2013 will – again – not go down in the history books as the year that Europe really got serious about tackling transport’s many environmental issues. On the headline level we actually see quite the contrary: the political focus is more on saving existing jobs than creating new ones, and the ‘climate and energy’ discussion is skewed more towards energy than climate than ever before.Geopolitically, Europe is moving towards North America and wants to conclude far-reaching free trade agreements with Canada and the US. There may be many good reasons for this, but we can only hope that a desire to emulate the North American model – relying on cheap and dirty fossil energy – is not one of them.
Global headlines are being dominated by events in Crimea, and how the West is dealing or ought to deal with it. All this geopolitics seems of terribly remote interest for the issues that concern us, humble environmentalists. But is it?
As the delay on the proposal to implement the Fuel Quality Directive reaches 1,186 days, there is growing evidence that tar sands mining and drilling operations, pipelines, and refineries are exposing local communities to serious health risks and problems.
EU heads of government have postponed a decision on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The EU climate change commissioner put a positive spin on the delay, but disappointed environmental groups were scathing in their criticism.
Today’s long overdue announcement of a public consultation on investor-state dispute settlement in the EU-US free trade negotiations (dubbed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP) is welcomed but does not change the principle that arbitration should never judge the validity of laws, environmental groups European Environmental Bureau and Transport & Environment have said.
The EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht has ordered a public consultation on a legal clause in the emerging EU-US trade agreement that campaigners say could undermine environmental and consumer protection. The legal provision, known as ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, would give companies the right to take legal action against governments if they feel their investment potential or profits are being hindered by regulatory or policy changes at national level. What’s more, such disputes would be judged by special panels made up of people acceptable to business interests, and bypass national laws.
It’s a question I get asked a lot: so are you having any success in greening transport in Europe? I presume not. There are still an awful lot of cars around, aren’t there?
Europe has a significant untapped potential for converting wastes from farming, forestry, industry and households to advanced low-carbon biofuels, but only if it sets a strong sustainability framework and ambitious decarbonisation targets for transport fuels in 2030, finds a new report entitled “Wasted: Europe’s Untapped Resource”.
This letter was first published by the Financial Times on February 19 2014.Sir, it is lazy of the Financial Times to brand critics of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as “antitrade campaigners” (“No time to waste on transatlantic trade”, editorial, February 17). Two examples should suffice to illustrate that the controversy around TTIP is not so much about trade as about legitimacy and democracy.