Issue 30

December 2013

Horizon 2020, the EU’s flagship €80 billion research and innovation fund was launched on 11th December. The European Commission has moved quickly to release calls for proposals worth more than €15 billion over the first two years. The funding is intended to help boost Europe's knowledge-driven economy, and tackle issues that will make a difference in people's lives.

The €7.8 billion budget for 2014 is focused on the three key pillars of Horizon 2020:

Following an orientation debate on the draft regulation on prevention and management of invasive species in the Environment Council by EU ministers, there is optimism amongst the institutions that legislation can be approved before the European Parliament elections in May 2014.

During a meeting of environment ministers on 13th December the Greek government presented the incoming presidency's work programme for the environment sector. It will focus in particular on the following legislative proposals:

The European Parliament has approved the “backloading” of CO2 permits. The plan freezes the auctioning of a portion of CO2 permits to boost their price and encourage firms to invest in low-carbon innovation. The measures, amended by the Parliament in July set stricter conditions for the freeze and are intended to restore the incentive effect of the Emissions Trading System, which is designed to curb CO2 emissions.

MEPs have voted on a draft EU regulation on deep-sea fishing stocks in the North-East Atlantic during December’s plenary session. A vote in favour of a ban on all fishing activities in areas with vulnerable marine ecosystems was passed successfully. The European Commission will make a list of vulnerable ecosystems. However, bottom trawling should not yet be phased out altogether, said MEPs. An amendment calling for a general phase-out of bottom trawling after two years was narrowly rejected by 342 votes to 326, with 19 abstentions.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform package, including measures to halt overfishing and a ban on discarding fish at sea, Parliament's key aims, was approved in a final plenary vote. Labelling rules have also been overhauled, to improve information for consumers. The new legislation should allow for more sustainable fishing and take effect on time, at the start of 2014. Fishermen will have to respect the "maximum sustainable yield" (MSY), i.e. catch no more than a given stock can reproduce in a given year.

The European Parliament and the Council have reached an agreement on new EU legislation aimed at curbing climate-damaging F-gases (fluorinated greenhouse gases). European Parliament rapporteur Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA) welcomed the agreement as a “vital addition to the EU’s arsenal of measures to tackle climate change”

In response to the damaging effects of poor air quality on human health, the Commission has published new measures to reduce air pollution.

The clean air policy package updates existing legislation and aims to further reduce harmful emissions from industry, traffic, energy plants and agriculture, with a view to reducing their impact on human health and the environment.

In a technical report on the status of black carbon monitoring in ambient air in Europe, the EEA has argued the European Union's Air Quality Directive is not being fully implemented. The Directive requires Member States to sample, analyse and report fine particulate matter concentrations. For stations in rural areas, the Member States also have to report how much BC‐related components the measured PM2.5 contains. The report notes that this reporting has yet to be fully implemented.

Energy ministers of EU Member States have failed to agree on a common position on a Commission proposal to amend directives on biofuels. The European Parliament adopted its first reading position on 11th September 2013.

The aim of the Commission’s proposed amending directive is to start a transition to biofuels that deliver substantial greenhouse gas savings when also estimated indirect land-use change emissions are reported, while existing investments should be protected.