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Environment: Clearing the (Political) Air

  • October 25th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

An apologetic EU is to tighten standards for the handling of toxic waste, following the recent fatal dumping of a poisonous cargo from Europe, in the Ivory Coast.

Environment Ministers of the EU decided this week (23.10.06) to improve the reinforcement of Europe-wide legislation on waste controls.

The European Commissioner for Environment, Stavros Dimas, said the tragedy in the Ivory Coast, in which ten people were e killed and hundreds taken to hospital, was “a crime that must not be repeated.”

“We may also need new legislation, for instance to ensure that sea ports carry out adequate monitoring and checks on waste shipments; and I strongly believe we need to introduce effective criminal sanctions ,” he said.

European delegates will report on the strengthening of positions on waste disposal at a United Nations environmental conference, focused especially on climate change, in Nairobi next month (27.11.06 – 1.12.06).

They will also be reporting on new air quality regulations agreed to by Environment Ministers of the EU (24.10.06), which for the first time will limit exposure to fine dust known as PM2.5.

The European Commission has reported that the small particles, from sources such as diesel engines, some industrial processes and household boilers are recognised as the most dangerous air pollutants for human health.

A binding Directive to governments will require a 20% reduction of exposure to such particles during the period 2010-19.

The Environment Ministers granted Member States a time extension of two years, to allow them five years to achieve lower concentrations of a main block of seven pollutants, including coarse particles called P10 – recognising “difficulties” with implementation.

Mr Dimas said moves by the European Parliament to actually relax P10 standards would be rejected by the European Commission, as the executive body.

“We need to improve the protection of people’s health, not weaken it,” he said.

He was also concerned about the ability of the EU to deliver on undertakings to cut carbon emissions, as part of international efforts to reduce impacts of climate change.

He said some of the European member government had suggested higher permitted levels of emissions than levels actually being experienced in the environment at this time.

The standards were to be employed in emissions trading – known also as carbon trading.

Reference: Stavros Dimas, Climate Change and Air Quality: Press Statement at the Environment Council, SPEECH/06/624; Environment Council, Luxembourg, 23 October 2006.