Tag: environment

Brexit and Energy and Climate policy: same market, less power?

For Brits with an interest in public policy and the UK’s place in the world, 2016 will inevitably be overshadowed by the forthcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. Whilst the political debate in the UK is currently dominated by issues of migration and benefits, it’s worth taking a step back and considering the potential impact of a ‘Brexit’ in specific industry and policy areas, beyond the wider issue of the UK’s access to the single European market.

EU and UK energy and climate policy are currently locked together

Energy and climate policy in particular poses some interesting questions in the case of a Brexit. Not least because of the domestic climate legislation that binds the UK to a similar emissions reductions trajectory to the EU, and the gas and electricity interconnectors that physically connect the UK to the EU single energy market. Considering the broad swathe of energy and climate policy that binds the UK to the EU, it is far from clear in the case of a Brexit which of these policies, or parts thereof, the UK would not continue to be heavily involved in.

Climate policy – domestic policy first and foremost?

Looking at climate policy, the real changes that leaving the EU would mean for the UK seem fairly limited. As noted above, the UK’s own Climate Change Act means that British governments are bound domestically to cut emissions in at least a similar trajectory to the EU’s 2020 and 2030 GHG targets. Even in the case of a Brexit, it’s difficult to see how the UK would not wish to utilise an emissions trading system (ETS) – whether it’s the EU ETS, or a separate UK system that would likely be linked to the EU one. Putting aside the impact on hard policy, there is of course the question of influence. A UK outside of the EU would conceivably have lower levels of influence on wider international climate negotiations.

Energy policy – an area that seems obvious for cross-border co-operation

Concerning energy policy, it is difficult to find areas where post-Brexit, the UK would not want to co-operate with its neighbours. Take the example of Gas security of supply. Following the 2009 gas crisis, the EU constructed a set of rules to govern emergency situations, by ensuring that countries work with their neighbours to develop emergency and preventative action plans. Presumably, this is an area that a British government outside of the EU would still wish to engage in with its neighbours in Ireland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Of course they could try to do so outside of the EU framework, but the plans they would seek to agree with their neighbours would still be constructed under the EU mechanisms, so in all likelihood – for ease of implementation – so would the UK’s.

The internal energy market

Perhaps the major issue of course is the internal energy market where the UK has been instrumental in pushing for an increasingly liberalised energy market, greater competition and cross-border trading. An increasing proportion of the UK’s electricity capacity will be reliant on the electricity interconnectors going under the Channel and North Sea. These interconnectors will at least partially be controlled by the EU’s Third Internal market package where they are located in an EU member state, and are likely to have an increasingly important contribution to the UK’s overall capacity and security of supply. Even if the UK left the EU completely (the WTO-only option), something like 10% of our overall electricity capacity by 2020 would effectively be under the control of EU market rules. In the short-term there might be a limited impact – the interconnectors and the market would continue to function – but over a longer-period, there would be nothing to prevent a divergence of policy between the UK and the EU, potentially impacting on the functioning and the commercial viability of the interconnectors. In this scenario, a UK outside of the EU would have no control over the outcome of such policy developments.

Bearing in mind the influence of the UK in developing the single energy market so far (plus the influence of actors such as Ofgem and National Grid at an EU-level), a future EU energy market without the UK could look very different to the one developing now. As Amber Rudd, the UK’s Secretary of State for energy and climate change noted in early January on the issue of Brexit and the possibility of the UK leaving the EU, “We are probably the largest influencer in terms of setting out the plan and delivering on the energy market. So we can’t help shape it – shape it in the best way for the UK consumer and UK businesses. That would be a loss because you would be going into an area of uncertainty.”

It would also remove the UK’s voice from discussions where historically it has been very strong – a good example of this being the 2012 Offshore Drilling Safety directive, proposed following the Macondo accident. The Commission originally proposed a directly applicable regulation which could have had significant impacts on the post-Piper Alpha North Sea safety standards – which were widely viewed as the global gold standard. The UK, working with allies in the Netherlands and Denmark, ensured that instead, a directive was agreed that would enable those Member States with an effective system already to continue on that basis, avoiding unnecessary costs and disruption in the North Sea.

Renewable energy targets

Of course, there is the question of renewable energy targets. It would be difficult to argue that technology specific targets are particularly popular with any British policymakers – but given the UK’s success in 2014 in working to move the 2030 target system away from any binding national targets for renewables and energy efficiency, the UK has already achieved its aim in changing the system to a much more flexible one, so would have little to gain from being outside the 2030 system.

Policymaker to policy taker?

Either way, when thinking about Brexit and energy and climate policy there are real questions to be answered – both in terms of what the UK would seek to leave, and where the benefits would be. In both a WTO-only situation or a Swiss/Norway style solution, the UK could move from being (one of the most important) policymakers to the policy taker. Other alternative models that would allow the UK to access and influence the internal energy market whilst not being in the EU, are yet to be elaborated upon and raise serious questions of viability.


Published by Matt Hinde

3 Comments January 11, 2016


environmental conservationToday, in a post Kyoto Protocol period, the world faces the same challenge as back in 1997 – We are again facing the need to reach an international agreement to set the scene for effective action against climate change. There is however a considerable difference between today and 1997 – climate discussion has been elevated to a different level, where it has become a great concern of the majority of governments, corporations, NGOs and citizens.

Governments and climate change

Despite many disbelievers, governments have become more concerned. The emotional speech of the Philippines Delegate at the opening of COP-19 demonstrates the effects climate change could have on those most vulnerable countries. The fact that to date 25 countries[1], representing almost all continents have already submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to a new Climate Change Agreement is also a good step towards reaching an agreement. In November 2014, the US and China agreed to cap and reduce emissions, and to work together to forge an international climate agreement in 2015 – yet another major step forward. Last but not least, the EU agreed on a binding target of at least a 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. Clearly, governments are concerned.

What is the role of business?

Now, let’s turn to the businesses. Have they become more concerned about climate change? I do believe so. At the end of July 2015, the White House launched the American Business Act on Climate Change. Under this scheme, each participating company has announced new pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and increase low-carbon investments, deploy clean energy and take actions to build a more sustainable business. As part of the American Business Act, Alcoa pledged 50% less GHG emissions in the US by 2025 (in comparison to 2005 levels), while Coca-Cola has pledged to reduce carbon footprint by 25% by 2020. Other companies, such as Apple, Golden Sachs, Google and Microsoft have pledged to use 100% renewable energy.

Furthermore, the statistics about the investments in clean energy and low carbon development speak for themselves. Out of the $359 billion invested in 2012, 62% came from private investments ($224 billion) versus 38% ($135 billion) from public investments.

Having business on board is therefore key, both in terms of changing corporate behaviour as well as in terms of securing future investments in low carbon economy.

You, me… us, the citizens

Source: Yale

Source: Yale

According to a Yale-led survey of 119 countries, a staggering 40% of the globe’s population has never heard of climate change, or its effects. This rises to more than 65% in some developing countries, like Egypt, Bangladesh, and India, according to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Interestingly, the research showed that in the U.S. views on climate change were strongly linked to their politics.

Especially in developed countries, the awareness of climate change is high. For instance, in September 2014, an estimated 400,000 people marched through midtown Manhattan as part of the People’s Climate March. With more than a million of activists around the globe, the role of civil society pressuring governments, pushing for new laws, policies or strategies on climate change is increasing. “Many of even the world’s poorest countries now have active civil society coalitions that work on climate change, and they are increasingly influential,” according to Dr Hannah Reid of IIED, an editor of a report Southern voices on climate policy choices:  civil society advocacy on climate change. Civil society is becoming better organised, cooperates more with governments and is better trained in communicating with the media.

New voices…

Air pollution in Paris, Photo: Reuters

Air pollution in Paris, Photo: Reuters

With 4,416 cities in the world with a population of over 150,000, cities are becoming an important voice in the climate change discussion. There are several initiatives aimed at mayors which particularly tackle climate change: the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Mayors Adapt and many others. At the end of July 2015, dozens of environmentally friendly mayors met with Pope Francis in Vatican to commit to reducing global warming and helping the urban poor deal with its effects. It is perhaps one of the most important initiatives of Vatican, following the release of the landmark environment encyclical ahead of the climate negotiations in Paris.

 What next?

As Nobel Laureate Al Gore stated during his last Davos speech, in order to reach an agreement in Paris in 2015 there needs to be political will across the globe, and this political will is a “renewable resource”. There is therefore an obvious need for this political will to be “backed” by the support from the industry, civil society and ordinary citizens.

With the Paris COP21 climate change negotiations in December 2015 approaching, we will see more voices present in the discussion. Whether we will be able to reach an agreement or not, climate change has become a concern for many. The feeling of concern for the future, as well as a more positive feeling of the fact that we are building a cleaner world, will be a major stimulus behind the negotiations.

12 August 2015

Ewa Abramiuk Lété is a public affairs and communications specialist who supports clients in the energy, transport and utilities sector. All above stated opinions are hers.

[1] status 11 August

5 Comments August 12, 2015

Not a moment wasted: Potocnik’s last act to ban landfill?

Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, is an ambitious and tenacious man. In the dying days of this Commission, he is trying to push out perhaps his most ambitious law to date and overhaul Europe’s Waste law.

One of the last acts of his fellow Commissioners will be to back a call to effectively ban the landfill of household waste by 2030. Recycling targets across the board will be ratcheted up.

You would have thought that the Commission would not try and push out a major initiative in its dying days in office. And, whilst that is the normal rule of the Commission, like all good rules, there are exceptions, and here the President voiced support for the unwritten initiative before, so the current Commissioners  are going to bind their successors with an ambitious new policy and draft law.

The Commission’s internal sign off process to proposed laws, known as Inter Service Consultation, is carried out in relative secrecy. It seems to have started on 27 May and it will last 15 working days (weekends and public holidays excluded).  It will be interesting to see many objections come in from other services.

The Environment Commissioner has a good track of getting proposals out that he wants. Other Commissioners will have their eyes focused on post-Commission life. Commissioner Tajani, whose DG Enterprise Department, did so much work to block DG Environment’s initiatives, is now a MEP. It will be interesting to see if others inside the Commission, Governments or industry raise question marks about an outgoing Commission pushing out ambitious legislative proposals in their last moments in office.

Banning landfill will be a very tough act for some countries to ever meet. If adopted, local authorities may need to re-open long term waste recovery contracts with waste management companies who’ll need to invest in state of the art technology to divert household waste. Households will land up paying any additional prices for their waste collection. Many governments, still operating under tough fiscal restraints, will find it hard to pay for necessary infrastructure improvements.

This overhaul of Europe’s convoluted waste regulation regime will be one of the first new pieces of legislation for a new European Parliament to consider.


Aaron McLoughlin


Leave a Comment June 2, 2014

How to win votes? 5 golden rules we shared at the European Public Affairs Action Day

A few weeks ago, Aaron and I presented at the European Public Affairs Action Day, the “grand-messe” of public affairs professionals. We talked about different approaches to political communications and presented our 5 golden rules to political communications to win votes. For those who couldn’t join, here is a summary!

Aaron and I have been lucky to closely follow the recent reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy for the Swedish foundation BalticSea2020. After 2 years of intense campaigning, we could draw a number of conclusions from the success of the campaign (you can see what the campaign was about here).


What made this campaign different? How did we win? You learn a lot spending 17,520 hours campaigning on one issue, but I think it can be summarised into 5 golden rules.

  • Find the Right People

The number of stakeholders in Brussels can be quite overwhelming – yet, once we had done the necessary background research and network analysis (a good book here on understanding the power of social networks), we were able to identify the maximum 200 people who mattered for our client’s issues, at the EU and national levels.

These are the ones we then focused on and built relationships with to create the broader winning coalition. Also, we realised it was not worth spending too much energy on the opponents, but rather help our supporters – which luckily we had with Fish For the Future, and also potential new followers.

  • Value Communication

This might sound simplistic, but understanding what makes people tick is your key to success. As Chris Rose explains in his book, you need to understand where your audiences are coming from and what will make them listen to you.

Being in the shoes of the politicians can be very useful – we are all too prone to use jargon and technicalities. To be fair to them, politicians cannot be experts in every issue they deal with on a daily basis, from banking regulation to horsemeat scandals and marine protected area. Being able to communicate important and useful information in a way they understand will make your contribution valuable and acted on. See here how fisheries can be made simple and sexy.

  • Be Reactive and Adaptable

Although it was tempting to have a two year strategy plan, we have to admit that we don’t have a crystal ball and we are not psychic. Instead, we had rolling three-month action plan which allowed us to regularly review our short to mid-term strategy, adapt to new opportunities, and adapt our work. The ability to adapt and react to changing situations allowed us to remain relevant to our audiences. It also allows any client to have a clear picture of how things really are progressing.

  • Have a Good Spokesperson

As Aaron likes to say: “telepathy doesn’t work”. You need to get out there, talk to the people who matter, hear their questions and answer them in an understandable way. We were lucky enough to have a client who was an excellent spokesperson for his organisation.

You need someone who can gather support, motivate and convince. Some people are naturally more at ease talking on behalf of their companies. In truth, with a small amount of coaching, most people can become persuasive advocates for their interests.

  •  Invest the Necessary Resources

Success requires resources: time, people, and money. It requires commitment and endurance. But, it is all worth it to win a vote 🙂

Sophie and Aaron

5 Comments February 12, 2014

Saving Europe, not the Planet

With the new Energy and Climate Framework, the European Commission strikes a fine balance between climate protection and competitiveness, with the latter taking precedence. 

Last week, the European Commission came forward with the most wide-ranging set of energy and climate proposals since 2008. The proposals, encompassing binding and non-binding commitments in GHG reductions, energy efficiency and renewable energy, will provide a framework for EU energy and climate policy for the next 15 years. To find out about the details of the package, read the FH analysis here. The 2030 Communication and the other proposals issued last week are reflective of two broad trends that are currently driving EU Climate and Energy Policy, 1) How difficult it is becoming to find a ‘grand bargain’ on key Energy and Climate issues at the EU level and 2) How the policy focus has shifted towards competitiveness.

Sticking a difficult compromise

Designing a new Climate and Energy Framework was always going to be contentious but after five years of expensive carbon abatement policies, coupled with recession and deindustrialisation, the political environment makes agreements on energy and climate matters increasingly challenging. For the 2030 Framework, tricky compromises had to be built between Member States with dissimilar energy mixes, between Directorate-Generals with non-complementary portfolios and between different industries who feel that their concerns have been ignored for too long.

  1. Compromising amongst Member States: Within Europe Member States have very different energy mixes and thus interests. By proposing a 27% renewable energy target but non-binding individual national targets the Commission has sought to strike a compromise between Member States such as the UK who wants maximum competency to determine its energy mix and Germany, who has decided to phase out nuclear energy and produce 45% of its energy from renewables from 2030.
  2. Compromising within Commission Directorates: Within the European Commission, varying DGs have very different priorities. While DG Climate Action was set up to turn the EU into a leader in the protection of the planet against climate change, other DGs such as DG Enterprise and DG Energy have grown increasingly weary of DG CLIMA’s policies. Indeed, the presentation of the package only came after a last-minute agreement between Commissioner Hedegaard and Oettinger. The Energy Commissioner was initially in favour of a 35% GHG reduction target.
  3. Compromise in the industry: The Commission was also keen to demonstrate its commitment to boosting industry in Europe, and show that the EU could stay ambitious on climate without the industry being hit. While lacking substance, the Commission did release an industry Communication  “For a European Renaissance”. Most telling however was the Commission’s decision to reform the ETS through a supply adjustment mechanism which would not intervene in phase 3 of the ETS and which in their own words would be designed in such a way so as to “mitigate impacts on industry and sectors exposed to carbon leakage”. The Commission also announced that it would maintain its existing framework for determining sectors exposed to carbon leakage and continue to base its assessment on a 30 euro carbon price. This was a key request from DG Enterprise in the grand bargaining process and goes against Ms Hedegaard’s ambitions expressed last year to significantly reduce the number of sectors exposed in order to reestablish balance in the system.

Has the balance tipped towards competitiveness?

Looking back at the last decade, the proposals seem to represent a new policy focus for President Barroso, if not a policy u-turn: after making jobs and growth a priority with the Lisbon Strategy in the beginning of his mandate and spearheading climate change policy in 2008, the end of his term will be marked by a shift towards competitiveness. At an event last week Dominique Ristori, who has recently succeeded to Philip Lowe as Head of DG Energy, said that in 30 years industry has never been listened to as much as now. He might be right. The 2030 Communication does indeed reveal a shift towards competitiveness to alleviate industry concerns. Even if the Commission noted in a new study that energy prices and the ETS had little impact so far on industrial competitiveness, it also anticipates an upward pressure on energy costs in the EU.

Next steps now

The documents issued last week by the Commission will form the basis of the institutions’ agenda for the coming year. It is unclear at this stage what could be the focus of the mandate received by the Commission from European leaders at the March Council, as the 2030 consultation revealed divergences on targets and the level of ambition. Whilst some Member States are against a new GHG reduction target before any global climate agreement (Poland, Czech Republic, Romania), a majority is likely to support the 40% target proposed (UK, France, Spain, Denmark). It will also remain to be seen if Member States can support the flexible approach proposed by the EU executive on renewables. Will it be considered robust enough by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, whose Environment ministers had called for a renewable energy target in a letter to the European Commission in December? On the other hand, the wait-and-see approach to energy efficiency should suit Member States.

Next week in Strasbourg MEPs are likely to confirm their call for 3 binding targets: 40% GHG reduction, 30% renewable energy and 40% energy efficiency. Based on initial MEP reactions and past experience, the Parliament will likely push for a much more ambitious package than proposed by the Commission. Will this be confirmed by the next Parliament, who will be asked to react to concrete proposals put forward by the Commission later this year? Let the bargaining begin!


Cillian O’Donoghue and Clara Lemaire 

9 Comments January 28, 2014

‘Crash course’ on energy in Poland

If Davos made people ‘feel like a kid-in-a-candy shop’, then the Energy Forum in Sopot, Poland triggered the same feeling among energy geeks. This year’s edition was held on 16-18 December 2013, and featured debates about about energy situation in Central Europe, the outlook for gas markets in Europe, the role of renewables in the national energy systems and how Germany’s ‘Energiewende’ will impact neighbouring countries. One could learn about the electricity grids between Lithuania and Poland; which direction Ukraine looks when it comes to its energy policy and how the Norwegian energy system influences Central Europe. Participants also discussed ‘local’ issues such as the role of coal, shale gas and nuclear energy in the Polish economy.

The event was a great opportunity to have a quick ‘crash course’ on what the Polish energy system currently looks like and what we can expect in the coming years. You can find some of the presentations and materials here.

Did you know?

  • At the beginning of 2014, Poland will publish its 2050 energy strategy, which will showcase the direction the country would like to take in the next 30+ years. While details remain unknown, shale gas and trans-border gas connections will be featured. Security of supply will be  also included in the strategy;
  • In 2014, The Polish National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management will distribute 240 million Euro to support development of renewable energy in the country;
  • In 2014 Poland may obtain 202 million Euro from the sale of CO2 emission rights, while in 2015 this figure could rise to 245 million Euro;
  • The three biggest suppliers of electricity in Poland predict a 6 percent drop in the price of electricity in 2014;
  • Polish shale gas regulation will most probably be sent for consideration to the Council of Ministers at the beginning of 2014;
  • By the end of next year, Gas Transmission Operator Gaz-System will allocate 192 million Euro  into the expansion of Polish gas infrastructure;
  • A new Polish Law on Renewable Energy will come into force at the beginning of 2015.

And finally next year Poland and nine other Eastern European Counties will celebrate their 10th anniversary of EU accession. Much has changed since that time and countries are still very busy with improving their energy systems, ensuring security of supply and working out their own energy path.

Ewa Abramiuk

3 Comments January 10, 2014

Europe’s transport sector: the engine behind the Single Market

2012 marked the 20 year anniversary of the European Single Market. Over these past two decades, European Union transport policy has been a central pillar of efforts to bolster the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital between the 27 EU Member States.

The transport sector should in many ways see itself as the enabler of the Single Market – the catalyst to the further deepening of trade and economic ties between EU members. Unsurprisingly therefore, transport is a hotly debated area in Brussels covering numerous policy initiatives across the different modes.

Mixed results for market liberalisation

The transport market liberalisation agenda remains high priority, although historically progress has been unequal across modes. Liberalisation of the aviation market in Europe in the 90s ushered in a period of unprecedented growth in air transport and introduced many new entrants and business models into the market. The low fares model has clearly been the major driver in this process. However, Europe’s airspace continues to be fragmented and the patience of EU regulators appears to be wearing thin with Member State reluctance to pool their airspace sovereignty within the Single European Sky process.

The road, port and rail sectors lag further behind. The recent Fourth Railway Package proposed by Brussels in early 2013 is yet another effort by the EU to break open the disconnected and oft protected national railway market. At the same time, the EU will be looking to extend cabotage rules in the road sector in the coming months, despite potential opposition from certain Member States wary of the impact on their own, fragmented, road haulage market vis-à-vis potential European competitors.

An ambitious frontrunner on environmental issues

In terms of environmental protection in the field of transport, Brussels has moved forward with (sometimes overly) ambitious policy goals. The automotive sector continues to be heavily regulated in terms of non-CO2 and CO2 emissions control, with increasingly stringent technological requirements set by Brussels periodically. Whether this stimulates innovation or restricts competitiveness of European producers remains the key open question.

Meanwhile, the EU’s efforts to bring international aviation within its cap and trade emissions trading scheme have been met with international outcry and threats of retaliation by its global trading partners. The move is currently on ice and has certainly provided food for thought for Brussels as it considers taking the same approach to the international shipping sector.

Passenger rights as a flagship

Most EU commentators would point to the passenger rights agenda as the bloc’s biggest success in the transport field – the topic that normally appears first in the table of contents for any European Commission-produced brochure on transport policy. The success of passenger rights legislation is perhaps debatable with significant cost concerns from industry and soon-to-be-addressed problems of implementation throughout the EU. However, it is likely that the rights afforded to EU citizens when, say, flying internationally, far outstrip those of travellers anywhere else in the world.

The changing global landscape

The EU’s detractors would argue that the focus on regulation over liberalisation has placed a net burden on Europe’s transport sector. European legacy airlines and automotive manufacturers continue to struggle faced with global competition, whilst the centre of gravity for the global logistics market seems to continuously shift eastwards.

At the same, the challenge of the EU’s transport agenda must always take note of the principle of subsidiarity. That is to say, the EU is wary of looking to regulate in the more localised aspects of transport policy which remain at the behest of individual EU Member States. Areas such as road safety, urban mobility and infrastructure development (outside of the power of the EU purse strings) have seen, and will continue to see, less influence wielded by the EU executive compared to the national capital.

Looking ahead

With European Parliament elections approaching and a new European Commission due to be appointed in 2014, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the European transport policy agenda. Clearly the completion of the single transport market remains an enormous undertaking and the voice of industry will be critical as the new political regime gathers momentum over the next 18 months.

Many of the future priorities will undoubtedly be wrapped up in the EU’s position more globally, as it faces up to rapidly changing trade and transport flows and questions about the bloc’s own economic competitiveness. It is indicative that the world’s three fastest growing trade routes essentially bypass Europe altogether (Asia-Africa, intra-Asia, and Asia-South America).

So whilst there will be continued emphasis in Brussels on getting Europe’s own house in order, this will ultimately be a hollow effort without a firm eye on the external dimension of EU transport policy, and the continued engagement of industry and other stakeholders in the process.


Leave a Comment May 22, 2013

Where does air quality rank on Europe’s bucket list?

We all kick the bucket. It’s a given together with taxes, as the famous saying goes. Before we do, however, there’s that notorious list of life goals that need to be checked off. With the Barroso Commission departing in October 2014 and the European Parliament elections looming in May 2014, Europe will have to start prioritising its own bucket list: the 2013 Commission Work Programme.

It’s a legacy year and there’s clearly a lot on the EU’s plate, ranging from shadow banking to shale gas, and although the Commission and Parliament would like to see every dossier wrapped up before departing next year, choices will have to be made. Certain dossiers will be hastened whilst others may be delayed; both will leave many dissatisfied. Other items on the political agenda will be more fortunate. One dossier, which headlines the bucket list and is certain to be ticked off in 2013 as part of ‘the legacy’, is air quality.

As you know from my previous posts (here and here), Europe dedicated 2013 the ‘Year of Air’ for a reason: 17 of the 27 EU Member States currently fail to meet air pollution standards. According to the European Environment Agency, exceeding legal limits reduces life expectancy of those living in the most polluted cities by approximately two (!) years (on average in Europe, 8.6 months). The on-going, comprehensive review of air policy (the Air Quality Framework Directive and its five daughter directives) looks to address human and environmental health and safety by way of stronger air quality laws addressing emissions at the source, and the Commission has received clear support from stakeholders to do so.

On 4 March, the public consultation on the air policy review closed and results, which are still to be officially published here, were presented at the 5th Stakeholder Expert Group on 3 April. According to speakers, including Thomas Verheye, Head of Unit for Industrial Emissions, Air Quality & Noise at DG Environment, consultation responses were “quite green” and showed that a clear majority of respondents, including the public, experts and national authorities, support:

  • Tighter emission controls to ensure compliance with air quality standards;
  • 2020 targets under the national emission ceilings directive beyond the Gothenburg Protocol;
  • Binding air quality standards for fine particulates (PM2.5) for 2020;
  • Closer alignment to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance.

Of note, respondents also emphasised the need to address short-lived climate forcers, such as ozone.

As you remember, the public consultation, together with the REVIHAAP and HRAPIE reports, will feed into the review – this makes the above input very relevant and very important in shaping the Commission’s upcoming air quality proposal. The proposal is very likely, especially following the widespread support voiced in the consultation, to set much stricter standards for both anthropogenic and natural sources of air pollution. With the Commission, as highlighted by Environment Commissioner Potočnik, being absolutely “committed” to the cause, and given other recent setbacks, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be looking to strike off air quality from that bucket list with vengeance.

Expect further updates as we move closer to the publication date: September 2013.


Leave a Comment April 19, 2013

It’s air quality, stupid.

As you might have gathered from the title, I was inspired by recent US elections. Obama’s re-election marks the third president in a row to have won a second term; the last not to? George H. W. Bush in 1992 when Bill Clinton’s campaign famously highlighted, “It’s the economy, stupid.” By not grasping the importance the economy played in the minds of the electorate, Bush Sr. ended up losing big time. In Europe, the same might be the case for many if they don’t pay attention in 2013: Europe’s ‘Year of Air’.

Announced in 2011 by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, 2013 will be the ‘Year of Air’. No, this isn’t a slight remark about the 2013 Commission Work Programme despite its “Eurolite” agenda (for more on this, click here); the EU will undertake a comprehensive review of air policy in 2013. The idea is that following an assessment of implementation and achievements of the Air Quality Framework Directive and its five daughters, including the 2008 Air Quality Directive, the EU will push for stronger air quality laws which address emissions at the source.

Air? But that’s Europe’s ‘Success Story’!

But why, you ask? Simple. Air pollution is bad for our health and the environment, and a significant proportion of Europeans still live in areas (especially cities) where exceedances of air quality standards occur (just look at the map below). Though emissions of the main air pollutants in Europe have declined between 2001 and 2010 [emissions of all particulate matter decreased by 14% in the EU, and ozone precursor gases (nitrogen oxides (NOX), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) and carbon monoxide (CO)) decreased by an average of 28%], many European countries still do not comply with EU emissions agreements and especially not those set by the significantly more stringent World Health Organisation. The consequences of this disproportionate exposure which are driving the review? Health problems, resulting in a reduction of EU life expectancy by more than eight months, and environmental issues, including acidification, eutrophication and climate forcing.

Where’s the problem?

Interestingly, the sources of air pollution which the EU’s review will have to address are not all anthropogenic, or manmade. According to a recent report by the European Environment Agency, when finger-pointing at the bogeyman we should not only wave our index finger at the usual suspects but at Mother Nature as well. The main sources of air pollutants, in addition to agricultural and industrial activity, power generation and transport (including diesel vehicles), are mineral salts from sea spray, naturally suspended particulates (sand, pollen, ash, etc.) and soil dust. Sea spray mineral salts even amounts to 70% (!) or more of particulate matter (PM10), one of the most problematic pollutants in terms of human health.

What to expect?

As you can gather, the review will be both comprehensive and resolute; dedicating 2013 to air only raises political and citizen awareness about the need to revamp air policy, adding to the pressure of delivering in the final full year for both the Commission and Parliament. Any legislative proposal, however, will have to go through co-decision, and thus the Institutional urge for a legacy will face an uphill struggle against Member States already failing to implement current rules. What can be said already is that no matter where you’d like the cards to fall, the air quality review should be taken seriously. If you don’t, Bloomberg Businessweek next November might headline, “It was air quality, stupid.”

Time Table

  • A new public consultation will be made available online before the end of 2012.
  • The proposal will be drafted early next year, with a new legislative proposal to be published late 2013.

For more on the EU’s Air policy review, click here.


1 Comment November 13, 2012

The Beijing-Brussels connection

Fleishman-Hillard Brussels was particularly enthusiastic to welcome Li Hong, President of Fleishman-Hillard China, as he visited the capital of Europe last week. While almost 8000 kilometres separate Brussels from Beijing, the upcoming leadership transition in China is poised to have a dramatic impact on the economy here in Europe, as in the rest of the world. His visit was thus the perfect occasion to discuss, with a handful of EU public affairs professionals from a broad range of industry sectors, the challenges the country is facing and the outlook for various industry sectors moving forward.

Trade policy is an exclusive power of the EU which means that it is the EU, and not individual member states, that legislates on trade matters and concludes international trade agreements, covering services, intellectual property and foreign direct investment. With the globalisation of the supply chain, China has become a major, if not the most important, production hub for multinational companies operating in Europe. Any shift in labour or environmental legislation taking place in China has an impact on foreign companies producing in China. Similarly, China is looking at the EU as a landmark for matters like the classification of chemicals substances or product safety legislation.

The fruitful discussions further confirmed the global dimension of EU public affairs. As influence operates from multiple pressure points and sources across different time zones, a silo approach to public affairs is no longer viable. Companies navigate in a globalised system with global challenges (trade, environment, food security, energy scarcity): what happens in China impacts the EU and vice versa.

In view of the current global economic slowdown, all eyes are expectantly turned on market prospects in China where a burgeoning economy and growing middle class still offer untapped opportunities for foreign players, from the pharmaceutical and retail sectors to logistics, automotives and chemicals.

On November 8th at the 18th Party Congress, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will see new faces in many of the top leadership posts. Given the importance of the Party’s leadership to the functioning of the world’s second-biggest economy, these major generational changes will strongly impact the margin of maneuver of foreign companies operating in China. It will also have a critical influence on the future of EU-China political and trade relations and therefore on public affairs in Brussels, Beijing and beyond.

Stay tuned for a comprehensive analysis of what the upcoming Chinese leadership change can bring to the industry, European consumers and EU policy makers.


Leave a Comment October 23, 2012

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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients.

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