WWF maps “blue Gold Rush” in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean region is currently facing impressive growth, a real “blue Gold Rush”, which has gained speed during the ongoing economic crisis. Without a long-term vision for sustainable development, the Mediterranean Sea will not be able to sustain the region’s economies and human wellbeing.


MedTrends, an analysis recently published by WWF on the development trends in the Mediterranean, provides the first integrated picture of 10 key economic maritime activities in Croatia, Cyprus, France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Slovenia, and Spain. With a view to 2030, MedTrends illustrates and maps the current status, future development trends and the environmental impacts (to 2030) of maritime transport, tourism, oil and gas, aquaculture, fisheries, mining, coastal development, renewable energy, and land-based pollution.


Political tide turning in support of EU nature directives

Nine EU member states have officially expressed their opposition to the European Commission’s move to subject the directives on habitats (92/32/EEC) and wild birds (2009/147/EC) to a “fitness check” under its REFIT initiative: Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.

In their joint letter, the nine environment ministers state that: “There is now legal certainty as a result of well advanced implementation. Those affected have learned how to deal with the directives’ provisions. Any amendment would require the allocation of personnel and financial resources for a period of many years, meaning that these resources would no longer be available for the much more important process of implementing the nature conservation directives. The result would be new legal uncertainty. We therefore all agree that the directives should retain their current form.”

On a parallel track, members of the European Parliament representing the seven largest political groups co-signed a letter urging First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella to keep the Habitats and Birds Directives in their current form and focus on better implementation. The MEPs who signed the letter are the rapporteur Mark Demesmaeker (BE/ECR)  and shadow rapporteurs Norbert Lins (DE/EPP), Karin Kadenbach (AT/S&D), Catherine Bearder (UK/ALDE), Margrete Auken (DK/ Greens/EFA), Marco Affronte (IT/EFDD) and Lynn Boylan (IE/GUE-NGL) on the European Parliament’s Own-Initiative Report on the Mid-Term Review of the Biodiversity Strategy towards 2020.

Commenting on this historic development for nature conservation in the EU, Geneviève Pons-Deladrière, Director of WWF European Policy Office said: “We expect more EU governments to join this call and put a stop to any attempt to change a legal instrument that has proven to work when properly implemented and financed.
We urge the European Commission to use this momentum and deliver on their commitment to halt the loss of nature. They should maintain the current laws and ensure their effective implementation, as well as tackle the main problems, such as unsustainable agriculture and changes to natural waterbodies, which are causing the damage.

In May 2015, WWF, BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau and Friends of the Earth Europe launched the “Nature Alert” campaign in response to the European Commission’s evaluation which assesses whether the existing EU nature laws should be changed. The campaign makes the case for improved implementation and enforcement of existing rules set out by the laws - known as the Birds and Habitats Directives. During the summer, over 520,000 people participated in the European Commission’s public consultation and called on politicians to save Europe’s nature laws: by far the highest number of responses ever reached in the history of the EU.

Read more: WWF EU, Birdlife


Policy highlights - June 2015

1.     European Commission (ECFIN), Statement by the European Commission and the ECB following the second post-programme surveillance mission to Portugal (March 2015)

Economic and financial conditions in Portugal have further improved since the conclusion of the first post-programme surveillance mission in autumn 2014. However, the economic recovery continues to be held back by the remaining macroeconomic imbalances. While the authorities reiterated their commitment to budgetary consolidation, efforts to reduce the underlying structural budget deficit need to continue. The structural reforms undertaken during the financial assistance programme are increasingly having an effect. Nevertheless, the reform agenda to further enhance medium-term growth prospects, job creation and competitiveness remains challenging.”


2.     European Commission (ECFIN), New Excessive Deficit Procedure steps published (18 May 2015)


Overview of ongoing excessive deficit procedures


Date of the Commission report (Art.104.3/126.3)

Council Decision on existence of excessive deficit Art.104.6/126.6)

Current deadline for correction


15 November 2013

21 January 2014



21 May 2013

21 June 2013



12 May 2010

13 July 2010



7 October 2009

2 December 2009



7 October 2009

2 December 2009



13 May 2009

7 July 2009



18 February 2009

27 April 2009



18 February 2009

27 April 2009



18 February 2009

27 April 2009



18 February 2009

27 April 2009



11 June 2008

8 July 2008

financial year 2014/15


3.     European Commission, Five Presidents' Report sets out plan for strengthening Europe's Economic and Monetary Union as of 1 July 2015 (22 June 2015)

What’s in the Five Presidents’ Report concretely?

1. Towards an Economic Union of convergence, growth and jobs

2. Towards Financial Union

3. Towards Fiscal Union

4. Strengthening Democratic Accountability, Legitimacy and Institutions: From Rules to Institutions

5. The Social dimension of EMU


Next Steps: This report has put forward the principal steps necessary to complete EMU at the latest by 2025. The first initiatives should be launched by the EU institutions as of 1 July 2015. To prepare the transition between Stages 1 and 2, the Commission – in consultation with the Presidents of the other EU institutions – will present a "White Paper" in Spring 2017, assessing progress made in Stage 1 and outlining next steps needed. It will discuss the legal, economic and political preconditions of the more far-reaching measures necessary to complete EMU in Stage 2, and will draw on analytical input from an expert consultation group. Translating the Five Presidents’ report into laws and institutions should begin without delay.”


Ptolemaida V: a new economic disaster in the making?

by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - During his recent visit to the region of Western Macedonia Greece’s new minister for energy Panayiotis Lafazanis declared his support for the construction of the new lignite plant “Ptolemaida V”. He also emphasized that he will re-negotiate the construction cost in order to reduce the burden for the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and Greek citizens. According to the contract agreement, signed two years ago, the construction of the new 660 MW lignite plant will cost 1.4 billion euro. With the exception of the 739 million euro bond loan, supported by the German Export Credit Agency Euler Hermes and arranged by the KfW IPEX Bank in 2013, PPC has been unable to secure additional funding. Recent articles in the press also mention the need for payments of 400 million euro in the first 6 months after construction begins. The situation is further complicated by the decision of the new minister to freeze the privatisation of part of the PPC and the Independent Power Transmission Operator (IPTO), which would offer the PPC funds for the construction of the new plant.

In addition to financing problems, WWF Greece in its recent report, argued that the new lignite plant will see its income shrink due to the recently adopted changes in the ETS (MSR, increase in the linear reduction factor) which will greatly increase the production cost. The argument is based on the PPC’s own calculations, which show that at the CO2 prices of approximately €30/tn (predicted for 2025-2030), Ptolemaida V will be displaced in the electricity market by natural gas plants. More importantly, the new report has shown that hybrid systems consisting of RES (wind- PV) and pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) are capable of covering the same base load as Ptolemaida V while also having lower levelised cost of energy (LCOE). Key in all this is the conversion of existing PPC-owned pairs of hydropower stations into PHES.

The Ptolemaida V case bears a striking resemblance to the 600 MW TES6 unit in Sostanj Slovenia, which was also declared to be the “Slovene energy future”. The new lignite unit which started test operation in 2014, although significantly more efficient compared to Ptolemaida V (46% vs 41,5%) is expected to have €70-80m annual losses that will burden Slovenian citizens, 226 jobs less than those promised, and a total €1.4b of installation costs compared to €690 million that was initially budgeted. 

In addition to Ptolemaida V, Panagiotis Lafazanis also promised that he will re-open the old Ptolemaida III lignite unit and extend its operation beyond 2015. The 125 MW lignite unit which started its operation back in 1965 (the oldest one still not officially retired) caught fire last November. A prerequisite for issuing its environmental permit 4 years ago was that it will be retired by the end of 2015 at the latest as part of the entire thermal power station (TPS) of Ptolemaida consisting of 4 units. The “excuse” for this is that the Ptolemaida III unit will complement Kardia III and IV in providing district heating to the city of Ptolemaida. The entire TPS Kardia consisting of 4 lignite units is scheduled to enter the Limited Lifetime Derogation (LLD, article 33 of the Industrial Emissions Directive) starting 1/1/2016. Hence, the idea is for Ptolemaida III to join them in this derogation and continue to operate beyond 2015. 

However, things are not that simple. The operation cost of TPS Ptolemaida is high and it will get even higher if Ptolemaida III operates without Ptolemaida IV. More importantly, the deadline for declaring a TPS in the Limited Lifetime Derogation is surpassed by more than 16 months. Thus, the Ptolemaida III were to operate beyond 2015, it would have to comply with the stricter emission limit values of the Industrial Emissions Directive. This would in turn mean expensive and extensive retrofits, since TPS Ptolemaida as a total is in violation of its own environmental permit in terms of SO2 emissions and its dust emissions are on average more than 4 times higher than the current limit of the Large Combustion Plants Directive (2001/80/EC). Unit III in particular has exceeded the limit corresponding to it for dust emissions according to Greece’s National Emissions Reduction Plan (NERP) every year since 2009, by at least a factor of 2. 

This may be the right time for Greece's energy ministry to discover renewables-based solutions for district heating. 

Read moreWWF Greece - announcement, WWF Greece - report on Ptolemaida V, Bankwatch on Sostanj, PPC-announcement on Ptolemaida V bond loan (in Greek)



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.


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