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The COP24 climate change conference, held in Katowice,
Poland, from 3 to 15 December 2018, agreed detailed rules for the
implementation of the Paris Agreement, with the exception of rules on market
mechanisms, a subject on which international negotiations will continue
In December 2018, three years after the conclusion of the Paris Agreement, the 24th conference of the parties (COP) to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change was held in Katowice -– the third COP hosted by Poland. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had released a special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees, as requested by COP21 in 2015. It concluded that global emissions would need to drop rapidly during the next decade to avoid the worst consequences of global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees. Delegates at COP24 argued over how to acknowledge the IPCC report. They decided to welcome its timely completion, but stopped short of endorsing its contents.
The Katowice decisions constitute the ‘rulebook’ for the Paris Agreement. They give an operational interpretation to the Agreement and top-down direction to complement the bottom-up approach of ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs). A key issue in the negotiations was the long-standing differentiation between developed and developing countries. The rulebook binds all parties to the same reporting standards, but allows flexibility (time limited) for countries that need it. Moreover, developed countries are expected to have economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. The agreed rulebook:
gives guidance on the content and format of NDCs, including a structured summary which forms the basis for regular reporting;
sets out a regime for transparency and accountability, with common rules for measuring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, finance and adaptation;
defines processes for the five-yearly global stocktake of the effectiveness of climate action, which includes information-gathering, a technical assessment and a consideration of the outputs;
establishes a committee to review non-performance of parties (such as failure to submit NDCs or reports or not acting on technical reviews), with the consent of the concerned party.
However, no agreement was reached on rules for international
cooperation in achieving national pledges, such as voluntary carbon markets. Draft
rules to avoid double counting of emission cuts were opposed by Brazil.
Negotiations on this issue will continue in 2019, with a view to reaching
agreement at the next COP.
A delegation of MEPs attended the conference, backed by a plenary resolution calling for net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, an enhancement of NDCs by 2020 and a more ambitious EU target of a 55 % emission reduction by 2030. In November 2018, the European Commission presented a strategy for a climate-neutral future, aiming to achieving a modern, prosperous EU economy with net zero emissions by 2050.
A UN climate summit with the theme ‘A race we can win. A race we must win.’ will be held in September 2019 in New York. COP25 will take place in Chile in November 2019, with a pre-COP meeting in Costa Rica. In 2020, discussions about post-2025 climate finance will start, and parties will have to update their NDCs.
With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for citizens interested in space exploration.
If you feel unsettled by national politics or climate change on
Earth, to the point of considering relocating to another habitable planet, there
is good news for you – such places do exist.
In 2016, an international team headed by Belgian researcher Michaël Gillon, discovered a system of seven planets outside of the Solar System. Three of these planets are located in a habitable zone, around a parent star called TRAPPIST-1, within which a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water. At about 40 light-years away, the system is relatively close to Earth.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing a robotic landing on the Moon in partnership with Russia as early as 2022. The mission will look for water ice, opening the door to future exploitation of lunar resources and preparations to go deeper into the Solar System.
NASA’s new Orion
vehicle with a European service module will help to build a deep-space
gateway located in lunar orbit, a thousand times further out in space than the ISS.
The next decade will see ESA’s ExoMars rover explore the surface of the Red Planet, using its ground-penetrating radar and two metre-long drill.
Looking beyond, ESA is already working on the technologies needed to accomplish the first round-trip mission to Mars and bring back precious samples so as to advance further on one of the most ambitious exploration challenges ever.
With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for mountaineers.
Europe has stunning mountain ranges that offer plenty of
opportunities for outdoor activities. In the summer, rock climbing, hiking and mountain
biking are popular activities, while winter is the season for skiing and snowboarding.
The European mountains offer breathtaking natural
landscapes that attract many visitors and are home to a wide range of plants
and animals. To preserve this unique natural heritage, the EU has established
the ‘Natura 2000’ network of protected areas that allow for the coexistence of wildlife
and human activities. Moreover, the EU and eight countries are parties to the
Alpine Convention, an international treaty for the sustainable development and
protection of the Alps.
For a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience in the mountains, you need the right equipment, from suitable clothing to skis and snowboards or climbing ropes and harnesses. Thanks to the EU internal market, you have a wide choice, as equipment that is available in one EU country can be sold in all the others as well. Under EU law, defective products must be repaired or replaced free of charge within the legal guarantee period of two years.
Mountaineering equipment has to be safe – your life depends on it. EU rules require that personal protective equipment in the EU must bear the CE label to show that it conforms to safety standards. In order to be able to use mountain equipment, such as carabiners, safely and effectively, it is essential that you understand the instructions. That is why EU rules require that manuals be available in the language of the country where products are sold.
With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for canny shoppers / bargain hunters.
If you like to save money when you shop, EU laws can help
you tell if you are getting the best deal and protect you from some scams.
According to EU rules, sellers mustindicate product pricesclearly, including price per unit, to enable you to compare products easily. Prices must include all taxes and delivery charges and must be unambiguous, clearly legible, and easily identifiable.
Sellers are also forbidden to label a product as ‘gratis’, ‘free’
or ‘without charge’ if you have to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost
of responding to the advert and collecting it or having it delivered.
EU laws ban all aggressive and misleading commercial practices, but some of these are especially relevant to canny shoppers. Shops are, for instance, forbidden to claim that they have a ‘liquidation sale’ when this is not true. Also forbidden are false claims that a product is only available, or available at a certain price, for a very limited time, as this means you don’t have time to make an informed choice. Bait advertising – where sellers lure you to their shop by advertising a product at a low price, even though they know don’t have sufficient quantities available at that price, or refuse to show the product or to take orders and promote a different product instead, is also not allowed.
EU laws also forbid the use of hidden advertising in the media, where adverts are presented as journalistic content without a clear indication that the publicity was in fact paid for.
With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for champagne and sparkling wine producers.
If you are one of the 15 800 producers of champagne in
the Champagne region of France or a producer of sparkling wine in another EU
country, such as Spain or Italy, you are perhaps concerned about the sector’s
development. So is the European Union and it is working to secure the sector’s long-term
As a wine producer, you can receive financial support from
the EU for loss of revenue resulting from restructuring. This can also be used
to cover vineyard conversion, for instance to introduce new varieties, relocate
or improve vineyard management techniques.
Wine producers can also get support for measures to promote EU wines under the geographical indications (GI) scheme, which identifies EU country products whose quality can be attributed to a particular geographical origin. Under this scheme, the EU can contribute up to 50 % of the cost of participating in international fairs, or conducting information campaigns and carrying out studies of new market outlets.
The EU can also help protect products recognised under the GI scheme at international level. To do this it ensures that the products remain protected in the various multilateral trade negotiations with the World Trade Organisation, in particular through the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. In addition, it also seeks to achieve high levels of protection for GI products in bilateral trade agreements negotiated or under negotiation with non-EU countries such as Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
Citizens of the European Union go the polls in May 2019 in elections to
the European Parliament which many analysts say may be the most important ever.
Commentators are currently focused on the prospective performance of
anti-establishment parties and movements, many of which run on Eurosceptic
platforms. The vote will also indicate if the so-called Spitzenkandidatenprocess, launched by the European political
parties five years ago, has become an established practice. If followed as in
2014, the candidate from the political force that receives the highest number
of seats in the European elections would become the President of the European
This note offers links to
reports and commentaries from some major international think-tanks and research
institutes on the forthcoming European elections and related issues.
How can collective intelligence help tackle social
inequalities? What is Europe’s role in the current trade wars? How can the EU27
move forward? These questions and many more were discussed during the EPRS
roundtable discussion ‘Europe’s challenges in 2019’ following the publication
of the third edition of the annual EPRS ‘Ten issues to watch’.
After a short welcome by EPRS Director General, Anthony Teasdale,
Vice-President of the European Parliament Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso
(EPP, Spain) introduced the discussion with a keynote speech. The
Vice-President emphasised the importance of the forthcoming European elections
for the areas of policy that feature in the ‘Ten issues to watch’, and pointed
out that European citizens now had to choose between parties who aim to bring
the European project forward, and those parties whose aims are less constructive.
As Étienne Bassot, Director of the Members’ Research Service
stated in his introductory remarks, the issues chosen for the publication
belong to three overarching topics: technology; Europe in the wider world; and
2019 as the year of EU renewal. The intention of the debate was not to claim to
cover all relevant policy issues, but rather to ‘set the scene’ for the
political year to come.
The authors of the eleven chapters of the ‘Ten issues to watch’
then briefly presented their contributions, giving an overview of the main
challenges in their respective areas and discussing existing, as well as still required,
EU policy action.
Nora Milotay elaborated on the concept of collective intelligence – the
combination of human and artificial intelligence (AI). The major challenge is
to combine social and technological innovation, for example regarding health,
education and the labour market, to prevent technological developments increasing
inequalities within the EU.
Maria Niestadt highlighted the potential of e-mobility for the EU to reduce CO₂
emissions, air pollution, and noise, as well as EU dependence on oil imports.
Whether the EU will be able to exploit this potential, however, will largely
depend on its ability to improve the infrastructure of recharging points,
battery performance and the integration of electric vehicles into the
Marcin Szczepanski and Tambiama Madiega explained the process of digital transformation – the integration of digital technology into all aspects of our lives. They underlined that that the EU needs to ensure a legal and ethical framework for this fundamental transformation: to protect ethical norms, especially in the field of AI; to update safety and liability rules; and to regulate the access and re-use of digital data.
security, Sofija Voronova explained that cybersecurity not only covers
cyber-attacks but also involves traditional crime ‘going digital’. Terrorist
activities and organised crime pose a particular security threat, which the EU
needs to tackle both offline and online.
Gisela Grieger explained the US stance in the current trade war(s) and elaborated on
different scenarios for future US-China relations. She also pointed out the
challenges for the EU to navigate between the two powers while protecting its own
economic interests as well as the multilateral trading system, mainly through pushing
for World Trade Organization reform.
Eric Pichon discussed Africa’s
role as Europe’s ‘twin continent’ and potential strategic partner. He points
out the challenges of diverging interests, especially on migration, as well as
defining partners, due to the different channels through which EU-Africa
cooperation is managed.
Didier Bourguignon illustrated the EU’s path towards a policy for the oceans, which
allows both use of the oceans’ resources, e.g. for renewable ocean energy or
tourism, while also protecting their ecosystems.
Asked about the future
financing of the EU, whether the EU will decide on its next Multiannual Financial
Framework (MFF) in 2019, Magdalena Sapala pointed out three obstacles:
different positions on the scope of the future budget; different
decision-making procedures for different legislative proposals; and the political
changes in the European Parliament and Commission following the European
Silvia Kotanidis outlined the way forward for the EU27 after Brexit and discussed the idea of a
Europe ‘at different speeds’, the possibilities of using the entire potential
of the Lisbon Treaty and even a possible treaty change. She also highlighted
that the future EU-UK relationship still needs to be defined in various policy areas,
especially trade and defence.
Finally, Laura Tilindyte explained the possible changes in
the new European Parliament and the new European
Commission following the elections in May. Brexit will decrease the size of
the Parliament, and declining support for traditional parties will change the power
relations between the political groups. The appointment of the Commission
President also remains unclear, due to the power struggle between the European
Parliament and Council regarding the Spitzenkandidatenprozess.
In his final remarks, Étienne Bassot concluded that the political, technological and institutional challenges the EU faces are increasingly intertwined and require further analysis, both individually and in their interrelated aspects.
The round table discussion was followed by a short Q&A session.
The European Union (EU) is committed to eliminating
inequalities and promoting gender equality ‘in all its activities’ and has made
considerable advances over the years. Nevertheless, the situation remains
uneven across the EU, and in recent times progress has slowed, stalled or even regressed
in some areas. Yet, the evidence points clearly to the benefits of gender
equality for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.
Public opinion surveys show that a large majority of
Europeans agree that promoting gender equality is important for a fair and
democratic society, the economy and for them personally and that a growing
share of citizens would like the EU to do more in this area. Europeans also
expect increased EU action on related policies.
During the current legislative term, as part of a broader gender equality programme, the EU institutions have been working on proposals for new EU laws to improve work-life balance and combat violence against women and promoting equality between women and men will remain one of the major challenges in the coming years. Demographic trends, technological developments and changes to the way we work are just some of the issues where different impacts on women and men will need to be considered.
Options for further EU involvement could include better implementation and enforcement of existing legislation, moves to modernise it, fill gaps in protection and address emerging issues, and non-legislative measures such as data collection and monitoring, awareness-raising, and support for national and grassroots initiatives. It will require the political will at all levels to tackle issues across a broad spectrum of policies, together with the provision of the necessary institutions, tools and resources to put that resolve into action.
Written by Ionel Zamfir, Martina Prpic and Rosamund Shreeves,
In the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to set common
standards of achievement for all states – the pivotal role and moral, legal and
political significance of human rights in the international arena have become indisputable.
However, despite considerable progress in many areas on recognition,
codification and implementation, human rights have also come under increased attack.
Whether in theatres of war or in the political arena, human rights are now
rejected on ideological grounds. The EU itself has not been spared by the
current backlash. In its Member States, a populist wave has empowered political
forces that increasingly question the significance of core human rights, such
as the right to freedom of expression.
In these troubled times for human rights, opinion polls show that European citizens perceive human rights as one of the most important values for them personally and one of the values that best represent the EU itself.
Having emerged from World War II and its atrocities, European countries were determined to secure lasting peace, and the Union they created is now founded on respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which guide and shape its legislation and policies. Within the EU, recent action has included new legislation on data protection and access to justice, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and initiatives to combat inequality, discrimination and hate speech. There is also an acknowledgement that more needs to be done to complete the legal framework to combat discrimination and strengthen internal mechanisms for upholding the rule of law. Human rights are additionally a general objective of EU external action. The EU is deeply committed to promoting human rights, as enshrined in international treaties, in its relations with third countries and with other multilateral regional and global institutions. During the last EP mandate, the EU consistently applied and deepened a range of policy approaches that strengthen its role and image as a normative power that inspires others through its example. Maintaining and consolidating this policy remains vital for preserving the EU’s image and credibility as a normative power, based on values, that has the capacity to act at a time when the principle of multilateralism is increasingly questioned.