As crisis offers excuse for fossil fuel revival, reactions mount against coal

The recent decision of an Italian chief prosecutor to order the closure of two power stations at Vado Ligure is probably the first legal case for manslaughter and environmental damage opening against the coal-fired energy industry. On another case, the Court of Rovigo sentenced two former CEOs of ENEL to a two-year prison term for the severe pollution derived by the operations of the Porto Tolle Power Plant. Environmental groups WWF Italy, Greenpeace and Legambiente have expressed hope that this judgment will signal the end of coal conversion projects in Porto Tolle. However, the impact of these important legal developments on the energy policies of EU member states is yet to be seen.


Media-Web, March 2014

How Germany's development bank will fund a giant lignite plant in Greece | Energy Desk - Greenpeace UK (24 March 2014).

"KfW is one of the few Western development banks left that has no policy phasing out new coal investments. ¶ In October last year US president Obama pushed through new guidance from the US Treasury that it wouldn’t finance coal plants abroad - through the World Bank and other international development institutions - unless they had CCS or in very rare cases where there is no other economically feasible option in the world’s poorest countries (which does not include Greece). ¶ The World Bank also reiterated its plans to stop investing in new coal projects unless in poor countries where renewables would be too expensive. ¶ A couple of months later, similar plans to halt investment in most coal plants were revealed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). ¶ The EIB decided not to invest in Ptolemaida 5, ending rumours that it might in January this year."

Funding for new coal undermines Greece’s potential for a living economy | New Europe (23 March 2014).

"The recent decision of Italian chief prosecutor Francantonio Granero to order the closure of two power units at Vado Ligure has revealed the well hidden killer assumption of coal: human deaths and environmental damage. In Greece, plans by the Public Power Corporation for a EUR 1,4 billion lignite burning power plant, Ptolemaida V, undermine the crisis stricken country’s potential for sustainable economic recovery. ¶ In planning, when a killer assumption is identified, it is time to rethink the project. The case of coal is replete with killer assumptions. The time has come for financial institutions to clean their investment portfolios from fossil fuels and start supporting the necessary shift towards sustainable economic recovery across Europe."

Profiting from crisis - How corporations and lawyers are scavenging profits from Europe’s crisis countries | Corporate Europe Observatory (10 March 2014).

"Profiting from Crisis looks closely at how corporate investors have responded to the measures taken by Spain, Greece and Cyprus to protect their economies in the wake of the European debt crisis. In Greece, Poštová Bank from Slovakia bought Greek debt after the bond value had already been downgraded, and was then offered a very generous debt restructuring package, yet sought to extract an even better deal by suing Greece using the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between Slovakia and Greece. In Cyprus, a Greek-listed private equity-style investor, Marfin Investment Group, which was involved in a series of questionable lending practices, is seeking €823 million in compensation for their lost investments after Cyprus had to nationalise the Laiki Bank as part of an EU debt restructuring agreement. In Spain, 22 companies (at the time of writing), mainly private equity funds, have sued at international tribunals for cuts in subsidies for renewable energy. While the cuts in subsidies have been rightly criticised by environmentalists, only large foreign investors have the ability to sue, and it is egregious that if they win it will be the already suffering Spanish public who will have to pay to enrich private equity funds."

WWF seeks to forge new, sustainable narrative for crisis-wracked citizens| Kathimerini (6 March 2014)

"Following in the footsteps of its counterparts around the world, WWF Greece appears to hereby move beyond familiar eco-centric territory, adopting a more holistic understanding of sustainability. The campaign's agenda addresses issues such as energy conservation, sustainable consumption, urban living, and balanced nutrition – along the lines of WWF's “Livewell” program for a healthy and sustainable diet.

So far more than 1,300 people and 85 schools have signed up with the program, which has occasionally joined forces with other, more niche platforms such as the Boroume (We Can) initiative against food waste, and the City of Errors network for civic engagement. More than 1,000 people took part in a festival against food waste organized together with Boroume in Athens earlier this year."

Official disquiet grows over EU states' efficiency plans | Euractiv (6 March 2014)

"EU countries see energy savings as a "luxury", neglect building sector roadmaps, and are producing national action plans unlikely to meet a 2020 energy efficiency target, according to government officials and advisers surveyed by EurActiv."


Policy highlights - February 2014

EU ECFIN: Energy consumption down by 8% between 2006 and 2012 in the EU28 (17 February 2014)

Over the last two decades, gross inland energy consumption in the EU28, which stood at 1 670 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 1990, rose to a peak of 1 830 Mtoe in 2006 and then decreased to 1 680 Mtoe in 2012. Between 2006 and 2012, gross inland energy consumption in the EU28 has fallen by 8%.The energy dependence rate, which shows the extent to which a country is dependent on energy imports, was 53% in the EU28 in 2012.

Between 2006 and 2012, energy consumption fell in twenty four Member States and increased only in Estonia (+11.6%), the Netherlands (+2.9%),  Poland  (+0.8%)  and  Sweden (+0.4%). The  largest  relative  falls  were recorded in Lithuania (-17.0%), Portugal (-15.2), Greece (-14.4%) and Hungary (-14.2%). 


WWF calls for green way out of the economic crisis

An environmentally and socially sustainable exit from the current financial crisis, in order to preserve the natural capital that underpins successful economic activity; is urgently needed, stresses WWF ahead of the Informal Meeting of the European Council gathering in Brussels on 23 May.


Greece’s woodlands fall prey to myopic crisis policies

In a draft law rushed through a 7-day public consultation process, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change proposes the declassification from protection status of over 15% of Greek territory. The aim of this act is to allow for the development of touristic and industrial uses on lands currently protected under the national Forest Code, on the basis of article 24 of the Greek Constitution. Through the proposed amendments, the State also relinquishes its right to collect the financial penalties imposed on a number of currently illegal uses in the declassified lands. Furthermore, new development uses are added to forests and other lands remaining under the Forest Code.


Plan for a “living economy” in Greece

A vision and roadmap for the development of a living and sustainable economy in Greece was presented by WWF Greece on 9 October 2013 in Athens. This proposal, which was reviewed by the Athens office of the Boston Consulting Group, opens a vital dialogue that never occurred in Greece, about development and the socioeconomic future of the country.


Despite crisis, Europeans agree more funding is needed for biodiversity

A recent Flash Eurobarometer survey on the “Attitudes towards biodiversity” may offer a clear message that the majority of EU citizens do not favour measures that undermine the conservation of Europe’s natural treasury.

According to the Flash Eurobarometer 379, which was published earlier in November, “[r]oughly  three  quarters  of  Europeans  totally  agree  that  the  EU  should  better  inform citizens about the importance of biodiversity (72%).  Approximately  two  thirds  of  Europeans  totally  agree  that  the  EU  should  increase  the areas where nature is protected in Europe (65%). 

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