[:en]Climate and waste. The Slovak Presidency will be closely activists
Return powers to the Member States does not help citizens to a better environment, says the EurActiv.sk Jeremy Wates, head of the European Environmental Bureau, Europe-wide association of green organizations.
Why did you decide to evaluate the rotating presidency of environmental and energy policy, taking into account the fact that last only six months?
They may last only six months, but we think that the Presidency may have an influence on the direction in which Europe is moving at the time. This also applies after the Lisbon Treaty created the post of EU president.
As for the different Council formations, where work on individual proposals, the Bureau could play a very important role. Can be added to the agenda items and determine how they will be handled. Although the Presidency sometimes do not impose their own views, and easy deciding that the meeting will be public, not private, and may affect the outcome. We consider it necessary to point them at the beginning of what will or should be the agenda, and at the end of their assessed.
You rate the Presidency on the basis of their promises or your goals?
Only by our objectives. When we do an evaluation, it is important to distinguish between the efforts of the Presidency and the results of that proposal. And sometimes it is a very different matter. You can look at the evaluation of the Dutch Presidency with regard to the negotiations on the revision of the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) aimed at combating air pollution.
It is very critical.
Critical to the outcome, but the Netherlands praise for efforts to reach an agreement.
You say that the Dutch are good diplomats, because they focus on the process?
Yes, also. The progress made in the draft political priority. Easy to say: Leave it to the next Presidency. But they did not do it. Pushed and pushed until the last minute. But the result is very disappointing. We recognize that it is not only in the hands of the Presidency. In the case of the NEC it played a number of large Member States very negative role and the Netherlands more positive role.
It is true that so far the European institutions have not acquired an approach that is sufficiently focused on the citizen. They focus more on the company.
Slovak consider program for ambitious enough?
The question is not whether or not ambitious. It is rather about the direction in question. As for the idea of the return of powers from Brussels, the EU actually bring huge benefits to citizens through work on environmental issues. Return the Member States – and this is based on empirical evidence – does not help citizens to a better environment.
But it is true that so far the European institutions have not acquired an approach that is sufficiently focused on the citizen. They focus more on the company. We have nothing against companies as a whole, we see that the negative and reactionary business outweigh progressive. Slovak Presidency is trying to respond to public concerns about migration. But there is a completely different concern about the environment, where you can observe widespread public support for EU action; widespread public opposition to such measures in the EU. The July Eurobarometer, for example, shows that 67 percent of EU citizens want the environmental measures at EU level. This should therefore be a priority of the Slovak Presidency and indeed all the European institutions.
You actually say that simultaneous targets return power to the Member States and do more for the citizens may – in some cases, such as the environment – contradictory.
They can be contradictory. How the EU will fulfill its promise to evolve from Paris – along with others – efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius? To propose several very specific and very serious measures. It will be very difficult. I leave it to Member States is completely contradictory. We need action at EU level to meet its international obligations. We need to make the Commission played a strong role.
It is completely illogical that the EU itself is not proposing an increase in the objectives agreed in October 2014.
If we talk specifically about the Paris agreement, your Ten Green Tests for Slovak presidency says that goals should be 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 40 per cent energy savings and 45 percent renewable energy by 2030. These are much higher goals as a framework for 2030, approved by the European Council (40 – 27-27). They are really necessary for the fulfillment of the commitments of the EU?
Yes they are. And it is quite logical that the EU itself is not proposing an increase in the objectives agreed in October 2014. It was before Paris. Then the world intended to limit warming to two degrees Celsius. Then we returned from Paris, and now it is “significantly below” two degrees and “make efforts” to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. This is a different objective. It should therefore also be a specific target for Europe different.
Aim for 40 percent reduction in emissions leads to a lower ranking framework for 2050 in the range of 80-95 per cent, to which the EU committed itself several years ago. Target of 40 percent by 2020 is heading to 80 percent by 2050. The range for 2050 has been approved at a time when the acuteness of climate change measures less clear to many people, even after it was clear to most scientists. The 60 percent can in effect be achieved through the other two goals. If you increase the energy savings of 40 percent and renewable energy by 45 percent, you get essentially to reduce emissions by 60 percent.
So you think it is absolutely realistic and acceptable even for those Member States which highlight the competitiveness of the EU as the Visegrad countries.
The word ‘realistic’ is interesting. Is it realistic to enter a world where the temperature has increased by three or four degrees? If someone tells me that it is not realistic to stop irreversible and catastrophic climate change, I question their rationality. We must support the voice of reason and try to reflect the policy science. As for the 40 per cent target for efficiency, there are respected research institutes such as the Fraunhofer Institute, which shows that it is achievable in a cost effective manner.
Central Europe is a great advocate of nuclear energy. What do you think of it as a source of energy, which contributes to a cleaner environment and the air as it tried to imagine?
Nuclear power as part of long-term solutions for a sustainable energy future not support. Even among our members would have different views on how quickly should put an end to nuclear energy, to what extent can the existing nuclear reactors serve as a bridging technology. But it is a technology based on highly radioactive and toxic materials. For long-term disposal of nuclear installations and disposal of radioactive waste, there is no solution. If we had no other option, it would be otherwise. But we have.
There are dirty energy that are less dirty than other dirty energy.
What other choice do we have? Natural gas? A large share of renewable energy we can jump from day to day.
Of course, there is a dirty energy that are less dirty than other dirty energy. Natural gas would be better than coal, and so on. That we can not jump from day to day. But look what happened in the renewable energy sector in Germany. The strongest economy in Europe has succeeded through policy decisions. Political leaders were able to promote renewable energies, for example through guaranteed rates for feed-in tariffs or specific objectives. Smaller countries such as Denmark and Portugal operate on renewable energies for several days. We should encourage the technologies of the future. Coal and other fossil fuels, we must make the technology of the past. As we wait until the last moment, Europe will lose competitiveness to other parts of the world.
But Germany now replaced nuclear power with coal.
But they cremated by a lot more coal if it did not support the wind program. To choose between the core and the coal is not very pleasant. Choose between two negative technology, in which the negative aspects rather difficult to compare. With both sources must stop. But for each country there is another solution than to work towards 100 per cent share of renewable energies.
European Environmental Bureau claims that one of the priorities should be “set high goals for prevention and recycling within the revision of EU legislation on waste.” Why is this so important?
By setting high targets for prevention and recycling substantially reduces the amount of waste going to landfills and incinerators. And that’s good for the mitigation of climate change, create jobs and reduce dependence on imports. This can be achieved in a relatively short time. You need the appropriate infrastructure for reuse and recycling, but not necessarily large investments in capacity. From a very low rate of recycling municipal waste it is to go to a very high proportion in a very short time. For example, in Ljubljana ten years recycling rates increased from very low levels to over 60 percent today.
Slovakia stands just before the challenge. Today only six percent recycled municipal waste, while the target for 2020 is 50 percent.
This can be a challenge, but not impossible. If we succeeded in Slovenia, why not in Slovakia? It is rather a political decision how we organize society in such a way as to lead to significant job creation and economic benefits.
Political will is more important than money.
When I say that it is not a question of large infrastructure, also you say that it is not primarily a question of money?
Political will is more important than money. Infrastructure may initially be relatively simple. It’s primarily about rules how people engage with waste, such as waste products are separated and reused. Conversely, if the products do not use or re-recycled waste will end up in a landfill or incinerator. Companies build large combustion plants, and they are already built, it is necessary to supply them. Fix to a single technology and give you lobby to reduce waste. And then you have less incentive to prevent waste generation. It is a vicious circle.
What will be the impact on brexitu European environmental and energy policy in general, and the Paris agreement separately?
It all depends on how European leaders – from the other 27 Member States of the EU Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission – will respond to evolving events. We see opportunity. While they – including the Slovak government – they say, “We need a new approach, a new story,” Hear that would say that the new approach based on the principles of sustainability. These topics may not like some companies. But they are popular in others. Leaders should encourage business for the future, not the past. And, most importantly, they are popular with the public, because they represent a vision of Europe that cares about people’s rights.[:]