Renewable Matter # 27 / May-June

Climate: UN Experts Call for Decisive Actions

by Francesco Petrucci

There is little cause for optimism about the future of the Earth when we look at the Global Environmental Outlook – GEO-6 presented on 13thMarch 2019. The outlook, attended by 250 scientists from 70 countries, focuses on the “healthy planet, healthy people” issue.

UN experts carried out scientific analysis on various subjects ranging from air pollution (that together with water pollution causes almost 9 million deaths a year) and soil degradation, to food wastage and plastic waste (8 million tonnes flushed into the sea every year).

Conclusions predict a disastrous scenario for the planet and its inhabitants by 2050 if an immediate and drastic shift is not implemented.

The European Union has certainly been at the forefront in the fight against climate change, especially over the last few years. However, as stated by the European Parliament, current efforts are not enough. This has also been reiterated by the EU Council on 22nd March 2019, highlighting the importance of the presentation of a long-term strategy by the Commission aimed at zero emissions by 2050, as laid down in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The new rules and regulations on car and van emission reductions approved by the European Parliament on 27th March 2019 will also lend a hand.

By 2030, the target is to reduce by 37.5% new car emissions (compared to the 2021 levels), whereas for new vans the objective is 31%. Vehicle manufacturers whose emissions exceed such limits will incur a fine.

Meanwhile, the Union did its bit in the fight against plastic in the seas by approving the new directive on single-use plastic. After the Parliament’s vote of 27th March 2019, there is only the EU Council formal vote left before the text gets published in the EU Official Journal and comes into force.

The objectives are ambitious: as of 2021 single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds will be removed from the market; by 2029, 90% of plastic bottles will have to be collected and for other products Member States will have to adopt measures to reduce their use.

The draft directive on drinking water passed by the European Parliament on 28th March 2019 also aims at reducing plastic bottles. Negotiations with the EU Council will soon begin in order to reach an agreed text. The version approved by the Parliament introduces stricter upper limits for pollutants such as lead and harmful bacteria. Furthermore, the principle of universal access to water has been enshrined: Member States will have to provide free water fountains, and bars and restaurants will be urged to offer customers free or cheap tap water. Such actions, together with the requirement for better informing citizens on drinking water safety, aim at reducing consumption of bottled water and thus plastic.

In addition, the EU Parliament also gave its final go-ahead to the draft regulation and directive on the energy market together with the draft regulation on blackout risk protection and on cooperation amongst energy market regulators in the various Member States. This completes the 8 measures included in the “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package launched by the Commission in November 2016. The other 4 measures on renewable energies, energy efficiency, energy governance and building energy efficiency are already in place. 

On 27th March 2019, the EU Parliament also gave the green light on regulation that will help the circulation in the European market of fertilizers obtained from organic or recycled materials. 

With regards to product certification, as of 1st March 2020 servers and on-line data storage products will have to abide by the new eco-design requirements laid down in Regulation 2019/424/EU, while as of 1st March 2021, new household appliance labels will be introduced (removing the “+++” and returning to the old “A” to “G” classification), in accordance with Regulation 2017/1369/EU.

Lastly, the European Commission has decided to take a lenient attitude towards certain criteria to obtain the EU Ecolabel for dishwashing detergents, dishwashers and washing machines (Decision 2019/418/EU).  

 

Global Environment Outlook, www.unenvironment.org/resources/global-environment-outlook-6

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