The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2015 and 2015 Deselect

  1. The European Commission has decided to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU over the failure to apply Directive 2006/40/EC (Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) Directive) on mobile air-conditioning systems which prescribes the use of motor vehicles' refrigerants with less global warming potential and the phasing out of certain fluorinated greenhouse gases. The Commission alleges that Germany has infringed EU law by allowing the car manufacturer Daimler AG to place automobile vehicles on the EU market that were not in conformity with the MAC Directive, and failing to take remedial action. Daimler AG invoked safety concerns regarding the use of refrigerants prescribed by the MAC Directive. These concerns were not shared by any other car manufacturer and were rejected by Germany's Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, KBA) and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC), which undertook an additional risk analysis in 2014. Despite contacts between the Commission and the German authorities in the context of the infringement procedure, Germany has not taken any further steps against the issuing of the type-approval of non-compliant motor vehicles and has not taken appropriate remedial action on the manufacturer. In referring Germany to the Court of Justice, the Commission aims to ensure that the climate objectives of the MAC Directive are fulfilled and that EU law is uniformly applied throughout the EU so as to ensure fair competitive conditions for all economic operators.

  2. On 10 September 2015, the European Court of Justice confirmed that the presence of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) in products needs to be calculated at component level. This important decision concerns complex products composed of many different ‘articles’. Under the 2006 Regulation on the Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), the use of any substance classed as ‘of very high concern’ for health or the environment must be notified to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) by the producer or importer, whenever the concentration of the substance exceeds “0.1% weight by weight” of the article in question.

  3. In 2010, Germany adopted a law on excise duty on nuclear fuel (Kernbrennstoffsteuergesetz). That law introduced, for the period from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2016, a duty on the use of nuclear fuel for the commercial production of electricity. Kernkraftwerke Lippe-Ems, has challenged the duty before the Finance Court, Hamburg,Germany. Kernkraftwerke Lippe-Ems takes the view that the German duty on nuclear fuel is incompatible with EU law. The Finanzgericht Hamburg decided to submit questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning the compatibility of the duty with EU law. On 4 June 2015, the Court of Justice replies that EU law does not preclude a duty such as the German duty on nuclear fuel.

  4. Following the referrals of Slovenia and Poland to Court on similar grounds, the European Commission is now referring Germany to the EU Court of Justice over its failure to transpose EU legislation on the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (known also as WEEE Directive) and communicate the national transposition measures. The EU rules, which should have been enacted into national law by 14 February 2014, are intended to prevent or reduce the negative environmental impact from this fast-increasing waste stream. The rules are based on a revision of the previous WEEE Directive, and they incorporate a number of new or substantially modified provisions, none of which have yet been transposed by Germany. The Commission is therefore asking the Court, on the basis of the procedure set out in Article 260(3) TFEU, to impose a penalty payment on Germany in the amount of EUR 210 078 per day until the law is enacted."

  5. On 29 April 2015, the Supreme Court unanimously ordered that the UK government must submit new air quality plans to the European Commission no later than 31 December 2015.

  6. A person affected by climate change has made the unprecedented move to launch a claim against a European carbon major, demanding that the company contribute to urgently needed protective measures: Peruvian citizen Saúl Luciano Lliuya, demands payment for safety works from German utility RWE. Mr Luciano Lliuya’s property as well as large parts of his hometown Huaraz are prone to a so-called glacial lake outburst flood from Lake Palcacocha located upstream from the city. Germanwatch, a German environmental and development organisation, supports Mr Luciano Lliuya’s move against RWE upon his request. If the company’s response to his claim proves unsatisfactory, Mr Luciano Lliuya plans to sue RWE in a German court.