The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2010 and 2010 Deselect

  1. On 21 December 2010 the European Commission presented draft legislation to strengthen rules on the control of major accident hazards involving chemicals. The revision of the so-called Seveso II Directive will align the legislation to changes in EU chemicals law and will clarify and update other provisions. This includes introducing stricter inspection standards and improving the level and quality of information available to the public in the event of an accident. The new Directive should apply from 1 June 2015.

  2. On 20 December 2010 the EU Environment Council gave the green light for new provisions on CO2 emissions in light commercial vehicles. By 2020, these vehicles must reduce their emissions by around 27 percent on average, to 147 grams CO2 per kilometre travelled (about 5.6 litres of diesel). Moreover, an interim target of 175 grams CO2 per kilometre (around 6.7 litres of diesel) has been set for 2017. This will be introduced gradually from 2014. As an incentive to comply with the targets, vehicle manufacturers will face severe fines if they exceed them. The new Regulation also contains incentives for vehicles with particularly low CO2 emissions, such as plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. In addition, innovative technologies which bring further fuel savings - eco-innovations - are also being supported, for instance, LED lights or improved heat management for engines.

  3. On 8 December 2010 Federal President Christian Wulff signed the four laws of the energy and climate package and ordered the laws to be promulgated. The package includes the controversial 11th amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (Atomgesetz – AtG) with the extension of the operating times of the German nuclear power plants.

  4. New rules to prevent illegal timber being sold on the European market have come into force across the EU. The legislation will strengthen efforts to halt illegal logging which causes serious environmental damage and biodiversity loss and undermines the efforts of those trying to manage forests responsibly. The Regulation, which was first proposed by the Commission in 2008, was adopted by the EU last month and will apply in all Member States from March 2013. The new Regulation will ban the sale on the EU market of illegal timber or of products derived from illegally harvested timber.

  5. On 8 November 2010 the European Council adopted stricter rules on industrial emissions. New EU legislation will bring down industrial emissions from large combustion plants across the EU, bringing several environmental and health benefits to Europe's citizens, like an expected reduction in premature deaths of 13,000 per year. The stricter legislation on industrial emissions was proposed by the European Commission in December 2007. The new rules will also lead to significant savings through the reduction of administrative burden and provide a more level playing field for industry. The Directive on industrial emissions updates and merges seven pieces of existing legislation.

  6. Despite public protests and angry diatribes from the opposition, the German parliament has approved legislation extending the lifespan of the country's nuclear power plants.

  7. From January 2011, petrol with a bioethanol share of up to 10 percent will be available at German filling stations in addition to the current types of petrol. On 27 October 2010 the Federal Cabinet adopted a corresponding ordinance, thus implementing the European Fuel Quality Directive.

  8. On 27 October 2010 the General Court of the European Union (EU) revoked a temporary suspension of the EU regulation banning the trade in seal products, allowing the full implementation of this momentous legislation.

  9. Environmental organisations in Argentina are celebrating the passage of a law restricting the extraction of minerals, oil and gas near glaciers, in order to protect these vast freshwater reserves. By a vote of 35 to 33, the Senate in Argentina approved a bill to preserve glaciers and their surrounding areas on 30 September 2010. The new law stipulates that glaciers are "public goods" and forbids "destroying or moving" the huge ice masses.

  10. On 8 September 2010 the European Parliament adopted a text agreed with the Council to update Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The aim of the new Directive is to strengthen legislation, and improve the welfare of experimental animals. Publication of the final text is foreseen in autumn 2010.

  11. On 1 September 2010, Commission adopted a decision outlining the criteria necessary to achieve good environmental status for Europe's seas. The definition of the criteria is a requirement under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which aims to achieve good environmental status in all EU marine waters by 2020. The Commission decision focuses on different aspects of marine ecosystems including biological diversity, fish population, eutrophication, contaminants, litter and noise.

  12. The second phase of the Commission Regulation on household lamps enters into force on 1 September. Standard light bulbs of more than 60 watts will no longer be sold.

  13. On 20 August 2010 the European Union ban on importing seal products went into effect, though an exception was made for groups who have filed legal challenges to the ban.

  14. On 6 August 2010 more stringent air quality standards applied in Germany. This is to transpose the new EU Directive on Ambient Air Quality into German law. For the first time, the Directive sets standards for fine particles (with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres; PM2.5), which are particularly dangerous to human health. With the 8th Act Amending the Federal Immission Control Act and the 39th Ordinance Implementing the Federal Immission Control Act (Ordinance on Air Quality Standards and Emission Ceilings - 39. BImSchV), Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe is being transposed on a one-to-one basis. The Länder are responsible for the enforcement of the new provisions. One important step towards meeting the limit values can be the designation of low-emission, or environmental, zones which vehicles with high emissions must not enter. More than 40 of these low-emission zones have already been established by the Länder.

  15. On 14 July 2010 Federal Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle and Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen presented key elements of the joint draft act on the demonstration and application of technologies for the capture, transport and permanent storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Berlin. With this draft act, the German government has opted for a gradual approach to the further development of the respective technologies. For the time being, therefore, the draft act only permits testing and demonstration of storages. The state of development of the technologies will be thoroughly evaluated in 2017. After being suspended in summer 2009, the draft act has undergone a substantial revision.

  16. On 13 July 2010 the Commission proposed to confer to Member States the freedom to allow, restrict or ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on part or all of their territory. While keeping unchanged the EU's science-based GM authorisation system, the adopted package consists of a Communication, a new Recommendation on co-existence of GM crops with conventional and/or organic crops and a draft Regulation proposing a change to the GMO legislation. The new Recommendation on co-existence allows more flexibility to Member States taking into account their local, regional and national conditions when adopting co-existence measures. The proposed regulation amends Directive 2001/18/EC to allow Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory.

  17. A ban on the sale of illegally-harvested timber, along with traceability measures and sanctions, has been given the green light by MEPs. The new law aims to reduce illegal deforestation and give consumers better assurances about the products they buy. The new legislation bans illegally-harvested timber or timber products from being placed on the EU market. This will prevent such wood from effectively being laundered once it reaches the EU. Member States will be responsible for applying sanctions to operators who break the rules. The legislation sets out guidelines for imposing fines: the environmental damage caused, the value of the timber and lost tax revenue can all be taken into consideration. EU countries can also impose criminal-law penalties on unscrupulous dealers. To ensure traceability, each operator along the supply chain will need to declare from whom they bought timber and to whom they sold it. Council has already informally agreed with the terms of this draft legislation but will need to rubber stamp it before it can pass into law. The rules are expected to take effect in late 2012 to allow timber operators time to adapt.

  18. On 5 July 2010 the Mediation Committee agreed on a two-step process for reducing the feed-in tariff for solar electricity. The proposed reduction from 1 July 2010 remains in place, but for the time being support will only be cut by 13% for rooftop installations, 8% for freestanding installations on so-called conversion areas - for example former military or industrial sites - and by 12% for other freestanding systems such as those in business parks. The rest of the draft act, including the abolition of the tariff for cropland, is unchanged. The 3% reduction step contained in the original draft will now be implemented on 1 October 2010.

  19. A new Energy Labelling Directive was adopted by the European Parliament on 19 May 2010. The existing Labelling Directive introduced the energy label for household appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, ovens, air-conditioners, dishwashers, washing machines, washer-driers, tumble driers and lamps. The recast of the Directive extends its scope to also cover products in the commercial and industrial sectors in the future. With adoption in Parliament, the directive has been formally adopted and is expected to be published in the Official Journal in June. Member States will have one year to transpose it into national legislation. With the new directive, the existing labelling scale from A-G will be further differentiated by adding the new classes A+, A++ and A+++ on top of class "A".

  20. On 18 May 2010 a recast of The Directive on energy performance of buildings (2002/91/EC) was adopted in order to strengthen the energy performance requirements and to clarify and streamline some of its provisions (the Directive is expected to be published in the Official Journal in June).

  21. On 6 May 2010 the German Bundestag adopted the amendment of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). It significantly reduces the feed-in tariffs for solar power generated by installations on buildings and in open spaces as per 1 July 2010. The amendment provides for further reductions of the feed-in tariffs in addition to the original degression rate stipulated in the EEG: 11 per cent for solar farms on land converted from other uses (conversion areas) and 16 per cent for roof installations. At the same time the EEG assumes a much wider expansion of the photovoltaic market than previously expected. The targeted market volume was doubled to 3,500 MW installed photovoltaic peak capacity per annum. The proposed cuts in tariffs are appropriate. The expanded financial incentive for consumers themselves to use the solar power they generated will trigger further technical innovation. In contrast to previous EEG stipulations, open space installations will continue to be promoted beyond 1 January 2015. Conversion areas allowing for tariffs pursuant to the EEG will also comprise land converted from residential building or transport use in addition to land converted from agricultural or military use. Open space installations can now also be promoted in a 100 m wide strip along the kerbside of motorways or rail tracks. The category arable land will not apply beyond 1 July 2010. There will be transitional stipulations for open space installations which have already reached an advanced planning stage.

  22. On 30 April 2010 a French appeals court upheld Total's conviction in the 1999 sinking of the tanker Erika off the coast of Brittany.

  23. On 2 February 2010 the European Commission adopted two decisions concerning the Genetically Modified Amflora potato: the first authorises the cultivation of Amflora in the EU for industrial use, and the second relates to the use of Amflora's starch by-products as feed. After a comprehensive authorisation procedure, which started in 2003, and repeated favourable scientific opinions, the Commission decided to authorise Amflora. This GM potato is to be used for the production of starch that is suitable for industrial applications (e.g. paper production). The decision provides for strict cultivation conditions to prevent the possibility that GM potatoes will remain in the fields after harvest and to ensure that Amflora's seed will not be inadvertently disseminated into the wider environment. A complementary authorisation is taken in order to cover the by-products of the starch extraction when they are used as feed.

  24. Since 1 March 2010, it constitutes an administrative offence inter alia to place batteries on the market without previously registering their presence on the market. The Batteries Act register has been accessible via the UBA website since 1.12.2009.

  25. The new Federal Nature Conservation Act and the Federal Water Act will enter into force on 1 March 2010. With this step, a nationwide statutory basis applies which harmonises nature conservation and water legislation at a high level. The previous framework legislation is repealed. Owing to constitutional amendments, these Acts are now the binding basis for action for citizens and the work of the enforcement authorities in the Länder.

  26. On 29 January the European Union formalised its support for the Copenhagen Accord on climate change and presented its commitments for emission reduction targets. In a joint letter with the Spanish Presidency of the Council, the European Commission has formally notified the EU's willingness to be associated with the Accord and submitted for information the EU's established greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for 2020. These consist of a unilateral commitment to reduce the EU's overall emissions by 20% of 1990 levels and a conditional offer to increase this cut to 30% provided that other major emitters agree to take on their fair share of a global reduction effort. Under the Accord, notifications are to be submitted by 31 January 2010.

  27. WWF has sent the European Commission a formal complaint against Germany for its failure to fulfil a legal obligation introduced by the 2008 EU climate and energy legislative package. The complaint concerns the apparent faulty approval procedure for a new coal-fired power plant at Mannheim (Baden-Württemberg), which was given the go-ahead on 27 July last year. Under the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive, as now amended, Member States are required to ensure that companies planning to build new large power plants, assess certain conditions for the capture, transport and storage of the carbon dioxide they create, prior to approving any new project.