Another step backwards on the Green Deal

What a scandal!

Speaking to EU agriculture ministers, the European Commissioner for food security Stella Kyriakides informed her audience that “it has not yet been decided” when the proposed directive for a 50% reduction in pesticide use will be presented. This means the Green Deal plan to halve pesticide use by 2030 is being effectively put on ice. Naturally this is justified by talk of the war in Ukraine and geopolitical instability.

There is unanimous agreement that “pesticides are harmful to health and the environment” and that we should strive increasingly to decontaminate the land and water systems. Logic would suggest that we can’t “postpone” the elimination of something that does harm, imperilling the hopes of the younger generations for the future.

So what would a “voice in the wilderness” like our own say about this?

“The war in Ukraine has brought home to us contradictions we have never wanted to see before. The Covid19 pandemic should have taught us that the globalized world consumes more than nature can protect or replenish.  This means that we must come up with new policies that release us from the chains with which unrestrained global liberalization has bound us. Instead, just as for energy – in which we see coal and nuclear power returning to the equation – so for farming, there is a return to chemicals and intensive production. Once again all the (feeble) attempts that should, in theory at least, have allowed us to achieve a green transition are being called into question. In other words, instead of looking ahead we are continuing to look backwards.

Continua a leggere “Another step backwards on the Green Deal”


REPowerEU is the European plan to break EU dependency on Russian gas, and to find freedom in EU energy choices. This is the plan announced, with harsh words due to the war in Ukraine. The main aim should be to protect those who are struggling to pay their energy bills, the most exposed households and businesses.

What does the plan consist of? This is how it was presented by the Commission’s executive Vice president Frans Timmermans:

REPowerEU “is based on two tracks:

First: we will diversify supply and bring in more renewable gases. With more LNG and pipeline imports, we can replace 60 bcm of Russian gas within the next 12 months. By doubling sustainable production of biomethane we can replace another 18 bcm, using the Common Agricultural Policy to help farmers become energy producers. We can also increase the production and import of renewable hydrogen. A Hydrogen Accelerator will develop integrated infrastructure and offer all Member States access to affordable renewable hydrogen. 20 million tonnes of hydrogen can replace 50 bcm of Russian gas.”

“In parallel, we must accelerate our clean energy transition. Renewables make us more independent, and they are more affordable and reliable than the volatile gas market.

So, we need to put millions more photovoltaic panels on the roofs of our homes, businesses, and farms. We must also double the installation rate of heat pumps over the next 5 years.

This is low-hanging fruit. By the end of this year, almost 25% of Europe’s current electricity production could come from solar energy. In addition to this, we need to speed up permitting procedures to grow our on- and offshore wind capacity, and rollout large-scale solar projects. This is a matter of overriding public interest.”

So it took a war for people to take decisions that could have been taken years ago, and have been called for by so many, including environmental movements and the young people of Fridays For Future … .  



The European Commission’s three initiatives of 17/11/2021

On 17 November 2021, the European Commission published its new EU Soil Strategy for 2030. Two more important documents appeared on the same day: the Proposal for a regulation on deforestation-free products and the Proposal for a new regulation on waste shipments.

The three initiatives were presented by the Commission Vice President and the Environment Commissioner in the following words:

Frans Timmermans – Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal: “To succeed in the global fight against the climate and biodiversity crises we must take the responsibility to act at home as well as abroad. Our deforestation regulation answers citizens’ calls to minimise the European contribution to deforestation and promote sustainable consumption. Our new rules to govern waste shipments will boost the circular economy and ensure that waste exports do not harm the environment or human health elsewhere. And our soil strategy will allow soil to get healthy, be used sustainably and receive the legal protection it needs.”

Virginijus Sinkevičiu – Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries: “If we expect more ambitious climate and environmental policies from partners, we should stop exporting pollution and supporting deforestation ourselves. The deforestation and waste shipment regulations we are putting on the table are the most ambitious legislative attempts to tackle these issues worldwide ever. With these proposals, we are taking our responsibility and walking the talk by lowering our global impact on pollution and biodiversity loss. We also put forward a ground-breaking EU soil strategy with a strong policy agenda that sets out to grant them the same level of protection as water, marine environment and air.” 



The document that accompanies the EU Soil Strategy

Our eagle-eyed readers keep us on our toes! In November’s article on the EU Soil Strategy for 2030, we failed to mention the document that accompanies the Strategy.

This document, called the Commission Staff Working Document, is a rousing snapshot of the situation from which the Strategy emerged. It covers topics from the European legislative and political context to historical reconstruction, from details of the contributions of the various actors involved with the soil (we appear under the guise of the Gruppo Suolo Europa) to an analysis of the consultations that took place in 2020 and in the spring of 2021. This is a sound and detailed piece of work that needs to be kept updated especially for those who wish to see the Soil Directive come to fruition.

The document highlights the enormous amount of work that has been done by staff at the DG Environment. This is why we regard it as “educational”, capable of providing the elements of the political and technical context and to help people understand how the strategy itself was put together.

We must, however, focus mainly on the Strategy text because that is where the concepts and principles that will serve to put together the draft Directive are to be found.

So we can enjoy reading the attachment, but above all we need to reflect on and analyse the strategic document.


JRC (Joint Research Centre) Report on the impact of the CAP on the environment

A report on the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and its impact on Green Deal, Farm to Fork, EU Biodiversity Strategy, was published by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) on 11 August. Its title is “Modelling environmental and climate ambition in the agricultural sector with the CAPRI model”. In synthesis, it analyses the impact of the CAP reform with respect to selected environmental indicators, production, income, prices.

“The report presents a modelled scenario of an ambitious implementation of the CAP reform proposals to measure the effects on EU agriculture including four quantitative targets put forward in the F2F and BDS strategies already reflected in the recommendations of the Commission to the Member States on their CAP Strategic Plans. These targets were selected as the ones with the greatest potential to affect agricultural environment and production. Moreover, those are the targets to which the CAP can provide specific contribution.

The analysis includes a reduction of the risk and use of pesticides, a reduction of nutrient surplus, an increase of area under organic farming, and an increase of area for high-diversity landscape features. The impacts are modelled under three scenarios. One is a status quo scenario assuming no change in the CAP compared to its implementation during 2014-2020. The other two scenarios include a potential implementation of the CAP post 2020 legal proposal targeting these objectives, both with and without the targeted use of Next Generation EU funding.”


Technical guidance on the climate proofing of infrastructure in the period 2021-2027   

If we were to trust the words that are being spoken right now about the environment, the climate and the soil, we would think we had gained the right to a wonderful world, and that the powerful of the earth were defending it with all their physical and economic capacity.

The reality is right in front of our eyes, however. Fortunately there are still those with the energy to fight for a fairer world, a healthier environment, and an inclusive society. The young people of Fridays For Future (FFF) have resumed their demonstrations, Extinction Rebellion (XR) are back on the streets, associations and groups are trying to make themselves heard. Th e “wind” must continue to change.

This is the direction of travel of the European Commission’s Note on “Technical guidance on the climate proofing of infrastructure in the period 2021-2027“.

Continua a leggere “Technical guidance on the climate proofing of infrastructure in the period 2021-2027   “

“European Green Deal” Barometer

The “barometer” for the implementation of the Green Deal was created by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and GlobeScan. Its aim is to follow the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Green Deal and suggest whatever adjustments are necessary. It will be published annually. The first report was published on 29 April and gives rise to a series of reflections, especially on the role to be taken by single Member States.

Here are some of the key findings:

“Accounting for the relative lack of progress in Green Deal implementation in areas beyond climate and energy, respondents identified a series of key challenges that must be overcome, including:

− A lack of commitment by the Member States to the Green Deal agenda, which is seen by respondents as the biggest barrier to implementation, followed by inadequate governance mechanisms and unequal progress across the EU Member States.

− A gap between science and legislative proposals or investments on the table: When asked whether European Green Deal proposals meet well what science requires, only 62% believe this is the case for increasing the EU’s climate ambition and this figure falls as low as 49% for the ‘farm to fork’ strategy and 45% for the zero-pollution ambition. This suggests that political feasibility remains the fundamental driver for EC proposals, rather than scientific evidence about planetary boundaries.

− The lack of awareness-raising and consensus-building around the European Green Deal: less than half of the respondents felt that they were familiar with the European Green Deal as a whole. Even more concerning is the fact that government stakeholders and regulators are the least familiar with it – with less than four in ten saying they are familiar with the European Green Deal.

− The need to see through the implementation of the European Green Deal beyond the mandate of the current Com-mission, with seven out of 10 respondents believing that the Green Deal implementation will not be finished by 2024.”

Charveriat C. and Holme C. (2021). European Green Deal Barometer 2021. Institute for European Environmental Policy and GlobeScan, Brussels and Paris.


Zero Pollution Action Plan (ZPAP)

We have a European plan to tackle pollution of the air, water and soil! Good intentions are laid out over 22 pages. If we were not in a highly critical situation, we would be filled with joy to see this action plan that the European Commission has sent to the Parliament and the Council. In summary: we know there is a problem and we have decided to tackle it at the European level.

The zero pollution targets for 2030

Under  EU  law,  Green  Deal  ambitions  and  in  synergy  with  other  initiatives,  by  2030  the  EU should reduce:

1. by more than 55% the health impacts (premature deaths) of air pollution;

2. by 30% the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise;

3. by 25% the EU ecosystems where air pollution threatens biodiversity;

4. by 50% nutrient losses, the use and risk of chemical pesticides, the use of the more hazardous ones, and the sale of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture;

5. by 50% plastic litter at sea and by 30% microplastics released into the environment;

6. significantly total waste generation and by 50% residual municipal waste.

And for the soil:

Furthermore,  the  proposed ‘’Mission  in  the  area  of  Soil  Health  and  Food’, together with the agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP AGRI), will promote the wide-spread uptake of  practices  for  pesticide  and  nutrient  reduction  by  promoting  innovations  and exchange  of knowledge. 

It  will  aim  to  ensuring  that,  by  2030,  75%  of  soils  are  healthy,  also  thanks  to  a specific objective on reducing soil pollution and enhancing restoration. As  part  of  the  upcoming EU  soil  strategy,   the  Commission  will  develop  measures  to significantly increase efforts to identify, investigate, assess and remediate contaminated sites, so that  by  2050  soil  pollution  will  no  longer  pose  a  health or  environmental  risk.  New  soil contamination  should  be  prevented  as  much  as  possible,  but  when  it  occurs  despite  preventive and  other  measures,  the  risks  should  be  immediately  addressed.  An  estimated  2.8  million  sites are  potentially  contaminated  across  the  EU,  of  which 390000  are  expected  to  require remediation.  

By  2018,  only  some  65500  sites  were  reported  to  have  been  remediated.  It  is crucial that all Member States have a register for (potentially) contaminated sites, step up efforts to  remediate  such  sites  and  develop  clear  criteria  to  prioritise  decontamination.  The  upcoming proposal  for  legally  binding EU  nature  restoration  targets will  consider  addressing  the restoration  of  degraded  soil  ecosystems.  The  Commission  will  also  develop  an  EU  priority watch list for soil contaminants as well as guidance, e.g. for a passport for the safe, sustainable and  circular  use  of  excavated  soils based  on  Member  State  experiences  where  they  exist.  To better  understand  the  issue  of  diffuse  soil  pollution  in  the  EU, the  Commission  will  work towards  integrating  a zero  pollution  module in  the  future LUCAS  [Land Use/Cover Area frame statistical Survey] soil  survey.  The availability  and  awareness  of  public  and  private  funding  options  for  identifying,  investigating and remediating contaminated soils will be promoted and facilitated.