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November 29, 2011

Ministers seek EU ocean energy support

On the occasion of the 24 November Energy Council meeting, a joint formal announcement by the newly created Member States Ocean energy Interest Group - comprising Governments of Ireland (Minister Pat Rabbitte), the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark and Norway - called on the EU to give its full backing to the development of the massive ocean energy resources that exist in these countries' waters.

The accompanying Member State Position Paper, 'Towards European industrial leadership in Ocean Energy in 2020', urges the Commission to fully recognise the potential contribution from Ocean Energy to meeting the EU's climate change and energy security objectives (reckoned to be up to 15 per cent of EU energy demand) and to come forward with the necessary financial support for the sector's growth. Governments are particularly targeting the EU Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan to accelerate the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies.

Member State Position Paper on Ocean Energy: http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/meeting-energy-demand/wave-tidal/3610-position-paper-towards-euro-ind-leader.pdf

Posted by iroronan at November 29, 2011 11:49 AM

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November 28, 2011

'Creative Europe' plans

A proposed EUR1.8 billion fund to support the cultural and creative industries in Europe was announced on 23 November with the unveiling of the Commission's proposals for the new 'Creative Europe' programme for the period 2014-2020.

Intended to integrate the areas of focus of the longstanding MEDIA and CULTURE programmes, the new framework programme's concentration would be on targeting support to improve the prospects of artists, professionals and cultural organisations who are active in a sector which directly employs 8.5 million European citizens. This includes a strong emphasis on assistance in accessing new markets in Europe and beyond through training to strengthen capacity to work internationally (e.g. on language issues) or through direct support (e.g. with distribution of cultural works). Support for efforts to adapt to the digital era will
also be available.

The largest chunk of the fund- EUR900 million - is being provided to the cinema and audiovisual sector (including TV and video gaming) while almost EUR500 million is destined for cultural actions relating to music, publishing, performing arts, fine arts, heritage and other areas. In both cases this represents a sizeable increase on the current allocations to the MEDIA and CULTURE programmes respectively.

The Commission is also proposing a sub-programme to allocate more than EUR210 million to a new financial guarantee facility, which would attract extra funding from investors on the basis of risk sharing with the EU, thereby enabling small operators to access up to EUR1 billion in bank loans. This is recognition that other
EU risk sharing initiatives (see articles above) are not appropriate to the specificities of cultural and creative industries which tend to be smaller in stature, work on a non-mass production basis, and deal in intangible assets such as intellectual property rights.

Another cross-cutting element will provide EUR60 million in support of analysis and studies for policy cooperation and fostering innovative approaches to audience-building and new business models.

Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/culture/creative-europe/index_en.htm

Posted by iroronan at November 28, 2011 10:11 AM

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November 25, 2011

'Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area' launched

The long-awaited macro-regional strategy for Europe's Atlantic area up to 2020 - an element of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) - was finally adopted by the Commission on 21 November. The 'Developing a Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area' communication is intended to provide a significant growth and employment boost to the development potential of the entire ''sea basin'' region - the coasts, territorial waters and waters under the jurisdiction of Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as adjacent international waters.

This is to be achieved by creating the conditions under which transnational and trans-sectoral synergies can be applied and activity can be streamlined to mutual benefit across both traditional maritime sectors and in relation to the emerging 'blue economy' such as offshore renewables, aquaculture and mining. Among the tools which are set to be deployed in order to achieve these aims are maritime spatial planning, research activities to share better knowledge of the marine environment, and surveillance of maritime space. As such, the strategy corresponds with the proposed direction of the newly announced European Maritime & Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

The Commission's communication identifies problems and challenges, takes stock of measures and initiatives already implemented and provides for extensive stakeholder engagement in the development of an Action Plan to be implemented from 2013 onwards. A key plank of this process will be the creation of an open 'Atlantic forum' for stakeholder ideas. This is envisaged as comprising working groups focused on the issues and opportunities identified in the communication and will operate in 2012 and 2013 before being dissolved. It is envisaged that the outcome of this process will be a development strategy for the Atlantic area, to include identified priority measures and flagship projects. This is likely to be adopted during the Irish Presidency of the European Council in 2013.

Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/policy/sea_basins/atlantic_ocean/documents/com_2011_782_en.pdf

Posted by iroronan at November 25, 2011 01:34 PM

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November 25, 2011

Irish climate policy standards slipping

It is not only the economic ratings agencies who rank national performance and issue 'downgrades'. Since 2010, the WWF environmental organisation and Ecofys have been providing their own 'climate policy tracker' by which to compare the climate and energy policies of EU Member States according to a sliding scale. The tool offers an up-to-date snapshot of greenhouse gas emission controls across the EU using a country-by-country and sector-by-sector analysis to measure the impact of policies and their effectiveness based on 83 indicators of level of ambition, financial backing and likelihood of implementation.

Having initially been classed among the top performers (alongside Denmark, Germany and Sweden) in the current report (published on 1 December) which accompanies the tracker, Ireland now finds itself as one of five EU Member States whose overall performance has deteriorated sufficiently over the last year to merit a downgrade (to 'E' status). The shelving of the draft Climate Change Bill is mentioned as a key factor in this decision while cutting or suspending support for green power, heat and transport is similarly instanced. The introduction of a National Biofuels Obligation Scheme and planned expansion of renewable electricity generation feed-in tariffs are more positive developments in the eyes of the authors.

Spain, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Bulgaria also went backwards in 2011 with most of the reversals in policy seeming to result directly from the financial crisis. Overall, the picture is of underwhelming performance - even by the highest-ranked countries who fall well short of an 'A' rating. With 40% of the policies assessed emerging from Brussels, this is largely blamed on poor implementation of EU law. The report estimates that only one third of the policies needed to cut EU greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 are currently in place and calls for more ambitious EU action - in particular, the tightening of emissions trading, where it claims little has been done to address the responsibility of industry, and energy efficiency rules. It also finds few innovative policies in evidence on the climate effects of forestry and agriculture. Nonetheless, nine Member States showed year-on-year improvements in their standings. Among the notable positive developments cited by the authors are Denmark's plan to become fossil-fuel free by 2050; Sweden's amendments to carbon and energy taxes; new transport taxes and support for insulation in Austria; and the introduction of an afforestation scheme in Bulgaria.


Posted by iroronan at November 25, 2011 01:03 PM

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November 25, 2011

'How regions and cities shape EU legislation' publication

The Committee of the Regions has put together a brochure showcasing what it sees as its concrete contribution, on
behalf of Europe’s local and regional levels, to developing EU legislation. Seven specific areas are covered where success stories from 2010-2011 are highlighted. These relate to efforts to mainstream multi-level governance; securing investment in regional development; lessening administrative bureaucracy in Territorial Cooperation programmes;
solving environmental and climate challenges; forging policies on cooperation beyond the EU; the input of the Citizens' Initiative into the EU democratic process; and the European Heritage Label.

‘Making a Difference: how regions and cities shape Europe's legislation’: http://www.cor.europa.eu/COR_cms/ui/ViewDocument.aspx?contentid=4b9934c3-c5e4-4560-9909-22c5a5ddd0e3

Posted by iroronan at November 25, 2011 12:12 PM

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November 22, 2011

Comment on 'Connecting Europe Facility'

The European Commission has recently issued a proposal for a regulation on the 'Connecting Europe Facility' (CEF) to finance investment priorities in transport, energy and digital network infrastructure (see October's Bulletin for analysis). In order to feed the local and regional perspective into the legislative process, the Committee of the Regions will be adopting an opinion on this issue in the new year and would like to consult widely with local and regional authorities.

A brief questionnaire has been designed seeking input from these levels on issues such as how local and regional authorities will be involved in the decision-making process by Member States, the impact on territorial planning and development strategies, and specific challenges and border regions. Contributions may be submitted until 15 January 2012.


Posted by iroronan at November 22, 2011 11:26 AM

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November 21, 2011

EIB loan for ESB networks

The ESB's investment programme to develop smarter and more sustainable electricity network infrastructure over
2012 and 2013 will be able to avail of EUR235 million in financing from the European Investment Bank (EIB) after a
new loan facility was signed on 17 November. This sum will provide half of the funding for key enhancements to
transmission and distribution links from wind farms and for improvements to the efficiency and capability of the electricity networks to facilitate greater integration of renewable energy sources. The technical design phase of a national smart metering programme, and the initial phase of installation of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles across Ireland are also elements of the package.

Further details: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=BEI/11/171&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Posted by iroronan at November 21, 2011 11:09 AM

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November 19, 2011

Water efficiency in buildings

At in excess of 200 litres per person per day, Ireland has the third highest residential water consumption rate in the EU according to 2011 figures. The norm is 160 litres.

Ahead of next year's expected policy paper on water protection, on 16 November the Commission launched a consultation on a range of policy options to reduce the consumption patterns of buildings of all kinds. As laid out in the discussion document, EU-wide options under consideration and being put to stakeholders for reaction include voluntary or mandatory water performance ratings and audits, minimum water performance requirements, and certification schemes for water reuse. Aside from the structures themselves, voluntary or mandatory labeling and efficiency requirements for water-using products such as toilets are also being considered. Horizontal measures such as water metering, price realignment and public awareness-raising are also envisaged.

The 2012 plan will be based on an EU assessment of the river basin management plans submitted by Member States in recent years under the Water Framework Directive, and will include a major emphasis on better integrating water policy into other EU policy areas such as the Common Agricultural Policy and cohesion funding - possibly in relation to issues such as natural water retention and sustainable urban drainage.

The Commission also plans to launch a European Innovation Partnership on water efficiency in 2013 which should bring public and private interests together.

Consultation: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/water_efficiency.htm
Deadline: 8 February 2012
Background paper:http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/pdf/summary_water_efficiency.pdf

Posted by iroronan at November 19, 2011 12:58 PM

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November 15, 2011

Project: Dublin's resilient, sustainable city

Representatives of 16 European cities, as well as research institutions and the Climate Alliance city network, gathered in Dublin on 11 November to launch the recently-approved TURaS (Transitioning towards Urban Resilience and Sustainability) project. Supported by the Environment sub-programme of the Seventh Framework Research Programme to the tune of EUR6.7 million, TURaS aims to enable cities and their rural hinterlands ''to build resilience in the face of significant sustainability challenges''. Its next five years will entail researchers, local authorities and business interests from the partner cities working together to create new 'transition strategies' to safeguard daily life in the face of negative environmental effects and climate risks while also acting to reduce their urban ecological footprint.

The overall project is coordinated by UCD and includes Dublin City Council as partners. Investigating the feasibility of using derelict sites to increase urban biodiversity and improve urban community life will be the principle focus for Dublin while other cities will address issues such as mitigating against higher flood risks and looking at new approaches to dealing with rain water such as green walls and roofs. An important element of the project will revolve around engaging with local citizens to get their input on sustainability issues in order to ''co-produce the city of the future'' according to Dublin City Planner Dick Gleeson.


Posted by iroronan at November 15, 2011 11:31 AM

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November 07, 2011

CoR pushes local & regional authority staff mobility

The Committee of the Regions has recently adopted an own-initiative opinion on 'European and International Mobility for Local and Regional Authority Staff'. The report, intended for the attention of the other EU Institutions, proposes that the Commission conduct a feasibility study with a view to setting up an exchange programme to support the development of European and international secondment arrangements as part of these levels' continuous training systems.

This is argued as a means to improve cooperation between cities and regions - thereby strengthening the territorial dimension of European integration (as per the Treaty of Lisbon) and involving local and regional authorities in the design and implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy flagship initiatives - notably 'An Agenda for new skills and jobs' and 'Youth on the Move' - by sharing innovative and creative approaches to local economic development and to developing modern and efficient administrations. The paper suggests that an Internet portal bringing together best practice, projects, information on the legal and economic conditions for mobility, and opportunities should be established as a basis for informed action.

The paper also calls on Member States to consult with the social partners and introduce legal provisions (covering rights and obligations) and framework conditions (defining criteria such as professional and language skills required
duration, and added value) providing for the sending and receiving of their own permanent and temporary staff via
European and international mobility.

Opinion: http://cor.europa.eu/pages/DocumentTemplate.aspx?view=detail&id=d04fefae-08c1-43d6-9156-d395e691633a

Posted by iroronan at November 7, 2011 06:00 PM

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November 03, 2011

Environmental non-compliance: EUR50 billion annual cost already

A recent report on behalf of the European Commission has estimated the costs of not fully implementing current binding EU environmental targets to have reached EUR50 billion a year across Europe if resulting health-related expenditure and litigation in cases of legal infringement are factored in. 'The costs of not implementing the environmental acquis' attempts to quantify the benefits of full compliance with environmental laws and policies as well as the other side of the coin when these are not properly implemented - mainly in terms of benefits which are not realised.

With EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik having made legal implementation a priority of his tenure, the report focusses on six DG Environment areas: waste, biodiversity, water, air, chemicals and noise. While there are large uncertainties in some areas due to a lack of data on the implementation gap, the authors suggest that, for most sectors, the cost of not implementing legislation is actually higher than the full compliance cost.

Quite apart from the current situation, when measured against full compliance with agreed future targets (2015 or 2020), the costs associated with implementation gaps across the six areas are quantified as being significantly multiplied to stand at a startling EUR200-300 billion per annum. With so much of this environmental legislation being primarily reliant on local authorities putting it into effect, this can be seen as further evidence that consulting with experienced practitioners at this level in advance of developing EU legislation makes sense.


Posted by iroronan at November 3, 2011 07:44 PM

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November 02, 2011

Hanniffy tells Europe of pressure on Irish local authority finances

In her capacity as a member of the Irish delegation to the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Cllr. Constance Hanniffy (Offaly County Council, the Midland Regional Authority and the Border Midland & Western Regional Assembly) has recently given an interview to the CoR website where she sets out the impact of the economic crisis on the finances of Irish local government for a European audience.

Doing more with less is the theme of the article which highlights how local authorities are striving to enable an exit from the crisis by enhancing support to local enterprise and business development and reducing commercial rates at a time when the sector is coping with expenditure reductions to the tune of almost 30% since 2008.

The piece sets out how efforts are underway to deliver upon the 16% savings and efficiencies objective recommended last year by the Local Government Efficiency Review Group. These include major long-term structural rearrangements such as the planned merging of certain councils; more emphasis on shared/regional approaches to services and procurement; and implementing the EU-IMF agreement insistence on a national water utility company and the installation of water meters. The effects of a 17% reduction in local government staffing since 2008 - a disproportionate hit compared to all other public service sectors- coupled with the recruitment moratorium and widespread retirements, are also spelt out.

Additional sources of funding, including the EU-IMF agreement household property tax, are instanced as contributing to address the shortfall in order that cutbacks in vital service delivery areas can be minimised.

Interview: http://www.cor.europa.eu/pages/DecentralizedDetailTemplate.aspx?view=detail&id=4eeca383-9e45-4966-a6f8-eb1e4655b370

Posted by iroronan at November 2, 2011 02:52 PM

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November 02, 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and Social Business Initiative

On 25 October, in a move to reinforce its efforts to engage with the private sector on social and environmental issues, the Commission adopted a new Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the 2011-2014 period along with a Social Business Initiative. Key elements of the package include: 1) encouraging responsible business (including introducing a system of Country-by-Country Reporting); 2) Facilitating Social Entrepreneurship by improving social businesses' access to funding and easing the regulatory environment; and 3) cutting red tape for SMEs by simplifying the preparation of financial statements and removing the obligation to publish quarterly financial information. The Commission will be hosting a conference on Social Economy and Social Business on 18 November in Brussels.

'A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility': http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sustainable-business/files/csr/new-csr/act_en.pdf

Social Business Initiative: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/social_business/index_en.htm

Posted by iroronan at November 2, 2011 11:03 AM