CrisisWatch

NGOs contest Spain’s approval for oil exploration offshore the Canaries

A coalition of Spain’s five largest environmental groups is taking legal action against the official authorisation granted by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism to oil giant Repsol for hydrocarbon exploration offshore the Canary islands.

Despite massive protests against the planned project, the Spanish Government gave Repsol an “all-clear” licence for offshore exploration in three marine plots close to the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. A series of appeals were heard at the Supreme Tribunal and were rejected in June.  

In a joint statement, environmental groups WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Ecologistas en Accion and SEO Birdlife announced their intention to take European legal action against this decision.

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Greek Parliament votes anti-forest law

A new forest law was voted at the Hellenic Parliament by a Government majority of 50-47 on August 5th.

The new law was heavily criticised by environmental organisations, citizens groups, individual citizens and part of the media, as it introduces a series of critical changes to forest legislation, essentially altering its conservation character. In response to a three-day urgent call by WWF Greece for public action, over 1,000 people personally addressed the ruling party MPs who participate in the 2nd Summer Recess Section. Through email messages and personal telephone calls, MPs were urged to vote against the draft law.

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Parliament of Greece approves oil & gas deals

On September 18th, the Parliament ratified three concession contracts for blocks between the Hellenic Republic and a) Energean Oil & Gas/Petra Petroleum, b) Energean Oil & Gas /Trajan Oil & Gas LTD, and c) Hellenic Petroleum / Edison / Petroceltic. The areas where hydrocarbon exploration and drilling has been approved are the onshore block of Ioannina, in the Region of Epirus, the offshore block of Patraikos, and Katakolo, in W. Peloponnese. Also ratified by parliamentary law was a fourth contract with Kavala Oil S.A./Energean Oil and Gas/Hellenic Petroleum S.A., which modifies a 1999 contract for the offshore area of the Thracian Sea. Despite the Minister’s expressed concerns about the possibility of shale gas extraction in Greece, on environmental grounds, the ratified contracts for onshore exploration do not exclude fracking. 

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UK cuts support to renewables

by Anna Chrysopoulou - Through a new support scheme, the UK Government is reducing the financial support to renewable energies, while at the same time maintaining the subsidies to conventional energy.

In July 2014, the UK announced a new subsidy scheme titled “Contracts for Difference” (CfDs), which sets a ceiling of £200 million a year on subsidies to large-scale installations of renewable energy sources. Most affected by the new scheme will be wind, solar farms and biomass. The subsidy will be divided among three sets of renewable sources, the more established technologies, such as onshore wind and solar energy, less established technologies, such as offshore wind energy, and biomass conversion. Companies will have to compete for the available money in their sector. 

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Portugal sees crisis as opportunity for green tax reform

An integrated green tax reform proposal was recently announced by the Commission for Green Tax Reform, which was established by the Portuguese Finance Ministry in January 2014. Following a period of consultation with business, scientific and civil organisations, the report was submitted by the ad hoc commission to the Minister of State and Finances, the Minister of Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy and the Secretary of State for Tax Affairs, on September 15th. The Government is now expected to evaluate the proposals and decide on the next steps.

The proposed reforms, which are estimated to result in total public revenues of EUR164 million, cover the sectors of i) energy and emissions,  ii) transport, iii) water, iv) waste, v) urban and spatial planning, vi) forestry, vii) biodiversity and other. This increased tax revenue for the state coffers will result from the introduction of new taxes, the increase in existing taxes and the reduction or elimination of certain tax exemptions.

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Italy launches EU Presidency by pushing green economy a step forward

by Stefano Lenzi, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

The start of the Italian Presidency of the EU Council was marked by the Informal EU Environment and Labour Ministers Joint Meeting on “Green Growth and Employment”, which was held in Milan on July 17th. 

Launching a high-level EU dialogue on mutually supportive and integrated policies in the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the backgrounder distributed by the Italian Presidency states that “[t]he European Semester and the forthcoming mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy for sustainable, smart and inclusive growth present important opportunities to strengthen the environmental dimension of the Strategy and its governance processes. Besides being a legal requirement under art. 11 of the TFEU, stronger integration of environment and economic policy together with concrete actions on resource efficiency and low-carbon economy can deliver more growth and job opportunities and higher quality of life for the citizens of the EU.” 

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Greece going into deep environmental recession

WWF Greece announced its tenth annual review of Greece’s environmental laws and policies. The period covered by this year's report (July 2013 -June 2014), documents the culmination of a systematic process of dismantling Greece’s already poor environmental acquis.

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New European Commission does not beam bright light for environment

Under President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker, Environment will not have its own Commissioner, for the first time in 25 years, whereas climate change policies now rank subordinate to energy market priorities. Worse still, the headline of the mission of the new Environment, Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner is deregulation, instead of providing full support to the sustainability pillar of the EU treaties and ensuing the implementation of the 7th Environmental Action Plan.

In a letter addressed by the EU’s “Green 10” NGOs, the members of the European Parliament are called to vote for a change in the composition and the mission of the new European Commission, as proposed by President Juncker. 

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