Letter on the promotion of international rail passenger transport endorsed by fellow advisory councils

Together with four other governmental advisory councils on sustainability and the environment, the Dutch Council on the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) has written a letter to the European Commission on the promotion of international rail passenger transport. In recent months, an additional four advisory councils (from Ireland, Portugal, Germany and Hungary) have expressed their support and endorsed the letter. The letter and the list of endorsements can be found here

The latest contribution on a Green Recovery

Early August, The Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) published it’s advisory letter entitled ‘Green Recovery’. In this letter the Council discusses the concurrence of economic recovery policy and the transition towards a sustainable society, which will have an important impact on the choices to be made. Among others things, the Council argues in favour of a green recovery from the corona crisis, in which economy, employment and a sustainable physical environment go hand in hand. According to the Council, increasing the sustainability of the economy and physical environment is, as yet, not adequately incorporated into considerations about economic recovery policy. Furthermore, the Council offers an assessment framework that can help policymakers and political parties in designing green recovery policy, when drafting election manifestos or drawing up the next Coalition Agreement. The Council also presented numerous concrete suggestions for green recovery measures.

This advisory letter by the Dutch Rli, is one of many contributions made by advisory bodies on the Covid-19 crisis and the issue of a Green Recovery. For the other publications visit the EEAC Network’s special Covid-19 & Green Recovery page.

Latest publication: Using the CO2 budget to meet the Paris climate targets

In this chapter of the Environmental Report 2020, the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) exemplifies how the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement can be translated into a national CO2 budget that can serve as a yardstick for future national climate policy.

In this chapter the SRU recommends that the Federal Government should set a German CO2 budget compatible with the Paris Agreement and tighten the climate targets accordingly. The budget should not replace existing targets, SRU argues, but shouldserve as an overarching basis for assessment. At the same time, it is urgently necessary to implement measures that will pave the way to climate neutrality, for example by accelerating the expansion of renewable energies.Only in this way can the use of fossil resources be quickly brought to an end. In order to keep within budget, progress on reductions must be regularly reviewed and measures must be continuously refined, the council stated in this chapter f the Environmental Report 2020. Read More

Arnau Queralt in the latest ESDN spotlight video

In the latest #ESDNspotlight, Arnau Queralt Bassa (Chairman of the EEAC Network) talks about the challenges and opportunities that governmental advisory bodies on climate change, environment and sustainable development face. Click here to see the ESDN’s spotlight video.



28th EEAC Annual Conference to be hosted online

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

European sustainability councils call for a boost in the post-pandemic shift to rail for international travel

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

New recommendation: Making hydrogen a sustainable decarbonisation option

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

Latest statement: For an efficient and area effective insect protection

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

Presidency of the Council of the EU: half a year to make a wholehearted commitment

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

New composition SRU approved by Federal Cabinet

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