EU Energy and Environment Correspondent
Pete's Feed
Apr 19, 2010

EU working on deal to reduce ash no-fly zone

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union reached a deal on Monday to cut the size of a no-fly zone caused by a cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano, under pressure from frustrated airlines losing $250 million a day.

Although some countries were opening airspace, officials said they expected less than a third of flights to operate in Europe on Monday, the fifth day of a flight clampdown that has stranded passengers worldwide and halted freight flights.

Apr 19, 2010

EU ministers strike deal to reduce ash no-fly zone

BRUSSELS, April 19 (Reuters) – The European Union reached a
deal on Monday to cut the size of a no-fly zone caused by a
cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano, under pressure from
frustrated airlines losing $250 million a day.

Although some countries were opening airspace, officials
said they expected less than a third of flights to operate in
Europe on Monday, the fifth day of a flight clampdown that has
stranded passengers worldwide and halted freight flights.

Apr 1, 2010

Controversy mounts as EU plans aid for coal power

BRUSSELS, April 1 (Reuters) – The European Union is fine-tuning plans to allow millions of euros of state subsidies for new coal-fired power plants, a policy that campaigners say undermines EU environmental ambitions.

For four years from January 2013, EU governments can provide up to 15 percent of the cost of new coal-fired plants, provided they have the potential to retrofit carbon-trapping technology some time in the future, a leaked EU document shows. A European Commission spokesman said the EC was discussing the issue internally, but he declined to comment further.

The move comes amid high tensions over coal’s climate impact, with the United States and Britain threatening to withhold support for a $3.75 billion World Bank loan for a coal-fired power plant in South Africa. [ID:nN0693420]

To qualify for aid, the European plants would have to be capable of retrofitting carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, a cutting-edge technique to trap carbon dioxide emissions and lock them in underground caverns.

But the costly infrastructure does not have to be built. The plants must merely be "CCS ready".

"CCS ready means that … suitable storage sites are available and set aside; transport facilities are technically and economically feasible and it is technically and economically feasible to retrofit for CO2 capture," reads the document, seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Campaigners say in practice that might mean nothing more than having an empty field alongside the plant, as the rules imply no legal commitment.


Details of the plan have only just emerged, despite the principle being agreed in December 2008 to win Germany’s support for laws in the EU’s "Climate and Energy Package".

"This is the worst thing to come out of that deal in 2008, and results from a last-minute push by (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel," said Sanjeev Kumar of green think tank E3G.

"This goes against everything the EU stands for on climate, but there is still a chance for governments to kill this."

European governments are already reviewing their support for new coal-fired plants amid public fears of climate change and protests in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands.

"This is something the UK opposed at the time and is not something that we in the UK would make use of," a spokeswoman for Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

The British government’s "framework for clean coal" aims to deliver four commercial-scale CCS demonstrations and ensure that no new coal-fired power stations are built in Britain without CCS, she added.

Germany is reviewing its energy strategy, and if it chooses to soften its planned phase-out of nuclear power then new coal plants might not be such a priority as in 2008, said a diplomat familiar with the dossier.

One reason state aid can be accepted in the EU is if it improves environmental protection, but environmentalists question whether even the most efficient coal plants meet that criterion. (Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Keiron Henderson)

Mar 31, 2010

EU says its Kyoto support depends on Russia, Japan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union can only sign up to a continued Kyoto Protocol after 2012 if all other ratifiers including Japan and Russia do the same, an EU official said on Wednesday.

Jos Delbeke, head of the European Commission’s climate unit, questioned the value of continuing with the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol in its current form after its present commitment period expires in 2012, and said the 27-country EU was considering all its options.

Mar 25, 2010

EU/US boost Open Skies, ownership still a question

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) – European
negotiators said European ownership of U.S. airlines was in
sight after three days of “Open Skies” talks but reaction from
the United States suggested agreement remained distant.

The U.S. departments of State and Transportation made no
mention of lifting ownership limits in summarizing the talks
that took place in Brussels.

Mar 25, 2010

EU report signals U-turn on biofuels target

BRUSSELS, March 25 (Reuters) – The European Union appears to
be backtracking on its biofuels policy with a new study showing
that more than 5.6 percent of biofuel in road fuels can damage
the environment.

EU leaders agreed in 2008 that 10 percent of transport fuels
should come from renewable sources by 2020 — mostly biofuels as
electric cars would still be in their infancy.

Mar 25, 2010

EU strikes new “Open Skies” aviation deal with U.S.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European airlines might soon be able to take majority control of U.S. airlines and get access to lucrative U.S. government business in a deal struck on Thursday — but real change will hinge on approval by the U.S. Congress, a far from certain prospect.

The deal in “Open Skies” talks followed a 2007 agreement allowing airlines to fly for the first time between any EU city and any U.S. city, uniting two markets that account for nearly two thirds of global aviation.

Mar 24, 2010

EU yields to Canada over oil trade “barriers”: sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union has yielded to Canadian demands it remove possible trade barriers to polluting oil sands to avoid further damage to ties, according to sources and leaked documents.

Relations are already strained after the European Union banned imports of seal products last July on animal welfare grounds, a move Canada is challenging at the World Trade Organization.

Mar 16, 2010

Bird flu breaks out in Romania, near Ukraine

BRUSSELS/BUCHAREST, March 16 (Reuters) – Romania has identified an outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm close to Ukraine and enforced a 20 km-wide surveillance zone around it, the European Union’s executive said on Tuesday.

The outbreak of the H5N1 virus in the commune of Letea near the Ukrainian border is on a key migratory pathway for wild birds, which could aid its spread.

"Romania’s national laboratory confirmed yesterday that the outbreak concerns the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza," the European Commission said in a statement.

"In order to limit the spread of the virus, the Romanian authorities applied immediately the necessary control measures," it added.

While scarce media attention has been paid in the last year to H5N1, there have been outbreaks of the disease in birds and it has killed people in China, Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam.

This is the first case detected in Europe since it was found in a wild duck in Germany a year ago.

Even though H5N1 transmission between people is weak, experts say it is still a risk, especially if it mixes with the now dominant H1N1 swine flu virus. Such a hybrid may then be deadly and more easily transmitted among people.

All birds in the farm have been slaughtered and now a 6 km-wide protection zone must be enforced around it, surrounded by a 20 km-wide "high risk" surveillance zone with strict movement controls.

"British tests to confirm the disease are under way at the reference laboratory in Britain," Marian Zlotea, head of Romania’s national sanitary-veterinary authority, told Reuters.

"We are talking about a very small peasant farm, situated in a very isolated area … and two hens. Probably the strain has been brought by migratory birds," Zlotea added.

Romania’s geography increases the risk of the virus spreading. It lies on the Via Pontica migratory route, which wild birds use to fly north from Africa to Scandinavia and Siberia in the spring.

Romania was the first country in Europe to detect the H5N1 virus in September 2005 and a year later it contained the disease. By then it had spread from Asia across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Last month, a Vietnamese poultry worker died from bird flu, the country’s first fatality from the virus this year. Vietnam has confirmed 114 human H5N1 infections since 2003, 58 of them fatal. (Editing by Dale Hudson and Anthony Barker)

Mar 15, 2010

EU backs U.N. climate report despite skepticism

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.N. climate scientists attacked by skeptics after they published an erroneous global warming forecast won support Monday from European Union environment ministers.

Climate skepticism has gathered pace since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admitted in January that its latest report in 2007 had exaggerated the pace at which Himalayan glaciers were melting.

    • About Pete

      "Pete Harrison is a Reuters correspondent in Brussels covering the European Union politics of energy, environment and climate change. He is also part of the Reuters team covering international talks to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol."
      Joined Reuters:
      Oct 2000
      English, French, Spanish
    • More from Pete

      Red Sea Diving Guide (Lonely Planet, 2004), Reef Fishes and Corals of the Red Sea (New Holland, 2002), Reefs of the Red Sea (Hurghada Environmental Protection Committee, 1998)
    • Contact Pete

    • Follow Pete