 20 years after the new renewable installation is connected to the grid.

Commission's assessment

The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

The Commission found that the aid is necessary to further develop the renewable energy generation to meet France's environmental goals. It also has an incentive effect, as the projects would otherwise not take place in the absence of public support. Furthermore, the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary, as the level of aid will be set through competitive tenders. In addition, the Commission found that the positive effects of the measure, in particular, the positive environmental effects outweigh any possible negative effects in terms of distortions to competition. Finally, France also committed to carry out an ex-post evaluation to assess the features and implementation of the renewables scheme.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the French scheme is in line with EU State aid rules, as it will facilitate the development of renewable electricity production from various technologies in France and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal and without unduly distorting competition.

Background

The Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy allow member states to support the production of electricity from renewable energy sources, subject to certain conditions. These rules aim to help member states meet the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market.

The Renewable Energy Directive of 2018 established an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030. With the European Green Deal Communication in 2019, the Commission reinforced its climate ambitions, setting an objective of no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050. The recently adopted European Climate Law, which enshrines the 2050 climate neutrality objective and introduces the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, set the ground for the fit for 55' legislative proposals adopted by the Commission on 14 July 2021. Among these proposals, the Commission has presented an amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive, which sets an increased target to produce 40% of EU energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.50272 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.

Continue Reading

Plastic waste

Plastic waste and recycling in the EU: Facts and figures

Published

on

Nearly a third of plastic waste in Europe is recycled. Find out more facts and figures on plastic waste and its recycling in the EU with this infographic, Society.

Infographic about plastic waste and recycling in Europe
Find out the facts about plastic waste and recycling in the EU  

The production of plastic has grown exponentially in just a few decades - from 1.5 million tonnes in 1950 to 359 million tonnes in 2018 worldwide – and with it the amount of plastic waste. After a sharp drop in production in the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, production recovered again in the second half of the year.

The EU is already taking measures to reduce the amount of plastic waste, but what happens to the waste that is generated despite all efforts? And how can plastic recycling rates be increased?

Advertisement

Plastic waste treatment in Europe

In Europe, energy recovery is the most used way to dispose of plastic waste, followed by recycling. Some 25% of all the generated plastic waste is landfilled.

Half of the plastic collected for recycling is exported to be treated in countries outside the EU. Reasons for export include the lack of capacity, technology or financial resources to treat the waste locally.

Previously, a significant share of the exported plastic waste was shipped to China, but recent restrictions on imports of plastic waste in China is likely to further decrease EU exports. This poses the risk of increased incineration and landfilling of plastic waste in Europe. Meanwhile, the EU is trying to find circular and climate-friendly ways of managing its plastic waste.

The low share of plastic recycling in the EU means significant losses for the economy as well as for the environment. It is estimated that 95% of the value of plastic packaging material is lost to the economy after a short first-use cycle.

Globally, researchers estimate that the production and incineration of plastic pumped more than 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2019. By 2050, those emissions could rise to 2.8 billion tonnes, a part of which could be avoided through better recycling.

Read more about waste management in the EU.

Problems with plastic recycling

The main issues complicating plastic recycling are the quality and price of the recycled product, compared with their unrecycled counterpart. Plastic processors require large quantities of recycled plastic, manufactured to strictly controlled specifications and at a competitive price.

However, since plastics are easily customised to the needs - functional or esthetic - of each manufacturer, the diversity of the raw material complicates the recycling process, making it costly and affecting the quality  of the end product. As a consequence, the demand for recycled plastics is growing rapidly, though in 2018 it accounted for only 6% of plastics demand in Europe.

Find out more about EU plans to reach a circular economy by 2050, including plastic reduction.

EU solutions to increase recycling rates

In May 2018, the European Commission put forward a proposal to address the issue of plastic marine litter. It includes an EU ban on the production of the top 10 single-use plastics that are found on European beaches from 3 July 2021.

As part of the Green Deal, 55% of plastic packaging waste should be recycled by 2030. This would imply better design for recyclability, but MEPs believe measures to stimulate the market for recycled plastic are also needed.

These measures could include:

  • Creating quality standards for secondary plastics;
  • encouraging certification in order to increase the trust of both industry and consumers;
  • introducing mandatory rules on minimum recycled content in certain products, and;
  • encouraging EU countries to consider reducing VAT on recycled products.


The European Parliament also backed the restriction of light-weight plastic bags in the EU in 2015.

In addition MEPs called on the Commission to take action against micro plastics.

Read more about the EU strategy to reduce plastic waste.

Find out more 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending