Report from Meeting on 26th June on Biofuels
Report from Meeting on 27th June on the Climate and Trade Nexus
Report from Meeting on 28th June on Impact Assessment

Report from Meeting
on 26th June on Biofuels

A session was held at Onze (11.11.11 (Vlasfabriek Straat = the Flemish NGDO platform) to plan a later meeting at the European Parliament (which conflicted with DG Trade's event). The invitation to the event from 13-16 h at the EP is here in PDF.

Various representatives from the Global South warned against the current biofuel hysteria. They also denounced sustainability certification.

WWF is of a different opinion on sustainability certification. In fact, WWF has just launched their report on how bioenergy certification should work in the EU and internationally. It is a follow-up on their response to the recent EU consultation on biofuels certification and at the same time "just the start" of their intention to do much more work on bioenergy certification. Therefore they  have explicitly requested feedback  (cover letter, Q&A and study in PDF).

News story on EurActiv

EMPA has just published a report on biofuels of which this Executive Summary (PDF) is available.

Thomas Ruddy maintains this online bibliography on bioenergy.

Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson spoke later on biofuels on 5th July 2007 (text) (link to movie and critique from EU Ag lobby).

Report from Meeting on 27th June on the Climate and Trade Nexus

Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has judged critically the proposal to introduce a Border Tax Adjustment (BTA) on products originating outside the signatories to the Kyoto Protocol as a "Kyoto tax". Mr. Bercero from DG Trade said BTA and competitiveness comprised one of the two most controversial issues currently on the trade agenda. The importation of biofuels was the other.

Thomas Ruddy asked whether any special liberalization of trade in Environmental Goods and Services (EGS) could be done without a successful conclusion of the Doha Round. Mr. Bercero from DG Trade answered that that would be the first option, whereas a second option would be to reflect EGS in bilaterals. Only then would it be conceivable to try to reflect EGS in a successor regime to the Kyoto Protocol.

Dr. Kamal Gueye of ICTSD spoke on a forthcoming study done with the World Bank. One main result was that the effects of energy efficiency standards were found to be more significant than those of taxes. He listed the following functions of the international trade system: regulating, rewarding and arbitrating. Regulating includes subsidies along with standards and taxes. EGS falls in the rewarding category. An "Energy Green Box" (of "traffic light" exceptions to the prohibition) could be put under the rewarding function as an instrument promoting renewables such as sustainable biofuels. However as a native Senegalese wondering about biofuels, he thought we should "guide producer countries, not create sustainability criteria." The arbitrating function could affect ways that the current trend towards measuring the carbon footprint of products affects the competitiveness of products from the Global South. On the relationship between trade treaties and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), Dr. Gueye expressed his hope that WTO members would allow trade measures to be supportive of objectives outside trade policy.

Renate Nikoley from DG Environment announced that a green paper is open for comments on Market-based instruments (MBI), such as environmental taxes, tradable permit systems or targeted subsidies until July.

Tarasofsky and Cosbey have just published a new paper on trade and competitiveness. Pages 19-21 deal with biofuels and with Border Tax Adjustment (BTA): "it is unclear and has never been tested whether such adjustment is permissible for indirect taxes (‘taxes occultes’) on an input that is fully consumed during production" [like CO2]. Later it deals with subsidies, a green box for EGS and energy standards.

Francesco Sindico has just published a new paper entitled "Climate Taxes and the WTO: Is the Multilateral Trade Regime a Further Obstacle for Efficient Domestic Climate Policies?" in EcoLomics (Volume 2006).

17 h Afterwards back to Eur.Parl. for this programme in PDF.

Report from Meeting on 28th June on Impact Assessment

Draft Agenda in PDF

A report by The Evaluation Partnership (TEP) was distributed by email in advance, although it was originally supposed to be made  available on this official Commission Website on Better Regulation.   The bottom portion of that page describes how Evaluation of the Commission's impact assessment system is done.  Later the study became available on this other site.

Alexander Italiener (from the Secretariat-General) is the Chairperson of the Impact Assessment Board (IAB) set up by Commision President Barroso in November 2006. One IAB member Gert-Jan Koopman (ENTR) commented that "this Commission has invested a lot of political capital in Better Regulation". Opinions will start biting over time, he said, especially as they are to be published (see site above).

Mr. Italiener showed statistics on how the IAB had worked with the Commission services. Its work had been "useful", "led to changes" and it had appeared "strict." The high number of enthusiastic participants at the meeting, especially from the business community, attested to the general approval of the IAB's work. Correspondingly the afternoon panel consisted of many business people, but also John Hontelez from the European Environmental Bureau (of NGOs) and a labor representative.

Mr. Italiener listed questions to be checked when the IAB examines an IA. One of them was "Is the right of EU to act demonstrated?" Thomas Ruddy assumed rightly that this was a reference to subsidiarity within the Union, and therefore warned that the IAB should also look abroad and check the compatibility of proposed measures with international treaties. He referred to an OECD working group that recently pointed out that applying a trade screen as part of impact assessment procedures could become regarded as essential in coming years and there is "a need for greater collaboration and coordination between trade and regulatory officials during the development of regulatory proposals” (OECD 2006, p. 6 and 12). Answer: the Board looks explicitly at these two factors: coherence and international implications of EU proposals.

An English consultancy called The Evaluation Partnership presented its study. The evaluation of the evaluators was mostly favourable. A news-story later concluded that "EU proposals' impact assessments [were] 'not trusted'".

At the Spring Council meeting in 2008 the IAB is to be evaluated by the Council.

Section 2.13 of the TEP study is on institutional learning, as dealt with in the paper co-authored by Thomas Ruddy and Lorenz Hilty (abstract in PDF). Fulltext can be purchased here.

Conference speaker Catherine Day, European Commission Secretary-General, spoke earlier here on the Lisbon Agenda and the Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS). She came late to the IAB meeting and reported that the Council had been showing less interest in IA than the Parliament.

Updated: 17th July 2007

Surf back up to SERI member page Thomas Ruddy

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