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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On May 18, 2021, the European Parliament (EP) issued a press release announcing the Just Transition Fund (JTF) to assist European Union (EU) countries to address climate neutrality goals. The Just Transition Fund is composed of €7.5 billion from the European Commission’s (EC) long-term EU budget under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and €10 billion from the EU recovery plan, NextGenerationEU. According to the press release, eligible projects must focus on economic diversification, reconversion, or job creation, or they must contribute to the transition into a sustainable and circular European economy. JTF will finance:

  • Job seeking assistance, upskilling, and reskilling to help workers as Europe shifts to a climate-neutral economy;
  • Micro-enterprises;
  • Business incubators;
  • Universities;
  • Public research institutions; and
  • Investments in new energy technologies, energy efficiency, and sustainable local mobility.

A “Green Rewarding Mechanism” could be introduced to the JTF for distribution of additional funding to member states if the EP decides to increase the fund’s resources after December 31, 2024. The goal is for the €7.5 billion JTF funds to generate between €30 and €50 billion from investments. Member states that succeed in reducing industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will receive additional funding.
 
Access to JTF for member states is conditional upon adoption of national-level commitments to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Before adoption of such commitments, member states will be entitled to only 50 percent of their national allocations. The portion of the investments provided by EC is set at a maximum of 85 percent for less developed regions, 70 percent for transitional regions, and 50 percent for more developed regions.
 
JTF is part of the European Green Deal Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) initiative, which provides targeted support to regions and sectors in the EU that are most affected by the transition into a green economy. JTM aims to help EU member countries by also:

  • Supporting the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient activities;
  • Creating new jobs in the green economy;
  • Investing in public and sustainable transport;
  • Providing technical assistance;
  • Investing in renewable energy sources;
  • Improving digital connectivity;
  • Providing affordable loans to local public authorities; and
  • Improving energy infrastructure, district heating, and transportation networks.

In support of JTM, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of EC stated that “[w]e must show solidarity with the most affected regions in Europe, such as the coal mining regions and others, to make sure the [European] Green Deal gets everyone’s full support and has a chance to become a reality.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 12, 2021, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT), the European Commission (EC) Helpdesk will host a webinar on appropriate Intellectual Property (IP) rights for biotechnology inventions.  The 60-minute webinar will provide an overview of:

  • Relevant IP rights;
  • Product development IP context;
  • IP specifics in biotechnology;
  • IP portfolio development; and
  • IP portfolio management.

The webinar is free of charge, but registration is required.  Additional information is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 23, 2021, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) announced that in association with other relevant Directorates-General (DG) of the European Commission (EC), DG Environment has opened a call for applications to select members for an expert group, the High-Level Roundtable on Implementation of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. According to EU-OSHA, the expert group’s mission “is to set the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability objectives and monitor its implementation in dialogue with the stakeholders concerned.” Specific tasks include contributing to identifying and addressing social, economic, and cultural barriers to the transition toward safe and sustainable chemicals. The expert group will act as a core group of ambassadors to facilitate discussions and promote this transition in the economy and society, developing a regular exchange of views, experiences, and good practices between the EC and stakeholders on the main objectives of the Strategy, namely:

  • Innovating for safe and sustainable chemicals, including for materials and products;
     
  • Addressing pressing environmental and health concerns;
     
  • Simplifying and consolidating the legal framework;
     
  • Providing a comprehensive knowledge base on chemicals; and
     
  • Setting the example for global sound management of chemicals.

The expert group will consist of up to 32 members, with a maximum of:

  • The member state holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union;
     
  • Ten third-sector organizations in the following areas: health protection, environmental protection, human rights, animal protection, consumer rights, and workers’ rights;
     
  • Eight scientific organizations, academia, and research institutes providing a suitable balance between expertise in fundamental research, applied research, and training/education;
     
  • Ten industries, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) or associations of enterprises, including an adequate representation of frontrunners in the production and use of safe and sustainable chemicals. Those should include chemical industries, downstream users (from different sectors), and retailers; and
     
  • Three international organizations -- the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Interested organizations are invited to submit their applications before March 18, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On January 17, 2020, the European Union (EU) announced a new innovative project called BIOGEARS that will be funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The project focuses on the development of biobased gear solutions for the creation of an eco-friendly offshore aquaculture sector using a multitrophic approach and new biobased value chains. With the aim to address the gap of biobased ropes for offshore aquaculture, which is currently manufactured with 100 percent non-recyclable plastics, BIOGEARS will create a biobased value chain under the EU Bioeconomy Strategy framework. The European Bioeconomy Strategy aims to accelerate the deployment of a sustainable and circular European bioeconomy to maximize its contribution towards the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as well as the Paris Agreement. With the goal of increasing aquaculture marketable products, BIOGEARS uses an Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) approach by integrating seaweed with mussel production. The BIOGEARS project’s intention is to develop biobased ropes that are tough, durable, and fit-for-purpose while still able to biodegrade in shorter time and managed by local composting facilities.

As part of the project, all project partners will participate in a BLUE LAB to enhance cooperation and enable tracking of innovation of the new biobased materials developed. Project coordinator, Leire Arantzamendi, expressed her hopes of boosting more eco-friendly mussel and seaweed production stating that BIOGEARS “will generate three rope prototypes with a highly reduced carbon footprint along the value chain.” The project will focus on the Atlantic Basin.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

In June 2019, the European Commission (EC) Technical Expert Group (TEG) on Sustainable Finance, published its Report on EU Green Bond Standard. The report proposes the creation of a European Union (EU) Green Bond Standard (EU-GBS) to address barriers to market development of green financial products. Also proposing the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment -- “Taxonomy Regulation” -- TEG makes ten recommendations in its GBS Report to:

  1. Create a voluntary EU-GBS;
     
  2. EU-GBS should have four core components -- (1) alignment of Green Projects with the EU Taxonomy, (2) Green Bond Framework, (3) reporting, and (4) verification by accredited verifiers;
     
  3. Encourage set-up of a voluntary interim registration process for verifiers of EU Green Bonds for an estimated transition period of up to three years;
     
  4. Encourage investors to use EU-GBS requirements in their green fixed-income investment strategies and communicate their preference actively to green bond issuers and underwriters;
     
  5. Welcome political compromise on the sustainability-related disclosure regulation;
     
  6. Consider promoting greening the financial system;
     
  7. Consider development of financial incentives supporting the EU Green Bond market;
     
  8. Encourage bond issuers to issue their green bonds in accordance with EU-GBS requirements;
     
  9. Promote adoption of EU-GBS through the EU Ecolabel for financial products; and
     
  10. Monitor impact on the alignment of financial flows with the EU Taxonomy’s Environmental Objectives, considering further supporting action.
Tags: EU, Green

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 17, 2019, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Banque de France, and Frank Edelson, Chair of the Network for Greening the Financial Services (NGFS), published an open letter on the financial implications of global warming.  Co-signed by the NGFS coalition, consisting of 34 central banks, the letter warns of global warming’s potential damage to infrastructure and private property, negative human health effects, decrease in productivity, and wealth destruction.  The letter states that no countries are immune to the effects of climate change and that “if some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.”  Although the Paris agreement has and continues to promote a low-carbon economy, further measures would be central to achieving zero net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Key to reaching this goal would be a massive reallocation of capital, the financial experts highlight.
 
Given the challenges associated with achieving zero-carbon emissions, in the letter, Carney, Villeroy de Galhau, and NGFS members propose four recommendations to policymakers and financial firms:

  • The integration of climate-related financial risks into daily work, financial stability monitoring, and board risk management.  Policymakers and financial firms should conduct scenario analyses and take a long-term strategic approach, which considers risks associated with global warming.  These risks should be embedded it into their business-as-usual governance and risk-management frameworks.
  • Leadership by example, particularly by central banks, to integrate sustainability into their own portfolio management.
  • Internal and external collaboration among public authorities to bridge data gaps important to assessments of climate-related risks.
  • In-house capacity building and knowledge sharing with various stakeholders on the financial risks related to climate change.

According to the letter, the successful implementation of these four recommendations would lead to two broader calls for action on disclosure and classification of these risks.  Market and regulators’ support in assessing risks and opportunities from climate change accompanied by consistent international disclosure are critical.  In addition, NGFS members also encourage the development of a classification system to identify economic activities that would contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy.  In sum, robust leadership and collaboration play a crucial role in identifying global solutions for the financial sector.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 13, 2018, the European Parliament (EP) announced its approval of new targets for renewables and energy efficiency rates to be achieved by 2030.  According to the press release, “by 2030, energy efficiency in the [European Union (EU)] has to have improved by 32.5%, whereas the share of energy from renewables should be at least 32% of the EU’s gross final consumption.”  Highlighting the crucial role of second generation biofuels rather than first generation biofuels which lead to land use changes, the EP declared that the latter will no longer count towards the EU energy goals from 2030.  Starting in 2019, the plan is to phase out first generation biofuels gradually until it reaches zero.  By December 31, 2019, member states will be required to present a ten-year national energy and climate plan, which outlines the national measures that will be taken.

Tags: Biofuel, EU

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 11, 2018, the European Commission (EC) released a statement announcing its new action plan for a sustainable bioeconomy in Europe. The new action plan, originally announced by President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans in their letter of intent, aims to “improve and scale up the sustainable use of renewable sources to address global and local challenges such as climate change and sustainable development.” In his remarks, EC Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, emphasized the need for systemic changes as key drivers of change for the bioeconomy sector. Renewable and sustainable solutions depend on collaborative efforts by governments and industry stakeholders. Based on this premise, EC’s new strategy focuses on three key objectives that include 14 measures to be taken as early as 2019.  The three objectives are to:

  1. Scale up and strengthen the biobased sectors;
  2. Rapidly deploy bioeconomies across Europe; and
  3. Protect the ecosystem and understand the ecological limitations of the bioeconomy.

​These long- and short-term objectives focus on modernizing the European biobased economy and call for systemic changes that will reduce the large underused biomass and waste potential. The action plan will be further discussed and outlined during a conference with stakeholders, hosted by the EC on October 22, 2018, in Brussels.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 12, 2018, the EC announced new requirements for labeling fuel. As of the aforementioned date, European Union (EU) Member States must use set fuel labels on newly produced vehicles, at vehicle dealerships, and at gas stations that dispense hydrogen, diesel, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, petrol, and liquefied natural gas. Given the growing variety of fuels on the market, the EC’s new requirements address the greater need for transparency of information to consumers. The labels are to be put on the nozzles of gas filling pumps, on the pumps themselves, and in the vicinity of fuel filler caps on new cars, motorcycles, buses, and coaches, among other places.

Tags: EU, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 25, 2018, the European Union (EU) Supreme Court of Justice ruled that plants with genes that have been altered, even without the insertion of foreign DNA, are classified as genetically modified organisms (GMO) and therefore must undergo the same safety checks for their impacts on the environment and human health as organisms with foreign DNA.  According to Bio-Based World News, the ruling “is seen as a victory for environmentalists but a blow for the bio-economy” due to the much stricter rules that apply to GMOs.  Bio-based chemicals often require genome editing to provide renewable substitutes for petrochemical building blocks.  EuropaBio’s Secretary General, John Brennan, commented on this new ruling stating that it lacks regulatory clarity that is needed by EU researchers, academics, and innovators in the industry to deliver solutions.  EuropaBio plans to engage EU Member States and citizens in providing a fact-based dialogue on what genome editing is, and what it will or will not be used for.  The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology’s Director, Detlef Weigel, also criticized the ruling, stating that it was “a sad day for European science.”

Tags: EU, GE

 
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