Archive pour la catégorie ‘Environment’

What are the opportunities for European research?

Lundi 30 janvier 2012

A consultation on the European research shows the ways to make Europe more attractive for researchers, but also increasing transnationally-coordinated research; achieving higher scientific excellence; moving, working and co-operating freely across borders or tackling global challenges.

These are some of the key themes resulting from a public consultation on the European Research Area (ERA), which ended on 30 November 2011. The Commission will now decide which issues should be addressed as priorities when finalising the ERA Framework, to be tabled in June 2012 with a view to completing ERA by 2014. The findings were presented today by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn at the “ERA conference 2012, Fostering Efficiency, Excellence and Growth” in Brussels.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “With Europe crying out for growth, ERA can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue with a situation where research funding is not always allocated competitively, where positions are not always filled on merit, where researchers can’t take their grants across borders, where large parts of Europe are not even in the game, where there is a scandalous waste of female talent and where our brightest and best are leaving never to return. I want an entirely new ERA-partnership, with stronger role for key stakeholders, and much tougher monitoring of Member States’ progress. I will not hesitate to “name and shame” those who perform badly against ERA objectives.”

The European Commission received 590 responses to the on-line questionnaire and 101 ad hoc position papers by national and European research organisations and governments. Respondents to the online survey indicated deficiencies in research careers and mobility as the most urgent priority. This was followed by problems relating to research infrastructures, knowledge transfer and cross-border collaboration. A broad majority of respondents also highlighted that a higher involvement of women in science will contribute to European socio-economic growth. In position papers, cross-border collaboration, international cooperation, as well as open access to publications and data were on a similar footing to researcher-related issues.

One of the main messages from the research community is the need to attract and retain more leading researchers in Europe and to provide researchers with better and especially business-relevant skills. The global attractiveness of Europe as a location for researchers and private R&D investment should also be increased by reducing the fragmentation of the European market, and by improving employment and career prospects for researchers. The lack of open and transparent recruitment procedures is regarded as one of the main barriers to internationally mobile researchers. It is also necessary to coordinate research at transnational level to raise research quality, reduce costs and tackle global challenges.

Background

The Commission is engaging with stakeholders to design an ambitious ERA Framework. At the European Council of 4 February 2011, EU heads of state and government endorsed the Commission’s proposal to create Innovation Union and called for the completion of the European Research Area by 2014 to create a genuine single market for knowledge research and innovation. The ERA Framework will focus on non-funding measures, while Horizon 2020 is the financial pillar of the Innovation Union.

Proposed in January 2000 by the European Commission in its communication “Towards a European Research Area” (COM(2000)6), and launched at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, the creation of a European Research Area (ERA) was given new impetus in 2007 with the European Commission’s Green Paper on ERA (COM(2000)161), followed by the Ljubljana Process in 2008.

The European Union backs greener traffic management

Mardi 24 janvier 2012

The three-year project, titled THE ISSUE, brings together five European regions in the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Poland.

With a EUR 2.7 million boost as part of the ‘Regions of knowledge’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the project partners will support scientists, engineers and development agencies from the different regions to work together and develop more effective methods of easing road congestion and improving the urban environment.

Traffic management systems use information and communication technologies (ICT) applied to both transport infrastructure and vehicles in order to improve life on the roads for everyone. This can be in terms of safety, reliability or even productivity. Increasingly, traffic management systems are also addressing the need to tackle environmental factors.

The ultimate aim is to influence future policy so that traffic management systems that benefit public health and safety are widely implemented. The main trouble areas when it comes to traffic management are how transport impacts on urban mobility, how green our transport system is, and the health, safety and security of citizens.

In THE ISSUE project diverse technologies and research applications will be used to tackle these traffic management issues. One such example is the integration of computer intelligence solutions and real-time satellite navigation data into existing operational urban traffic management systems. Two other practical approaches are space and in situ measurements to help mitigate risk to citizens’ health from traffic-induced air pollution, and technology demonstration and pre-operational real-time trials of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered car operating in a city environment.

The project is being headed up by researchers from the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council in the United Kingdom.

Councillor Rory Palmer from Leicester City Council spoke about the project: ‘Making Leicester a low carbon city is one of our main priorities and this kind of research will be essential to helping tackle issues around congestion and air quality in the future. I am proud that the city council can help make this work possible.’

Project leader Professor Alan Wells from the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre said: ‘With the EU funding we have secured, we can now coordinate different research activities in the same general areas of traffic and the environment that are being carried out by partners from across Europe. These sort of outcomes have never been brought together in this way before.’

The main objective of the ‘Regions of Knowledge’ Theme of the FP7 is to promote knowledge exchange and cooperation between European regions so as to stimulate economic growth and job creation. THE ISSUE project aims to create vibrant partnerships between different regional research clusters to bring together and coordinate existing and forthcoming research and technological development (RTD) programmes relevant to traffic, health and the environment.

The idea is that by holding consultations, participating regional and local authorities can identify economic priorities specific to certain regions, and ensure that their research priorities are in line with their traffic, health and environment policies.

‘The scientific teams at the heart of the project will be working closely with the bodies responsible for managing traffic, transport and air quality in the UK and European regions to explore how this research can be of value to them,’ says Professor Alan Wells. ‘Our aim is to draw on the strengths of industry and academics working in partnership. We have to be mindful at all stages of the connection between research, policy and how what we are developing can make a difference to the quality of people’s lives.’

The European Economic and Social Committee wishes an integration of energy policies.

Mardi 24 janvier 2012

The EU advisory body has today championed the idea of setting up a European Energy Community (EEC), creating an EU-wide internal energy market and shaping a common, strategic approach to energy issues.

The idea was first mooted by Jacques Delors, a former European Commission President. The Committee is very much behind the proposal and has expanded on it in its own-initiative opinion entitled Involving civil society in the establishment of a future European Energy Community adopted at today’s plenary session.

Concerned about the dismal progress being made in completing an internal market for electricity and gas, the EESC bleakly pointed out that only 10% of electricity transited between countries, consumers were unable to choose an operator established abroad possibly offering more attractive terms, energy poverty was increasing, network planning was largely a national business, and the EU did not negotiate with supplier countries as a single bloc, putting member states and the EU at a disadvantage.

In a bid to build an integrated EU energy market, the EESC stressed the importance of a joint approach to energy production, transmission and consumption, and said Member States should act “responsibly” in this field. It vented its frustration with some countries’ unilateral decisions on energy choices, saying that “in a spirit of solidarity and efficiency” such decisions should have been taken “by common accord at EU level” instead. It also warned against prematurely ditching any low-emission energy source as that might jeopardise the EU’s energy policy objectives.

As a first step towards a European Energy Community, the EESC endorsed the idea of creating regional energy blocs within which countries and operators would coordinate their key decisions on energy mix and network development. “Not only would this generate considerable economies of scale and industrial development linked to new energy sources,” said Pierre Jean Coulon (France, Workers Group), rapporteur of the opinion. “It would also lead to a gradual integration of hitherto separate markets and cause prices to align.”

As budgets are squeezed and the development of new energy sources becomes ever more expensive, it was crucial to pool national resources and channel them towards projects that are in keeping with the EU’s objectives, said the EESC. It also favoured using bonds to finance these projects.

The EESC backed Mr Delors’ idea of creating “a European gas purchasing group” to strengthen the bargaining power of Member States and companies. It suggested establishing a common supply structure for gas and other fuels that would ensure consistency in negotiations and contribute to reducing prices. The EESC was adamant that the European Commission was best placed to negotiate energy agreements with third countries on behalf of Member States, should they have an impact on several EU countries. The Commission should also be allowed to ensure national energy deals with third countries are in line with EU internal market rules and security of supply’s objectives before they enter into force, said the Committee.

Given the all-encompassing impact of energy decisions, the public could not be left out of the debate, said the EESC. It thus proposed setting up a European civil society forum tasked with monitoring energy issues. The forum would work closely with European institutions and establish dialogue mechanisms with civil society representatives in Member States. “Energy policy is an area where winning public acceptance is of crucial importance and that can only be achieved through fair and transparent information,” said Mr Coulon.

The European Parliament wants tighter controls for phytosanitary products

Jeudi 19 janvier 2012

The main objective is to reduce hazards on the environment and human health.

Safer sofas

The updated legislation closes a loophole so that treated products - such as furniture sprayed with fungicide or anti-bacterial kitchen worktops - will be included under the rules and labelled. Agricultural pesticides will continue to be covered by other EU legislation.

Restricting harmful substances

The most problematic substances - such as those that are carcinogenic, affect genes or hormones or are toxic to reproduction - should in principle be banned. Exceptions should only be made in Member States where strictly necessary, for example if a biocide is needed to safeguard against a specific danger to health. Approvals and renewals will be time-limited, while safer alternatives are developed.

Concerned about possible risks of nanotechnology, MEPs secured separate safety checks and labelling for products containing nano-sized materials.

Opening up the market

The new legislation further harmonises the EU market for biocidal products and sets deadlines for applications to be assessed. The recognition of approvals among Member States will be improved and the possibility to apply for authorisation at EU level will be phased in from 2013, becoming possible for most biocidal products by 2020.

Reducing animal testing

To avoid duplicating tests on animals, companies will be required to share data in exchange for fair compensation

The European Parliament tracks down the waste

Jeudi 19 janvier 2012

Parliament passed a resolution to halve the food wastage in Europe.

Since food is wasted at all stages - by producers, processors, retailers, caterers and consumers, MEPs call for a co-ordinated strategy, combining EU-wide and national measures, to improve the efficiency of food supply and consumption chains sector by sector and to tackle food wastage as a matter of urgency. If nothing is done, food wastage will grow 40% by 2020, says a study published by the Commission.

Better education to avoid excessive waste

To drastically reduce food wastage by 2025, new awareness campaigns should be run at both EU and national levels to inform the public how to avoid wasting food, says the resolution. Member States should introduce school and college courses explaining how to store, cook and dispose of food and also exchange best practices to this end. To promote the idea of using food sustainably, MEPs called for 2014 to be designated as “European year against food waste”.

Proper labelling and packaging

To avoid situations in which retailers offer food too close to its expiry date and thus increasing the potential for wastage, dual-date labelling could be introduced to show until when food may be sold (sell-by date) and until when it may consumed (use-by date), says the resolution.

It adds that the European Commission and Member States should nonetheless first ensure that customers understand the difference between labels currently used within the EU, such as the quality-related “best before” and safety-related “use by” dates.

To enable consumers to buy just the amounts they need, food packaging should be offered in a range of sizes and designed to conserve food better. Foods close to their expiry dates and damaged food products should be sold at discounted prices, to make them more accessible to people in need, MEPs say.

Public institutions should favour responsible caterers

Public procurement rules for catering and hospitality should be updated to ensure that where possible, contracts are awarded to catering companies that use local produce and give away or redistribute leftover food to poorer people or food banks free of charge, rather than just disposing of it.

EU-level support measures such as distributing food to least-favoured citizens or programmes encouraging consumption of fruit and milk in schools should also be retargeted with a view to preventing food waste, adds the resolution.

MEPs also welcomed existing initiatives in some Member States to recover unsold food and offer it to needy citizens and called on retailers to take part in such programmes.

Food wastage figures

Current wastage in EU27: 89 million tonnes per annum (i.e. 179 kg per capita)

Projection for 2020 (if no action is taken): 126 million tonnes (i.e. a 40% increase)

Responsibility for food waste:

- households: 42% (60% of which is avoidable)
- manufacturers: 39%
- retailers: 5%
- catering sector: 14%

The European Parliament wants better management of electronic waste

Jeudi 19 janvier 2012

In agreement with the Council, the European Parliament updates legislation on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Once Council formally approves the updated directive and it enters the EU lawbooks, Member States will have 18 months to update their national legislation.

Collection and recycling

All Member States must increase their collection of e-waste, regardless of whether they already meet the current flat-rate target of 4kg per person per year.

By 2016, most will have to collect 45 tonnes of e-waste for every 100 tonnes of e-goods put on sale three years previously. By 2019, this must rise to a rate of 65%, or alternatively they can collect a comparable figure of 85% of e-waste generated. Ten countries needing to improve their facilities will have an interim target of 40% and may take until 2021 to reach the final target.

To help everyone play their part, Parliament successfully argued that consumers should be allowed to return small items (such as mobile phones) to any larger electrical goods shop, without needing to buy a new product.

Better processing will help to recover more valuable raw materials and prevent harmful substances going to landfill. Recycling rates will need to rise to 80% for some categories of goods. The best recycling techniques should be used and products should be designed to be recycled more easily.

E-waste exports

MEPs also negotiated tighter controls on illegal shipments, to prevent e-waste being processed in countries where conditions are often hazardous to workers and the environment. The burden of proof moves from customs officials to exporters, who must properly demonstrate in future that goods are being shipped for repair or reuse as appropriate.

Cutting red tape

Producers of e-goods will continue to contribute financially towards meeting processing targets. They will benefit from simplified registration and reporting requirements and will be able to appoint representatives instead of needing to establish a legal seat in each country where they operate. New measures will prevent double charging of registration fees within Member States.

The European Commission focuses on the animal welfare

Jeudi 19 janvier 2012

The European Commission today adopted a new strategy for 2012-2015.

The need for change
EU Animal Welfare legislation, developed in response to contingencies and political demand over the past 3 decades, is often detailed and sector specific but sporadic in its coverage. Uneven application of these rules in the member States makes for an uneven playfield in this important economic sector. Viewed against the background of the diversity of climatic, terrain and farming systems in which it must be applied, this area of European law calls for change.

The new Strategy was adopted in the form of a Commission Communication to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee.

Why problems persist
The Commission Communication identifies the lack of enforcement of EU legislation by Member States in a number of areas as one of the major issues adversely affecting animal welfare in the EU. Another brake on full and even implementation is the fact that the market does not provide sufficient economic incentives for compliance.

The Communication also notes that many of the parties involved lack sufficient knowledge about animal welfare, while it points out gaps in EU legislation which make it harder to ensure adequate welfare conditions for some categories of animals.

Suggested Actions
To address these issues and concerns, the Strategy provides for a two-pronged approach: a proposal for a comprehensive animal welfare law and a reinforcement of current actions. The legislation to be proposed is expected to promote an innovative approach focusing on actual welfare outcomes instead of mechanistic inputs, and to increase the focus on the education and professional standards of all parties concerned.

The second element proposes a reinforcement and the optimisation of current Commission actions: enhancing tools to strengthen Member State compliance with the legal requirements; boosting the already existing international co-operation on animal welfare issues; providing consumers with better information, and performing studies where animal welfare appears to encounter the most problems.

Background
The Commission first adopted an Animal Welfare Strategy in 2006. The Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010, grouped the various aspects of EU policy on animal welfare governing the keeping of billions of animals for economic purposes.

The new Strategy builds on the old one and, in particular, on lessons learned during the five-year implementation period of the first Action Plan. The necessity of a new strategy becomes all too obvious with a glance at the importance of animals in our daily lives.

The farming sector is the largest, as far as use of animals is concerned. In farms across the EU, there are about two billion birds (chickens for meat production, laying hens, turkeys, ducks and geese) and three hundred million mammals (cows, pigs, sheep, etc.). The pet population is also quite large in the EU. It is estimated that there are about one hundred million dogs and cats in the Union. The annual value of livestock farming in the EU is estimated at approximately 150 billion euros. The Union’s contribution to support animal welfare is estimated at 70 million euros a year, either directed to farmers as animal welfare payments under rural development programmes or dedicated to other activities related to animal welfare, such as research, economic studies, communication, training and education etc.

‘RegioStars Awards’

Vendredi 13 janvier 2012

The European Commission has announced the winners of the 2012 RegioStars awards

Category 1: Smart Growth - service innovation
- ‘Technopol Programme’ - Lower Austria, AT
- ‘RUR@CT’ – régions actrices de l’innovation rurale – Limousin, FR
- ‘Innovative Collaboration Networks for Smart growth’ – London, UK
- ‘ECO World Styria’ - Styria, AT
- ‘Hohe Tauern Health’ - Salzburg, AT
- ‘Orientation and guidance services for start-ups in Brandenburg’ – Brandenburg, DE
- ‘Digi-lodge’ - various Greek regions, EL

Category 2: Sustainable Growth – eco-system services
- ‘Parc naturel transfrontalier du Hainaut (PNTH)’- Wallonie–Nord-Pas de Calais. BE-FR
- ‘Alps-Carpathian Corridor Trnava’ – Bratislava, Vienna, Burgenland, Niederösterreich. SK-AT
- ‘SIC ADAPT! (Strategic Initiative Cluster – Adaptation to the impacts of climate change)’ – North‑West Europe, DE BE FR IE LU NL UK
- ‘Green Corridors Contracts’ - Rhône-Alpes, FR
- ‘GRaBS: Green and blue space adaptation for urban areas and eco-towns’ - England (leader), UK

Category 3: Inclusive growth – addressing demographic change and active ageing
- ‘I-Cane’ - Province of Limburg, NL
- ‘Project for Early Support of Elderly People in their Daily Lives (VAMU)’ - Northern Savo, FI
- ‘O4O : Older people for older people’ - Finland, Greenland, N.Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, UK FI IE SE
- ‘Seniors in Motion’ - Northern Portugal, PT

Category 4: Citystar: - Integrated development of deprived urban areas
- ‘SÖM South East Malmö’ – Malmö, SE
- ‘Baum – Bratislava Urban Regional Cooperation’ - Nordburgenland, Wiener Umland-Nord, Wiener Umland-Süd, VUC Bratislava, SK-AT
- ‘Open LAB Ebbinge (OLE)’ – Groningen, NL
- ‘Rediscovering Vila do Conde’ - Vila do Conde, PT

Category 5: Information and Communication: presenting project data
- ‘http://www.estlat.eu/’ - Estonia – Latvia, EE-LV
- ‘http://www.europaomdehoek.nl/’ - The Netherlands, NL
- ‘http://www.efrr.wrotapodlasia.pl/’ – Podlaskie, PL
- ‘http://www.nfu.gov.hu/’ – Hungary

The Jury’s decision on the award winners will be announced in June 2012 at the Regions for Economic Change conference.

2013 Awards
The application process for the 2013 RegioStars Awards is now open. The Award Categories for 2013 are:
- SMART GROWTH: Connecting universities to regional growth
- SUSTAINABLE GROWTH: Supporting resource efficiency in SMEs
- INCLUSIVE GROWTH: Social innovation: creative responses to societal challenges
- CITYSTAR: Integrated approaches to sustainable urban development
- INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION: Promoting EU Regional policy with short videos

Applications should be sent by 20 April 2012. The selected finalists will have the opportunity to showcase their projects before an independent jury during the tenth annual European Week of Regions and Cities - OPEN DAYS 2012. The Award ceremony itself will take place in Brussels in early 2013.

Waste: factor of growth and deficit reduction

Vendredi 13 janvier 2012

According a study, compliance with European standards of waste would permit 72 million savings and the creation of 400,000 jobs.

Illegal waste operations in Member States are causing missed opportunities for economic growth, but stronger national inspections and better knowledge about waste management would bring major improvements.

Improved implementation leads to significant benefits
The study gives an in-depth analysis of the effects of better implementation and enforcement and shows that benefits would be significant. It analysed a number of case studies in Cyprus, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands to demonstrate economic, financial and social benefits to Member States.

The EU’s waste management and recycling sector is very dynamic, but still offers economic opportunities with vast potential for expansion. In 2008, its €145 billion turnover represented around 1% of the EU’s GDP and 2 million jobs. Compliance with EU policy would help create a sector with 2.4 million jobs and a total annual turnover of €187 billion.

The underlying problem is that too many prices do not reflect the true cost of disposal of goods – if they did, this would help prevent waste in the first place. In addition, many Member States still lack adequate infrastructure for separate collection, recycling and recovery. An absence of systematic control and enforcement mechanisms is another hindrance, coupled with a lack of reliable data on waste management.

Four key conclusions
- The study concludes that we need to know more about waste. Better data and systematic monitoring of how the laws work in practice must be made available. There is progress here, with a specific Data Centre on Waste recently set up by Eurostat.
- Better use of the polluter pays principle, and wider use of economic instruments like raising the costs of disposal, could help ensure compliance and provide the necessary financial resources for waste management.
- Inspection and monitoring capabilities need to be strengthened in Member States. This could mean establishing an auditing capacity at EU level and, possibly, common inspection standards.
- One relatively cost-effective option to strengthen implementation monitoring at EU level could be to draw on the expertise and capabilities of the European Environment Agency (EEA). This option would carry lower administrative costs than creating a new agency dedicated to waste.

Next Steps
The study’s conclusions will be discussed and analysed by the Commission. They will serve as grounds for developing a balanced mix of legal and economic instruments as suggested in the Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe and the Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention. These strategies encourage economic and legal incentives such as landfill taxes or bans, extending “producer responsibility” schemes and introducing “pay as you throw” schemes.

Background
The EU’s economy uses 16 tonnes of materials per person per year, of which 6 tonnes becomes waste, half of it going to landfill. Many Member States rely mainly on landfill as the preferred waste management option. This situation persists in spite of existing EU waste legislation and is unsustainable.

The Commission’s Roadmap for Resource Efficiency sets out milestones for ensuring that waste is managed as a resource by 2020 including through the revision of prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and landfill-diversion targets, and through the development of markets for secondary and recycled materials.

The FP7 supports a project of German biofuel

Mardi 20 décembre 2011

Europe supports research on renewable energy produced from waste.

Supporting this objective is the BIOBOOST (’Biomass-based energy intermediates boosting biofuel production’) project. Set to kick off at the start of 2012, BIOBOOST will develop novel energy carriers, generating energy-rich intermediate products from biogenous residues, assess environmental compatibility and optimise logistics chains. The BIOBOOST partners will ultimately boost biomass and residues use across Europe. The project is funded under the Energy Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to the tune of EUR 5.1 million.

Led by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, the BIOBOOST team will convert residual biomass into energy carriers for the production of high-quality and engine-compatible fuels and chemicals, as well as for the generation of heat and electricity.

The work will complement KIT’s bioliq(R) concept, which targets the production of designer fuels for diesel and Otto engines from biogenous residues such as straw. ‘Due to its broader access to usable residues and a broader spectrum of use of the energy carriers, this project fits excellently to our bioliq(R) project in Karlsruhe,’ says Dr Ralph Stahl from the Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT) at KIT. ‘Both projects profit from each other in an ideal manner.’

The team will use biogenous residues to produce a variety of intermediate products that are rich in energy. The researchers will also test and assess them with respect to their usability in the bioliq(R) process, for instance. Besides the BioSynCrude(R) produced by flash pyrolysis in the bioliq(R) process, BIOBOOST will focus on generating, optimising and assessing other products as well, and will evaluate the economic efficiency of the entire process. These activities will help the project partners in their quest to improve the efficiency of future biomass and residues use.

The BIOBOOST consortium will tackle this issue in a series of steps. They will initially focus their efforts on concentrating the energy, as the residual biomass (e.g. straw) materialises in a spatially distributed manner and contains a tiny amount of energy. Biogenous residues are converted into coke and oil at decentralised facilities; this is performed via pyrolysis or carbonisation. The products are mixed to form energy-rich intermediate products containing up to 90% of the energy stored in the biomass. These energy carriers can be further processed after they have been moved to a central location, where they undergo large-scale use. The transport is performed in an economically efficient way.

Apart from generating customised fuel like gasoline, kerosene or diesel, the BIOBOOST team will look into the manufacture of plastics and chemicals, namely propylene, methanol and ethylene.

Scheduled to end in 2015, the BIOBOOST project brings together experts from Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland and Finland.