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Articles - Environment


Council agreements on air quality directive, hazardous waste

 
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas welcomed the political agreement by the Environment Council on the comprehensive new EU directive on air quality as well as its conclusions on hazardous waste movements. The air quality directive will for the first time regulate airborne levels of harmful fine dust particles, while also giving Member States some flexibility if they face difficulties in complying with some existing air pollution standards.

The directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe will streamline existing EU air quality legislation and introduce a limit on airborne concentrations of fine dust particles (known as PM2.5). These particles, which are emitted by a wide range of sources including diesel vehicles, industrial processes and household boilers, are today recognized as the most dangerous air pollutant for human health. They contribute to the premature deaths of 350,000 people across the EU each year.

In addition to fixing an annual concentration limit for PM2.5, the directive will require Member States to reduce people's exposure to this group of particles by 20% between 2010 and 2019.


As proposed by the Commission, the new directive would not change existing air quality standards for seven pollutants but would give Member States more flexibility in meeting some of these - including limits on coarser particles (known as PM10) that took effect at the start of 2005 - in zones where they faced difficulties.

This flexibility includes discounting natural pollution sources when assessing compliance and being allowed, under strict conditions, up to five years extra (i.e. up to the end of 2009) for achieving compliance with the standards for PM10 and nitrogen dioxide.

The Council's text is broadly equivalent to the Commission's proposal allowing Member States a compliance extension of up to three years after the directive enters into force.

The European Parliament voted at first reading last month for a compliance extension of a total of up to six years. It also voted to change the daily limit on concentrations of PM10 particulates by allowing the limit to be exceeded on up to 55 days per year instead of 35 now. The Commission cannot accept these changes because they weaken the existing level of health protection .

 


Revising the EU emissions trading scheme from 2013

 
The European Commission adopted a Communication setting out its agenda for revising the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) in the light of experience gained since it began operating in January 2005.

The Commission wants to promote the environmental impact of emission trading by expanding it to new sectors and gases and further its global application as a key tool to combat climate change. The review will also seek to give greater predictability to investors and strengthen harmonisation by streamlining how it is applied in the various Member States.

These and other issues will be discussed extensively with stakeholders before the Commission makes a legislative proposal to revise the Emissions Trading Directive in the second half of 2007. The changes will take effect in 2013 at the start of the scheme’s third trading period. The EU ETS enables energy-intensive industry and power generators to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions cost effectively, and is stimulating emission-saving projects around the world.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said:

“Climate change is the gravest challenge facing mankind and emissions trading is the most effective policy instruments for tackling it. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a clear proof of the EU's commitment to take resolute action against climate change and reach the EU’s Kyoto targets. We now need to see how we can further improve the scheme. The better its design, the easier it will be for other countries to adopt similar policies.”

The operation of the EU ETS to date has already generated position papers and studies by stakeholders which will feed into the review. Further consultations will take place under the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP), where Commission officials, Member States, industry, non-governmental organisations and academics work together to identify the most cost-effective and environmentally efficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The ECCP working group on the review will report by 30 June 2007.
 


44% of packaging recycled in Spain

Fedemco (Spanish federation of manufacturers of wooden crates and their components) has collaborated with Ecoembes (a government-mandated company which finances, coordinates and promotes recycling of waste) on an analysis of the status of waste from containers, packaging and wooden pallets in Spain in 2005 with regard to the goals included in the 2004/12/CE Directive. This specified a minimum figure of 15% for recycling of wood, and 55% for other materials by 2008.

The recycling rate was 46.5% in 2005, representing 438,000 tonnes re-used out of a total of 942,000 tonnes of waste, with 44% recycled (an increase of 1% on the preceding year) and 2.6% energy generation (25,000 tonnes).


Businesses report a 7% increase in the volume of new and re-used containers and packaging. More re-use of packaging and pallets, and aslight increase in imports compensated for a lower export volume. The balance of payments, less favourable to exports, showed a significant increase in the volume of waste in Spain.

Waste collection saw a 14% increase in volume, due mainly to the increase of 30% in recycling, mainly in the form of agglomerate sheets, contrasting with a possible stagnation in the repair and resale of packaging and used pallets.
Compared to the previous year, the volume of recycling increased from 9,856 to 24,662 tonnes, and the volume of waste going to approved landfills increased by 6%.

The pallet is the major form of wooden packaging managed by users and recyclers, especially in terms of re-use. Info: www.ecoembes.com - www.fedemco.com.

 

 

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