On December 13, a European Union (EU) court partly overturned the European Commission's 2016 regulatory amendment that raised the limits on nitrogen oxide emissions from cars and vans, in a complaint brought by city authorities from Paris, Brussels, and Madrid. The General Court determined that the part of the amendment that increased nitrogen oxide limits exceeded the Commission's authority and broke EU human rights and other laws. The court gave the Commission one year to revise the amendment to avoid legal uncertainty over decisions already made by consumers and automakers.
On November 28, the European Union's (EU's) executive branch proposed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The proposal is far more ambitious than the national targets set by many of the EU's 28 member nations and is likely to be met with resistance. To achieve net-zero emissions, any greenhouse gases that are emitted would need to be soaked up by forest growth or by new technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere. For the full story, see https://www.apnews.com/95d0381308164e7b867dd0e0d869bf15.
On October 10, the European Parliament's Environment and Public Health Committee approved a draft proposal to ban single-use plastic products from the EU market beginning in 2021. Products under the proposal include those made of oxo-degradable plastics, fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene, single-use cutlery, and drinking straws. The plan also introduces collection and recycling targets for fishing gear containing plastic, which represents 27% of waste found on Europe's beaches. The full European Parliament is scheduled to vote on the proposal at the end of the month.
On June 25, Europe's highest court declared that crops obtained by mutagenesis, or gene editing, should fall under laws restricting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Court of Justice of the European Union took the view that organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs within the meaning of the GMO Directive because mutagenesis involves techniques that alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally. The ruling goes against the opinion of the court's advocate general, who argued earlier this year that mutagenesis should be allowed.
On June 14, EU negotiators agreed to phase out the use of palm oil in transport fuels by 2030. The wording on the specifics of the phase-out are yet to be agreed upon, but EU negotiators agreed that the use of palm oil would be capped at 2019 levels until 2023 and reduced to zero by 2030. The agreement is part of the EU's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Following a vote by the European Parliament to ban palm oil in European biofuels, British supermarket chain Iceland Foods decided to exclude palm oil from its store brand products. While some applauded this action and considered it a bold stance against deforestation and land grabbing, some scientists and conservationists expressed concern about the decision's environmental impacts.
The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees. The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on April 27, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.
A new report from the Global Carbon Project and the University of East Anglia projects that carbon emissions will have risen about two percent by the end of 2017. According to the report, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry will reach about 37 billion metric tons in 2017, setting a new record. Emissions from all human activities, including fossil fuel use, industry, and land-use change, is projected to be about 41 billion metric tons, close to the record set in 2015. The report points to China and other developing countries as the cause of the increase.
France rejected the EU Commission's five-year extension to the license for weed-killer glyphosate. France seeks an extension that does not exceed four years. The five-year extension was a compromise after a ten-year extension was previously rejected. Europe has been split over the chemical, a key ingredient in Monsanto Co’s top-selling weed-killer Roundup, after the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency concluded in March 2015 it was a substance that probably causes cancer.
EU policymakers are split over carbon market reforms ahead of U.N. climate talks scheduled in November. Negotiators for EU nations and the European Parliament will meet October 12 to try to finalize reforms to the EU Emissions Trading System. The cap-and-trade system has suffered from a oversupply of permits. Negotiators are still striving to bridge divisions over how to balance environmental ambitions with protection for energy-intensive industries.