Given the likelihood that the Covid-19 crisis will still be ongoing in October, the National Economic and Social Council and the Board of the EEAC Network have now decided to opt for a virtual conference format. This format will ensure, regardless of possible public health restrictions, that the 2020 Annual Conference will go ahead. This is important since the crisis has made this conference more important.
The public health crisis is transforming economies, societies, and the environment in ways that cannot yet be fully understood. In the face of what is unprecedented change and uncertainty we believe that Just Transition can, and indeed must, provide guidance and practical support to policy makers across Europe.
By going online, the conference will be held over the three days, from Tuesday 27 October to Thursday 29 October. In this short video address, Dr Larry O’Connell, Director of NESC, shares further details of the online conference. More information about the conference can be found here
1 July 2020 – Europe can and must do more to improve international passenger travel by rail. This will contribute towards the EU’s environmental goals, will enhance the economic competitiveness of agglomerations and stimulate sustainable tourism. Moreover, the transport sector will need support from the EU to prevent decline in the wake of the current COVID-19-crisis. This support can be used as an incentive for a post-pandemic shift to a more sustainable and efficient mobility system throughout the European Union. Now is the time to support a shift from aviation to trains, specifically for short-haul flights. A European consortium of governmental advisory councils therefore urges the European Commission to take this opportunity to boost international passenger rail.
Lack of international cooperation due to focus on domestic needs
Up until now, the international rail network consists primarily of interlinked national systems which are optimised to meet domestic needs. This pushes the needs of the international traveller to the background. The councils conclude that the lack of international cooperation persists because public authorities, rail carriers and infrastructure managers are primarily held to account for their performance in providing domestic services and to a lesser degree for international services.
Travel info, ticketing and passenger rights
The quality of international travel information and ticketing is below par. Travelers want a single service point and a single ticket for their international train journey. In a short space of time, much can be achieved by providing adequate travel information, simplifying ticketing, and improving passenger rights. To that end, there is urgent need for better EU regulation on travel information and ticketing and the ongoing revision of the EU Regulation on passengers’ rights presents an opportunity to improve just that.
Need for a corridor authority
The councils see a need for an improved international coordination on the main rail links between the major urban centres in Europe. The councils are in favour of an EU regulation establishing an European governance structure for the rail network, as better coordination on this level is essential for improving international rail connectivity. This pan-European initiative could start with international coordination along separate core corridors for passenger transport within Europe: Rail Passenger Corridors. Ultimately, a European corridor authority should be able to supervise and monitor international rail traffic. This authority should also be able to coordinate between public and private rail parties concerned, to accommodate with international rail services in the interests of international rail passengers.
Call for a major boost
The councils call upon the European Commission to give priority to further improvement of international passenger transport by rail. So far the European approach has leaned heavily on stimulating market mechanisms, harmonising regulations and technical standardisation. This has not yet brought about the development of a thriving international rail market. The major boost that is needed implies an increase in political attention, speeding up policy effort and stimulating all parties concerned to improve international passenger rail even further. Better coordination across the European rail network should provide easy accessibility to excellent railservices for international travellers and bring about a huge improvement. However improvements to the speed and connectedness of the network itself are also fundamental. Read More
The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) issued a recommendation to the Federal government in response to the government’s National Hydrogen Strategy.
In its recommendation RNE argues that if fossil energy from coal, oil and gas is to be almost entirely replaced by renewable energy
sources by 2050 at the latest, hydrogen needs to be made a partner to the renewable energies in order to achieve sector coupling and storage, and thus also both security of supply and sustainable prices.
RNE does not consider an energy transition based solely on electrification to be realisable. Electrons and molecules are consequently a
necessary synthesis for a promising energy transition within industry and society. The RNE therefore fundamentally welcomes the National Hydrogen Strategy adopted by the Federal Government on 10 June 2020 and explicitly supports the establishment of a hydrogen industry being given a major boost in the stimulus package.
RNE does, however, recommend that the proposed measures be substantiated in the upcoming implementation process and that they be turned into political action quickly and based on partnership. The RNE believes it is time to think big and act swiftly. At the same time, the council is aware that some of the issues such as the establishment of international partnerships, the reduction of carbon emissions and the needs-based availability of hydrogen still need to be discussed and negotiated in detail. Read More
The German Advisory Council on the Environment, together with the Scientific Advisory Board on Biodiversity and Genetic Resources at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture launched a statement entitled ‘For an efficient and area effective insect protection’.
The two organisations, state that insects are essential components of ecosystems. They provide many services on which we rely and from which we benefit every day, for example the pollination of crops or biological pest control. Data shows a serious loss of insects, the most species-rich class of animals. A further loss of insects and thus fundamental ecosystem services would have far-reaching negative consequences, also for human well-being as well as the environment.
The decline is the result of complex, often cumulative factors. Agriculture is a major contributor to this decline. Two of the most important reasons are the widespread and increasing impoverishment of the landscape structure and the input of nutrients and pesticides. In order to stop the loss of insects, the use of plant protection products and nutrients has to be reduced and monotonous landscapes have to be enriched with small structures such as hedges, trees and field margins. Furthermore, extensive grassland needs to be protected and used sustainably. Read More
Germany will soon commence its presidency of the Council of the European Union. Rarely have there been so many sustainability-related topics on the agenda – plus the opportunity to put the billions of euros earmarked for the coronavirus recovery to transformative use, the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) argues. In a post the council sheds its light on issues such as the ‘Next Generation EU’ framework, as well as on issues related to New climate targets, Circular economy, Industrial strategy and energy, the MMF and Agriculture. Read More
The German Federal Cabinet approved the appointment of the members of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) for the period July 2020 until mid 2024.
Four university professors from various disciplines have been newly appointed. These four have special scientific knowledge and experience in environmental protection:
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christina Dornack, TU Dresden, for the field of waste and recycling management
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Köck, University of Leipzig/Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ Leipzig), for the area of environmental and planning law
Prof. Dr. Josef Settele, University of Halle-Wittenberg/Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ Halle), for the field of nature conservation/ecology/biodiversity/land use
Prof. Dr. Annette Elisabeth Töller, FernUniversität Hagen, for German and European environmental policy
Several council members were re-appointed:
Prof. Dr. Claudia Hornberg, University of Bielefeld, for the area of health sciences/toxicology/noise and environmental justice
Prof. Dr. Claudia Kemfert, DIW Berlin, for the area of Economics/Climate Protection/Energy/Transport
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lucht, PIK Potsdam, for the area of sustainability/earth system analysis
This item is an English summary of the official press release by the BMU. Press release in German
In a response to the Covid19 crisis that sweep the world, several EEAC member bodies drafted statements or posted blogs.
A new paper from the National Economic and Social Council, The Implications of Covid-19 for Housing in Ireland, argues that it has brought insights about what has been done well, some important lessons and provided food for thought about the future. This paper followed another recent publication, entitled How We Value Work: The Impact of Covid-19. In this paper NESC argues that the Covid-19 pandemic has made good jobs better and more valuable to the worker; and made poor jobs worse, yet more valuable to society. This recently released papers are part of NESC’s attempt to contribute to Ireland’s policy response to Covid19. The Council dedicated a special area on their website where research reports are published. This research work, in normal circumstances, would be used to produce NESC reports, which would be published following detailed deliberation by the Council. By putting it in the public domain earlier, it is hoped this research can help those now working on the response to Covid-19. Learn more
The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) launched it’s recommendation, entitled: ‘A sustainable recovery from the coronavirus crisis’. In their recomendation, the RNE argues that the strategy for tackling the economic and social consequences of the pandemic should have a sound approach which complements the global Sustainable Development Goals right from the start. There will be no financial leeway for fundamental readjustments later on, the council argues. In their recommendation, the council members of the RNE propose eight steps for a sustainable recovery from the Covid19 crisis. In addition, the council published to articles on how the post-coronavirus restart can become ecological and encounters that leave a smaller footprint.
In addtion, the Luxembourg High Council for Sustainable Development published a statement (FR) in mid-May. The statement addresses the Government of Luxembourg, and urges to draw lessons from and respond to the Covid-19 crisis and its aftermath. The Council stresses that no country will be able to emerge from this crisis alone. In the context of Europe Day on 9 May, the Council thus joined the initiative of the EEAC Network, by reiterating the consensus that the pandemic reinforces the need to actively pursue the implementation of the Green Pact for Europe (Green Deal) and Agenda 2030.
The Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia earlier released a statement, entitled ‘One pandemic, numerous lessons and 17 goals that we must not put in lockdown’. In this statement the Council argues that the Covid19 pandemic force us to reinterpret the world and the way we live, and it stresses the need for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the importance to act.
The Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development posted a blog based on the statement issued by the Expert Panel to the Parliament’s Committee for the Future on 25 March 2020 regarding the European Green Deal and the implications of the Covid19 crisis. In the blog, entitled ‘Coronavirus fostering the implementation of the European Green Deal and boosting sustainability transformation’ the Expert Panel touches upon the expected consequences of Covid19 for the European Green Deal and describes how the sustainability transformation should rise from the ashes of the crisis.
In this latest publication the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) shares recommendation for effectively embedding sustainability and human rights in global supply chains. The publication followed an update of the German National Sustainable Development Strategy.
In the course of updating this National Sustainable Development Strategy, the German Federal Government replaced the existing management rules with six principles of sustainable development. These principles are as follows: 1. Systematic application across the board of sustainable development as a guiding principle 2. Assumption of responsibility globally 3. Safeguarding of natural resources as foundation for a good life 4. Strengthening of sustainable business practice 5. Protection and improvement of social cohesion in an open society 6. Use of education, science and innovation as drivers of sustainable development.
Principles 2–4 in particular are the main focus of the RNE recommendation. The RNE is advocating that due diligence regarding social and environmental aspects be embedded in globally linked supply chains and business relations by means of a smart mix. This smart mix comprises legal requirements and mandatory framework conditions, the outlining of minimum standards as well as voluntary initiatives in the business world and civil society. Read More
The German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) published a new Environmental Report entitled “Towards an ambitious environmental policy in Germany and Europe” on May 14th 2020. Against the background of the Corona pandemic, climate change and biodiversity loss are currently receiving less attention. However, the long-term threat to the natural foundations of life persists.
The current crisis has also revealed that our lives and economic activities are vulnerable to a previously unsuspected degree. As different as the two crises are, one thing they have in common is that they can only be overcome through collective and decisive action. The resuscitation of the economy which is now required should be used to find new ways of doing things.
“Large-scale economic stimulus packages must be ecologically sustainable”, says SRU Chair Prof. Claudia Hornberg. “Investments should be made in solutions that promote an environmentally safe development of the economy.” The German government, she adds, should seek to ensure that the economic stimulus packages brought in by the EU are also designed to help implement the European Green Deal. Read More
The Global Sustainable Development Report shows that we are heading towards the sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030, but much too slowly. Inequality is increasing, climate change is advancing, biodiversity is decreasing, and waste volumes are growing. These phenomena are affected by several interconnected factors. However, we can change course if we identify the interlinkages between the aforementioned problems and steer our societies comprehensively in a more sustainable direction. The Finnish Expert Panel on Sustainable Development has now published recommendations that focus more closely on what these interlinkages mean in the Finnish context and what actions need to be taken. Read More