The European Commission is taking legal action against the UK over claims it is exceeding limits on air pollution from traffic. Britain has two months to respond to the case that it breached EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, which cause breathing and other health problems.
In its most significant vote on the 2030 climate and energy package, the European Parliament today rebuked the European Commission and sent a strong signal to member states about the importance of complete carbon accounting under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), the EU law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuels.
They say there are two options to push out bad news – publish it on a Friday, or bury it in a much bigger announcement. On transport fuels, the European Commission has chosen the latter strategy.
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted overwhelmingly today to support and strengthen some elements of the Commission’s proposal for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of shipping emissions. Transport & Environment welcomes the inclusion of the air pollutant NOx in the monitoring measure. However, MEPs rejected the chance to use ship efficiency as an accurate measure of emissions, which is the key to improving the sector’s environmental performance.
The EEB and T&E have given a cautious welcome today to the formation by the European Commission of a new advisory group on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The formation of the group represents the very first step in what is still a long process of improving the transparency and accountability of the negotiations.
MEPs have sent a signal that Europe should fight back against attempts to reduce its efforts to combat emissions from air transport. The European Parliament’s environment committee has voted to support the Commission’s proposal that all carbon dioxide that aircraft emit in European airspace should be subject to emissions trading, and not simply emissions from intra-EU flights. T&E joined forces with the group of low-fares airlines to support the Commission’s proposal.
New research from the US has highlighted the dangers for the fight against climate change if the EU does nothing to reduce dependence on dirty oil such as Canadian tar sands. The US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says if the EU Fuel Quality Directive is not comprehensively implemented, the amount of tar sands oil imported from Canada by 2020 will be 175 times greater than in 2012. This flood of tar sands would increase the carbon intensity of European fuels by 1.5%, making it more difficult and more expensive to meet the FQD’s 6% target by 2020.
The new draft ‘Polar Code’ of safety and environmental rules fails to address the looming danger of having non ice-strengthened and poorly prepared ships in supposedly ‘ice-free’ polar waters, environmental organisations have warned. The final draft, drawn up today by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), governs ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Increased shipping activity poses significant new threats to the polar environment and wildlife through oil spills, black carbon deposition, sewage discharges and the introduction of invasive species. 
Figures released in the attached study by the US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) show that if Europe does not act, its imports of tar sands, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, would likely skyrocket from about 4,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2012 to over 700,000 bpd in 2020.
The most effective way to reduce carbon emissions from shipping is also the most economic. That is the message from a new study commissioned by T&E and Seas at Risk (SAR) that looks at monitoring and reducing maritime emissions. It says ship operators could save €5-9 million a year if they invested in 21st-century technology.