Commission recommends path to greener tax policies

Fixed in its original orientation towards economic growth, the Commission called on member states to promote greener tax policies through its European Semester cycle of economic policy coordination: “Environmental taxes remain underdeveloped in many Member States and their revenues in percentage of GDP declined during the period 1999-2008, despite efforts to move to a greener society. Revenues have however increased in 2009 2010 and 2011. There is potential to raise revenue through tax increases as well as through reducing tax expenditure in environmental taxation. 

Generally, environmentally-friendly taxation would also greatly benefit from the adoption by Member States of the revised Energy Taxation Directive (ETD), which aims to restructure the way in which energy is taxed to support the objective of moving to a low-carbon and energy-efficient economy, and to avoid problems for the Internal Market.



Italian EU Presidency closes with sustainability deficit

The commitment for “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” and “green economy”, which marked the launch of Italy’s Presidency of the EU in July 2014, was not honoured. According to WWF Italy, the semester of the Italian lead of the EU Council came to its conclusion having failed to come up with the promised innovative proposal that would carve the country’s way out of the crisis and boost the EU’s economy as a whole. More specifically, the Italian Presidency did not pursue a “Beyond GDP” new pact that would shift priority attention from fiscal consolidation to wellbeing and the recognition of value to the natural capital. WWF Italy reminded that the call for an environmentally and socially sustainable way out of the crisis was also the demand of 69 MPs, who co-signed a September 2014 appeal to the Italian Presidency titled “From the fiscal compact to a compact for wellbeing –Focus on the ecological shift of Europe”.

Among the scattered positive developments during the Italian Presidency was the position of the General Affairs Council of 16 December 2014, which placed particular emphasis on the need to fight climate change, promote the management and conservation of natural resources and ecosystems as a benchmark for sustainable development and work on poverty alleviation worldwide.

Read more: WWF Italy, CrisisWatch.



July-August 2014 editorial

As Europe’s response to the economic crisis is now having a clear impact on environmental and social policies across most of Europe and the EU at large, overexploiting the natural environment is seen by troubled member states as a quick-fix solution for rapid economic recovery. The oil & gas frenzy that dominates the development agenda in many Mediterranean states and threatens natural treasures of global significance, environmental deregulation, backsliding of the EU from its own forward-looking green policies, are signs of these dire times of austerity and political paralysis in facing the dismal reality of the non-ending economic crisis.

WWF knows that the EU is wasting a crisis that signals the need for good change.


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.” 


Economic recession results in CO2 emissions cuts

An EU-wide 1.3% reduction in CO2 emissions between 2011 and 2012 marks the lowest recorded annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) since 1990: 19.2%. This brings the EU very close to the achievement of the 2020 emissions reduction target by 20%. Despite however the euphoria that this downward trend may generate, the main reductions are attributed to lower industrial activity and transport, primarily in crisis-stricken member states. Increased emissions since the previous year were recorded in the United Kingdom (3.2%), Germany (1.1%), Ireland (1.4%) and Malta (3.7%).


Italian national parks in risk of paralysis

A call for political alert over the country’s national parks was issued by WWF Italy on May 24th, European Day of Parks. 

As a result of severe national budget cuts on environmental policies and nature conservation, at present only 3 of Italy’s 23 national parks have an operating management board and a President. Famed natural treasures, such as the Abruzzo and the Gennargentu national parks are dysfunctional, since they cannot take important conservation decisions and lack the public participation mechanism that management boards offer. 


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."


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.


Italy’s protected areas undermined by draft law

Through an urgent legislative procedure, the Senate of the Republic of Italy is currently discussing draft law 119 on “New provisions relating to protected areas”. The urgency and a series of provisions included in the draft law have caused the reaction of environmental organisations and the Parks Federation (Fedeparchi).

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