CrisisWatch

Over 90,000 sign pledge to save the Canaries from new oil & gas

Since the wake of the economic crisis, debt ridden states are promoting heavy footprint investments in resource extraction as the spearhead of their economic recovery strategies. Iconic and ecologically sensitive areas in the Mediterranean are at serious risk, due to oil and gas projects in Spain, Italy and Greece. Particularly at risk are the Canary Islands, Pantelleria in Sicily and the area of the Hellenic Trench, extending from Southern Crete to the Ionian Sea. 

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Will the Greek Presidency lead a politically modified compromise in GMO debate?

After a no-decision at the Council of February 11th, Greece’s Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos committed to passing the debate on GMOs to the Environment Council of March 3rd for discussion. Despite the fact that a clear majority of 19 EU member states (France, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Romania, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia) voted against and only 5 in favour (Spain, the UK, Finland, Estonia, Sweden), while 4 abstained, “[t]he Council could not reach a qualified majority either in favour of or against a Commission proposal to authorise the placing on the market for cultivation of the genetically modified maize 1507, which is resistant to certain insects (butterfly pests)". "The Hellenic presidency commits to hold a debate on GMOs in the Environment Council", said the president of the Council, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, Mr. Venizelos.  ¶ In accordance with the applicable rules it is now up to the Commission to authorise the maize 1507.”

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Thousands of citizens call on the KfW Bank Group to stop investing in coal, starting from Greece

WWF Greece and WWF Germany met with the KfW Bank Group, in order to hand over the petition signed by 15,000 citizens calling the development bank to refrain from financing a new coal plant by PPC: “Ptolemaida V” in Northern Greece. WWF and KfW also had the opportunity to discuss the prospects for a truly sustainable Greek economy, focusing on the necessary shift to a clean, innovative and competitive energy model. During the meeting, WWF Greece’s Director Demetres Karavellas discussed with Dr Norbert Kloppenburg, member of the Executive Board of KfW, the need for influential financial institutions to divest from coal and lead the world towards a clean energy path. According to WWF Greece, Ptolemaida V is not a viable investment, since its true costs outweigh its stated benefits. Also present at the meeting were Mr Markus Scheer, Member of the Management Board of KfW IPEX-Bank, and Eberhard Brandes, Director of WWF Germany.

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Energy poverty rises in Spain

A sharp rise in the number of Spaniards living in the risk of energy poverty was revealed in a report published by the Spanish Association of Environmental Sciences (ACA). According to the report, between 2010 and 2012 the number of households that need to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on electricity and gas bills increased to 16,6% from 12.4% in 2010. In real life, these percentages translate to 7 million people who live in unhealthy conditions of homes that are very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Coupled with mold and humidity and electricity cuts, due to unpaid bills, energy poverty is a social crisis resulting from rising energy prices (roughly 60% since 2007) and decreasing incomes. An annual 7,200 deaths can now be attributed to energy poverty in Spain, in accordance with the measurement system established by the World Health Organisation.

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Commission: return to past growth "model" will be illusory and harmful

In its March 5th review on the progress of the EU’s 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the European Commission comes up with a series of extraordinary conclusions. At the diagnostic level, the Commission acknowledges for the first time the role of resource depletion and growing energy demand in aggravating the crisis:
A  first  critical  step  in  designing  a  post-crisis  growth  strategy  for  the  EU  is  to understand clearly the full impact of the crisis and to share a common diagnosis of where Europe stands. In so doing, it is also important to bear in mind that seeking  to  return  to  the  growth  "model"  of  the  previous  decade  would  be  both  illusory  and harmful: fiscal imbalances;  real  estate bubbles; widening  social inequalities; lack of sufficient entrepreneurship and innovation; dysfunctional financial systems; growing  energy  dependency;  multiple  pressures  on  the  use  of  resources  and  the environment; sharp increase in unemployment; weaknesses in education and training systems;  underperforming  public  administrations  –  these  were  issues  that  could  be observed but that were not resolved in the past. They contributed to the collapse of parts of our economies when the full crisis hit.”

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Portugal paves path for green economy?

In the process of tax policy reform, the Government of Portugal has appointed an inter-ministerial expert commission with the mandate of drafting a proposal for green taxation.  The commission, which is composed of ten experts will submit its proposals by the end of June, opening public discussion afterwards. The final document will be ready by September 2014. Its work will be based on the principle of “fiscal neutrality”, and will pursue the reduction of taxation on labour, by transferring the tax burden on activities of high ecological footprint.

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Judicial reform in Spain excludes environmental groups from legal aid

The draft “Law on Free Legal Aid”, which was presented to the Cabinet on 21 February by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, excludes environmental groups from the right to seek free legal aid. Specifically, par. 3 of art. 2 of the draft law, which revises Law 1/1996 on the same subject, now excludes charitable associations (associaciones de utilidad pública) defending environmental causes from the right to legal aid without having to prove insufficient means for litigation.

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