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Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full.' EU Commission Twitter

The European Union approved Bayer's takeover of Monsanto, a major hurdle in the $66 billion merger that would create the world's largest integrated seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The European Commission said the German chemical-maker's takeover of the St. Louis-based agribusiness giant is "conditional on an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties' overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture."

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Azaaz / Twitter

By Julia Conley

Green groups and public health advocates on Monday denounced the European Commission's vote in favor of extending the license of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup pesticide which scientists have labeled as a "likely carcinogen."

Eighteen member states of the European Union approved of the use of the weed-killer's use for the next five years, with nine voting against the extension and Portugal abstaining. Sixteen votes were needed for the extension to pass; Germany swung the vote after having been on the fence in recent weeks.

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Corn Harvest. United Soybean Board / Flickr

By Jessica Corbett

As the European Commission considers a proposed mega-merger between Bayer and Monsanto, new research published Tuesday illustrates how corporations are monopolizing the global food system—jeopardizing consumer choice, labor conditions and efforts to eradicate world hunger.

The Agrifood Atlas (pdf), which was jointly published by two German foundations and Friends of the Earth Europe, found that "two trends coincide in the agrifood sector: ever-fewer corporations are taking control of an ever-bigger market share and are gaining influence in many parts of the world. At the same time, the opportunities for civil society and social movements to oppose such developments are being restricted."

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By Farron Cousins

For many years, a standard talking point from the fossil fuel industry and those who speak on the industry's behalf has been that natural gas is a cleaner alternative to conventional energy sources like coal and oil. This talking point is at least partially responsible for many people—including former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz—believing that natural gas can act as a "bridge fuel" in the eventual shift from coal and oil to renewable sources of energy.

But the truth is a lot more complicated than a talking point, something which a Dutch advertising watchdog has recognized as it takes two fossil fuel companies to task over misleading ads about natural gas being the "cleanest of all fossil fuels."

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By Nadia Prupis

A people-powered energy revolution—an era in which people can produce their own electricity—is possible, and could happen soon, according to a new report released Monday by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE).

birgstockphoto.com

The report, The Potential of Energy Citizens in the European Union, finds that over half the residents of the EU could be generating their own renewable electricity by 2050. That's 264 million "energy citizens" meeting 45 percent of the region's energy demand through a democratized, citizen-owned system that allows people to be the operators of their own utilities—taking power away, in more ways than one, from a market monopolized by large corporations.

"[People] have the power to revolutionize Europe's energy system, reclaiming power from big energy companies, and putting the planet first. We need to enshrine the right for people to produce their own renewable energy in European and national legislation," Molly Walsh, FOEE community power campaigner, said.

The report also found that overall, 83 percent of European households, whether individually or as part of a utility collective, have the potential to help create, store or help provide renewable energy.

Electricity production by energy citizens, potential to 2050 per Member State.Friends of the Earth Europe

The researchers analyzed the potential for renewable energy generation, storage, and distribution for different categories of "energy citizens"—households generating energy individually; households producing energy collectively as part of a co-op or association; public entities such as schools, hospitals and government buildings; and small enterprises with less than 50 people on staff.

The sources of renewable energy analyzed in the report included on- and off-shore wind farms, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, stationary batteries and electric boilers.

Number of energy citizens for the various technologies assessed, potential to 2050 for the EU28.Friends of the Earth Europe

The report found that:

"[About] 115 million EU households will have an electric vehicle in 2050, 70 million may have a smart electric boiler, 60 million may have solar PV on their roof and 42 million may have stationary batteries on their premises. Another 64 million households could participate in renewable energy production through an energy collective."

[...] About 161 million can potentially provide flexible demand services with an EV, (smart) electric boiler or stationary batteries. A large share of the households that could have demand flexibility could also be an energy producer."

"Citizens are already playing a role in renewable energy projects across Europe—benefiting the local economy, as well as creating public support for the energy transition. Their potential is huge, and this research shows these projects could, and should, be the norm," Dirk Vansintjan, president of the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives, said.

Potential energy storage by energy citizens, estimates for 2015, 2030 and 2050.Friends of the Earth Europe

The report was commissioned by the European Renewable Energies Federation, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace EU Unit, and the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives. The organizations are calling for a framework to promote citizen-owned energy within the European Commission's Energy Union package, the commission's strategy for ushering in a low-carbon economy.

Such a call aligns with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's wish for "the EU to become the world number one in renewable energies," the groups said.

Because the data surrounding renewable energy is limited, there are some uncertainties surrounding the findings, the report cautions, but that in itself is evidence that more in-depth research need to be devoted to the industry and that policymakers should undertake measures to tap the potential of citizens' collective energy creation.

"The EU should be clearing a path for forward-thinking, nimble energy citizens, not supporting big, polluting utilities," Tara Connolly, energy policy adviser for Greenpeace EU, said. "The age of energy dinosaurs is over."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Friends of the Earth Europe

Substantial environmental and social harm is being caused by controversial projects costing billions of euros of European Union (EU) money, according to research published Feb. 2 by Friends of the Earth Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network.1

The groups have mapped 33 harmful projects in Central and Eastern Europe with total costs of sixteen billion euros. The projects, which include highways passing through protected nature sites, waste incinerators and airports, are being paid for—or being considered for financial support in the future—by Cohesion Policy Funds in the current EU budget.2

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The map includes projects from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Estonia.

The projects will cause damage such as increased pollution, loss of biodiversity, increased risk of flooding, and displacement of local communities.

“As we wait for the European Council and Parliament to have their say on the next European budget, this map shows that controversial projects are unfortunately not limited to a few isolated exceptions," said Markus Trilling, EU funds coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe and Bankwatch. "EU money has the potential to bring lots of benefits to central and eastern European countries but if nothing changes it will bring substantial environmental and social harm throughout the region. These projects are mistakes Europe cannot afford to make. Future legislation must specifically prohibit the use of Cohesion Policy funds for detrimental projects.”

The research shows that almost 6.5 billion euros has been spent on detrimental projects. Almost 5 billion euros are set to go the same route, and projects totaling another 5 billion are currently considered for financing in the seven central and eastern European countries.

“Money must no longer be squandered on such foolish investments,” said Trilling. “It is vital that the next one trillion euro EU budget offers possibilities for overcoming the current recession and de-carbonising economies. Courageous action is needed to overturn the legacy of bad planning and realise the beneficial potential of EU funds.”3

For more information, click here.

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1. The publication contains a country listing of the projects, background descriptions and total amounts of EU Funds granted. The online version of the map is available by clicking here.

It offers the possibility to view the data by country, type of project, or size of investment.

The map is the fourth edition produced by CEE Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe. The groups have been monitoring EU Structural and Cohesions fund spending on the ground in central and eastern Europe since 1997.

2. Cohesion Policy Funds amounted to 344 billion euros out of the total 975 billion euro EU budget for the 2007-2013 period. Read more about the EC’s legislative proposals for the new EU Budget by clicking here.

3. Read Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe’s more detailed recommendations for EU regional funds 2014-2020 and how they can put Europe on a sustainable development path, ‘Funding Europe's future’ October 2011 by clicking here.

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