Category Archives: Green Issues

S.I.F. at the European Rural Parliament 2019

S.I.F. at the European Rural parliament 2019

by Camille Dressler, S.I.F. Chair

The 4th European Rural Parliament took place in Candas, Asturias in Spain on November 6-9, 2019. The host for the 4th ERP was READER, the Asturian Rural Development Network and their partners. It was a great event altogether, bringing  335 participants  from 38 countries. This year, it was combined with the Youth Rural parliament who brought extra zest to the proceedings!

The topic of this ERP was the relationship between rural and urban areas, but representing ESIN, the European Small Islands Federation which has newly joined the ERP partnership, as well as S.I.F.  I was tasked to talk about islands, and chose to concentrate on what is happening in terms of island revival in Scotland, using the example of Eigg to introduce the signs of a welcome return of younger people and families, facilitated by the help provided by Scottish Community Empowerment legislation.

As a result, Eigg  may well look forward to a visit from Alex from Belarus, as  he and other folks wanted to get ideas of how to rehabilitate the devalued concept of  communities in post soviet countries.  A chapter about Eigg also featured in the book “Europe on the move, ” launched at the ERP, a collection of stories from all corners of Europe over the 25 years of the existence of the transformative network Forum Synergies, which in an earlier incarnation had helped the inhabitants of Eigg on their journey to self-determination! You could say the island was well signposted!

  

 “Actions by civil society actors can have a crucial role in enhancing wellbeing”

ERPs are places where you meet meet really interesting people like Bill Slee of the Hutton Institute, now retired and working for the SIMRA project: Social innovations in Marginalised Rural Areas – Their booklet included the story of Community Energy in Orkney and Tacsi’s social care success in Uist,  alongside other great  rural European innovators and it was great to see the Scottish Islands so prominently featured.!

Here is what Bill says about social innovation “Creating new formal and informal institutions in civil society may be critical in developing effective responses to contemporary challenges in rural Europe.  Where markets are weak and national and local government has limited resources, actions by civil society actors can have a crucial role in enhancing wellbeing.  But what makes an effective civil society organisation, a charitable trust or an NGO effective?  Why can they operate more efficiently than the state or the market?  What are the limits to their reach? Building collaborative possibilities and creating social capital through new institutions lies at the heart of social innovation.  But policy can help and in somewhere like Scotland policies for community empowerment have contributed hugely to enhancing the opportunities.  Sometimes we need to combine policy innovation, social innovation and technical innovation to deliver improvements. But we need to focus not only on smart villages, but on making the less smart, smarter.” concluded Bill.

Smart Villages, smart islands

Another interest was the topic of Smart Villages which was discussed widely in the workshops, including ours:  Smart islands/ Smart villages. In this  workshop,  we compared strategies to ensure better, more sustainable lives and discussed how we could all learn from the Smart Islands initiative.  We learnt about innovative social care ideas in areas of Spain that find themselves very isolated: in villages of Zaragoza, older people are all given a mobile phone to enable them to be contacted and to contact help if needed.

The Smart Villages programme is the current sub-theme of the broader European Network for Rural Development ( ENRD) thematic work on ‘Smart and Competitive Rural Areas’.  With a 10 billion euros budget, this is an ambitious programme, and for us in Scotland, it might be a good idea to engage – before it is too late – with Smart Villages Scotland.

Going round the ERP market place situated in Candas’ former sardine factory decorated with the portraits of all former factory workers, it was great to explore all the different produces brought by delegates and exchange smart ideas….

Climate Emergency

As always, it is impossible to see everything and attend everything, but one workshop I really enjoyed attending was delivered by ECOLISE.

Francesca and Davie, the two ECOLISE co-presidents,  told participants that the challenge of transitioning to a Low Carbon Climate Resilient Society requires not just action at national and international levels but, most importantly, it requires ongoing, long-term, deep engagement at local community level. Our worskhop’s tasks was to reflect who we needed to involve and how,  to effect that transformative change.

Community led initiatives across Europe and elsewhere are actively envisioning creating and living within alternatives that are rooted within sustainability equality and social justice. These initiatives must be supported and become the basis of a new normal if Europe is to achieve its ambitious targets on climate action and sustainability,” said Francesca, who also made a great speech at the plenary.

Davie presented the inspiring case study of community-led action in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, Ireland, where the ecovillage and wider community is modelling a resilient and low-carbon society. (He did inspire me to visit, and I did a week later after finishing my Galway Smart islands training.  Plans are now afoot to invite Davie to Scotland …)

Meeting old friends! 

It was also great to meet again with Omar and Vigfus from Iceland, with whom I had a great exchange in Venhorst at the 3rd ERP in Holland. A retired actor in his 80’s, Omar is composing and singing songs about the dire state of the Earth and presented at the ERP the film he made travelling through Iceland on his bike: with the ice cap melting, his country is now seeing  a worrying increase in volcanic activity and lava eruption. As to Vigfus, he is proposing for Grimsay in Iceland to link up with Grimsay in Scotland, a great idea!

 

Fantastic hospitality rooted in  strong traditions. 

Music, songs, bagpipes, cider uniquely poured from a height – more than 500 apple varieries are grown in Asturias – often drunk whilst eating roasted chestnusts as we were offered with the espichas, the gastronomic feast of many Asturian tapas, all this truly gave all us a taste of this fascinating rural area which had to do much to re-invent itself after the closure of its mines and canning factories.

We also got a feel for the strength of the wind on the Cantabrian coast as storms abated on the Bay of Biscay  and gained  a real appreciation for the Asturias mountains traditions. These are very much alive, although at risk through abandonment of isolated hamlets and villages, but initiatives such as the Pro-biodiversity quality mark for mountain lamb have proved to be a game changer. There was much to learn in too short a time but Asturias has charmed us:  we all promised to come back.

  

The ERP 2019 call to action

The event, discussions, workshops, all this effervescent activity now needs to translate into pressure on decision makers at EU level to ensure Rural Europe is taken into consideration in all areas of policy making.  “We see the dominating urban and growth agendas combined with the disconnection between local people and decision-makers as a threat to rural life. A real rural agenda combined with inclusive cooperation and partnerships at all levels is needed to ensure rural Europe to thrive. ” clearly states the 4th ERP final declaration.

Speaking to the 4th ERP, Mihail Dumitru, Deputy Director General of DG Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission, supported the value of the ERP in bringing together so many countries and people across Europe with a common passion for the maintenance of our rural territories.

The new Commission for 2019-2024 is tasked with “developing a new long-term vision for rural areas and ensuring that the needs of rural areas are specifically catered for in national Strategic Plans under the new CAP”

The ERP partners will now work to ensure that the voices and messages of the 4th ERP Gathering will be heard in the corridors of power in Brussels and also in the national governments across Europe.

Rural People’s Declaration of Candás Asturias

9 th November 2019

We, 335 participants from 38 European countries, met during the 4th European Rural Parliament at the village of Candás Asturias, Spain, from 6 to 9 November 2019. Participants included rural people, representatives of civil society organisations, researchers, national governments and European Union institutions. We see the dominating urban and growth agendas combined with the disconnection between local people and decision-makers as a threat to rural life. A real rural agenda combined with inclusive cooperation and partnerships at all levels is needed to ensure rural Europe to thrive.

We, the rural people of Europe

• demand that rural is considered equal to urban in minds and practice;

• expect the right to choose where we live and work;

• call on governments to recognise and appreciate the value of rural volunteering, community life, entrepreneurship and natural resources;

• ask politicians to accept rural people, communities, entrepreneurs and municipalities as partners;

• request that the voice of rural people is heard in policy and consultative processes;

• insist poverty and social exclusion are addressed;

• ask governments and decision-makers to ensure that services are as close as possible to rural people to avoid security risks and loss of time/money;

• are ready to contribute with local service solutions and economic initiatives;

• welcome a real rural development policy for villages, communities and small towns;

• support smart, community-friendly initiatives and programmes like LEADER/CLLD and ERASMUS but demand that the regulation and administration of these programmes is simplified;

• require flexible working conditions and opportunities with effective support systems;

• ask for real, meaningful and engaging civil society participation in designing and delivering European programmes;

• encourage and support all forms of cooperation between local actors, including contractual solutions, project-based activities and multi-level partnerships of public, private and civil society actors;

• want to cooperate with local established structures and stakeholders including LEADER groups, Village/Community NGOs, development partnerships and local authorities.

The Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative

Malta Political Declaration on European Islands

Following on from the Smart Islands Initiative, spearheaded by island local and regional authorities of the Members States signing the Smart Islands Declaration,  momentum has been building up for national and European support for islands in Europe.

In the frame of the informal meeting of Energy ministers that took place in Valetta under the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, Ministers of 14 Members States including from Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Finland and Estonia signed together with the European Commission a political declaration to launch the new “Clean Energy for EU Islands” initiative.

Unfortunately the UK was not represented, although Scotland is very much at the forefront of the Renewable Energy revolution. However these policies have the support of the Scottish Government, and Scotland through S.I.F. and the Islands Councils in the CPMR are actively representing local and regional stakeholders.

Clean Energy for EU Islands” initiative.

The initiative builds on the Commission’s “Clean Energy for All    Europeans” Communication of November 2016. The overall goal is for the EU to become a low carbon economy via transformation of its energy system by

  • putting energy efficiency first
  • achieving global leadership in renewable energies
  • providing a fair deal for consumers

To start the transition process in the EU, the Initiative aims at  first accelerating the clean energy transition on EU islands, by helping them reduce their dependency on energy imports through enhanced exploitation of their own renewable energy sources and uptake of more modern and innovative energy systems.

Members States expressed their full support to the Initiative as a stable, long-term framework that will help support replicable and scalable projects through the provision of financing and technical capacity for islands.

To this end, they invited other countries to join and:

  • accelerate the clean energy transition on EU’s 2700 islands
  • help islands reduce dependency and costs of energy imports by using RES
  • embrace modern and innovative energy systems
  • improve air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions

The Chania Inaugural Forum

The island of Crete hosted the Inaugural Forum on the “Clean Energy for All European Islands” initiative, part of the Winter Package, that was tabled by the European Commission last November under the title “Clean Energy for All Europeans”.

The Forum was organized by the European Commission and the Greek government with over 200 participants and close to 40 speakers taking the floor, representing an overwhelming endorsement by political representatives of national, regional and local level as well as industry and civil society stakeholders. Community Energy Scotland was invited to present the access project in Mull and other pioneering Scottish projects.

The islands are now widely recognised as platforms for pilot initiatives and showcases for success stories. Islands are:

  • innovation leaders for integrating local RES production, storage facilities and demand response;
  • demonstrating how decarbonisation creates resilient energy systems via reduced reliance on fossil fuel imports, the protection of environment, and autonomy of energy supply
  • showing that energy transition can be a driver for economic development (new local jobs, new business opportunities, self-sufficiency of island communities)

Next measures

The next measures are a Clean Energy Package to create the right legal framework (RES, consumers and stability for investment and a two directional approach for facilitation of transition and “island-frontrunners”: top-down and bottom up, as well as cooperation with national/regional organisations of islands

The EU commission has an ambitious objective: 1000 EU islands decarbonised by 2030!

A Clean EU Energy Islands Secretariat

The call for a Clean Energy EU island secretariat is a first step to ensure that islands can become platforms for pilot initiatives on clean energy transition and showcase success stories of islands’ transition at international level. The next step is to set up an Island Facility  under Horizon 2020 to support the comprehensive energy transition in preparatory and implementation phase.

Based in Brussels but reaching out to the islands, the Secretariat’s aim is to carry out a benchmarking study on energy systems on islands and to assist the islands to design and prepare decarbonisation plans by providing dedicated capacity building, technical assistance and advisory services.

  • It will create and manage a platform of exchange of practice for islands involved clean energy projects through a dedicated website which will also offer web-based tools to facilitate networking and exchanges.
  • It will also organise Islands Initiative forums and islands technology fairs to bring together all interested parties including investors, to share best practice in financial and regulatory tools and promoting best available technologies, with the aim to take action on the ground.
  • It will concentrate on identifying and executing clean energy projects that create local employment, community empowerment, as well as support growth in tourism, agriculture, fisheries and other important economic sectors on the islands through lower local energy pricesS.I.F. and ESIN are part of a bid to run the secretariat fronted by the CPMR, together with Community Energy Scotland. Their bid is  the only one fronted by island organisations and is supported by the Scottish Government. The winning bid will be announced by July 2018.

Smart Sustainable Inclusive Blue Growth

4th Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference, Glasgow 

If the potential of the blue economy is to be realised, strategy must be based on local need and local communities must be key stakeholders – this was the message from Jerry Lundy, Committee of the Regions.

The Atlantic Action Plan was adopted in 2013 with the aim of revitalising the marine economy in its five partner nations – France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The Plan has four priorities:

  • To promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • To protect, secure and enhance the marine and coastal environment.
  • To improve accessibility and connectivity.
  • To create a socially inclusive and sustainable model of regional development.

The Action Plan was an invitation to the private sector, the research community, regional and national public bodies and others to develop projects based around these four priorities. A Support Team was set up to offer guidance, project development support and to help find funding for projects.

Each year a stakeholder conference facilitates networking, helps identify project partners and scope funding opportunities. As current chair of the Atlantic Strategy Group, the UK hosted this 4th conference in Glasgow which focussed on the 4th priority ‘Regeneration across Generations: socially inclusive sustainable development of the European Atlantic seaboard’.

The lack of dedicated funding was highlighted as a key challenge – trying to identify the most appropriate funding stream and then going through the complex and lengthy application process has made it very difficult for small-scale innovative projects to get involved.

Some of the projects coming through are fantastic and it’s well worth having a look through the 17 that were nominated for awards to see if any are relevant to your own community. Projects involving Scotland include:

  • Cool Route: increasing marine tourism and its reach into local economies along a new route from Cork to Tromsø in Western Norway.
  • Circular Ocean: tackling marine pollution by looking at ways to use discarded fishing nets including in 3D printing, waste water treatment and reinforcing building material.
  • TAPAS: Tools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability.
  • ATLAS: developing new tools to better explore the Atlantic ecosystem on a trans-Atlantic scale.
  • Smart Fish: development of a new electronic tag to monitor seafood from harvest to plate.

At the event we heard about the Bio Base North West Europe project that has brought together a range of partners to provide financial, technological, training, networking and political support to enterprises innovating in biobased products and processes – one project that has been helped to get off the ground is Celtic Renewables which is developing next generation biofuel using waste from malt whisky production.

One project achieved a special award for reaching so many people across different communities and generations. Set up by a small group of women, the IAIA Association of Solidarity Needlework (IAIA means granny in Spanish) is a non-profit organisation offering “Yarn Therapy” in nursing homes, senior centres, schools etc.  Families donate balls of wool and a network of over 400 volunteers knit, crochet or use other needlework to make blankets and items that are then donated to refugees.  In 2015/16 the group decided to knit for a blue cause: to protect our marine environment and celebrate the World Oceans Day – 300 blue blankets, 3,000 scarves and 1,000 endangered knitted animals were produced and showed in schools, day care centres, museums and at the Ministry.

Workshops attended at the event included:

Year of Scotland’s Coast and Water 2020:  marine tourism has been identified as a key growth area and a range of projects were highlighted – Cool Route, West Coast Marine Tourism Collaboration led by Argyll & the Isles Tourism Co-operative, development of a Maritime Skills course at Argyll College UHI, Sail West Project and the Hebridean Whale Trail.  The difficulty of balancing growing tourism with local infrastructure and conservation was highlighted – ‘identity mapping’ was a technique used in Holland to put the local community in control of development.

Community-led Local Development: opportunities for fisheries communities and co-operation: Scotland’s whole coast is covered by Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) but very few projects are coming forward for funding – only 33 in Scotland compared to Ireland’s 190.  Information for each country can be found from the support unit FARNET.

Small Islands Think Big in Orkney

‘Small Islands are “the agents of change” that can be trusted to make the low carbon revolution happen in Europe’ declared Brendan Devlin, Special Adviser to DG Energy, at our 2017 European Small Islands Federation annual conference.

Over 10 to 12 September, 32 islanders from 13 European countries gathered in Orkney to discuss and learn from good practice on a range of topics including island produce and branding, tourism, sustainable transport, renewable energy and smart islands.

Discussion on island branding was facilitated by Douglas Watson of Connect Local and we learned of the journey behind the growing success of Orkney’s strong branding.

coming to Orkney and discovering the Orkney food and produce brand together with the Danish Island speciality brand was an inspiration. As a small island food producer myself, I am pleased that we are looking to introduce a similar designation for the producers in our small European islands. We have established a working group and intend to have an islands brand up and running in the near future. This will identify authentic island products that meet agreed criteria and will help with marketing and of course additional employment in the food and drink sectors on the islands’ – Máirtín Ó Méalóid of Oileán Chléire (Development Co-operative of Cape Clear Island) and Vice Chair of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (The Irish Islands Federation).

Amongst other highlights were learning visits to the small islands of Shapinsay and North Ronaldsay. The community-owned wind turbine on Shapinsay generates around £90,000 each year for island projects and subsidises a community mini bus, electric taxi and an out of hours ferry service to give islanders more flexibility in their travel to and from the Orkney mainland.

The final day saw the ESIN AGM, followed by an afternoon of talks around the themes of Smart Islands and the Clean Energy for EU Islands programme.

Best of all, was the quality of the exchanges between islanders from all corners of Europe. Everyone found they had much in common in terms of opportunities and challenges and all came away feeling inspired, energised and very impressed with Orkney.

‘We will be taking the AGM and debate to Brussels next year and in the meantime, we will continue to push for the needs of the smaller islands of Europe to be recognised and addressed, especially in the context of the Territorial Cohesion Policy post 2020 and Brexit’ – Camille Dressler, Chair of SIF and ESIN.

The event was hosted by the Scottish Islands Federation in collaboration with the Orkney International Science Festival. SIF members from Fetlar, Bute, Cumbrae, Barra, Eigg, Luing, Mull, Rowsay, Egilsay & Wyre, Stronsay and Mull were able to take part thanks to support from the Community Learning Exchange which contributed to the learning visit to Shapinsay.

You can read the report from the learning visit and some of the presentations below:

Learning Visit to Orkney – September 2017

Island Passport – Branding of the Danish Islands

labelling-of-island-food-products.ESIN AGM 2017

Shapinsay Activities

Öland beyond fossil fuels

Smart Islands Initiative – Sustainable Island Mobility Plan

Elektra Tech Data Sheet – Finland’s First Hybrid Ferry

Orkney Food & Drink and Orkney Crafts Association

Smart Islands – Kythnos Smart Island Master Plan

Looking to the horizon – islands in the front line

Islands must be at the heart of the EU Cohesion Policy

To be an island should not be a problem but a pillar of development!

This was the strong message delivered by CPMR President  Vasco Cordeiro (and President of Azores Government)  on 9 March 2017.  He also said: “we must speak very clearly and very loudly about the islands’ needs.”

The CPMR Island Commission’s AGM 2017 was hosted on Gozo, Malta’s smaller island, and brought together island regions from the North to the South of Europe to look at the future of Cohesion Policy post-2020.

Islands must think globally and act locally

As an observer member, the European Small Islands Federation, represented by its chair, Camille Dressler, also chair of the Scottish Islands Federation,  was extremely pleased to see some very strong principles being reiterated by the  minister for Gozo in particular

  • Islands must think globally and act locally
  • One size does not dictate all nor add value to a nation.
  • It is important to bridge the gap between the EU and policies
  • It is crucial to get rid of bureaucratic barriers and help micro, small and medium size enterprises through changes to State Aid rules for islands and a rise in De minimis level at least in line with inflation.
  • The Cohesion Policy, as a fundamental pillar of EU construction, must act as a forward looking policy bringing EU citizens together
  • There must be a new way to look at shipping issues
  • There should be social policies for the islands
  • There should be special funding packages for the islands
  • To serve the islands adequately, there must be a place-based approach to the EU Development and Territorial Cohesion Policy.

 

The future of the EU and the islands

Eleni Marianou, the CPMR islands Commission secretary, was very clear on what had to be done in response to Mr Juncker’s White paper:

  • The CPMR needs to make a response to the EU White Paper and respond to the key challenges of competitiveness, investment and Territorial Cohesion.
  • It needs a strong voice and think of target audiences: EU institutions, National governments, EU Regions, Citizens and Young People.
  • Response includes making the case for EU cooperation based on CPMR principles of balanced Territorial Principles, solidarity between the EU and its regions, championing the position of regions in EU policy-making.
  • CPMR needs to prepare for a strong lobbying campaign prior to and during the EU parliamentary elections in 2018- 2019

 The islands’s access to the Single Market is not  equal to that of other regions.

The presentation by Ioannis Spillanis from the University of Aegean Island and Local development laboratory made the following points:

  • 3.4 %of EU population live on islands. Their access to the Single market is NOT equal to the access enjoyed by other parts of the EU.
  • Insularity has a negative aspect on businesses and people and Brexit will make it worse by reducing the number of islands in the EU and the overall funding share.
  • EU Sectoral policies are without differentiation
  • For the islands to realise their potential, EU policies need to include insularity clauses.
  • For this reason, a new island typology is needed. Current indicators are woefully inadequate: new indicators are required to describe the islands situation as the classification used in NUTS2 and NUTS3 is not good enough. (NUTS 3 islands are drowned in the NUTS2 areas)
  • To achieve the EU’s principles of Territorial Cohesion and Sustainability, the development model needs to be changed to include Equal opportunities for the islands and Green island policies.

Entreprise on islands  needs an  innovative approach from the EU

INSULEUR president Georgios Benetos showed how islands are left behind from the business point of view:

  • No economy of scale for the islands
  • Added costs of insularity need to be taken into account
  • Access to credit and finance is more complicated on islands

Fundamental changes in the way the EU could support the islands:

  • VAT should be lower as it is already on some islands (Corsica, Heligoland) whereas there is no VAT in the Faroe islands.
  • There should be a lower level of taxation for islands to help small and medium enterprises as well as micro-enterprises.

Islands need support as well as a Can Do approach

MEP Myriam Dalli  who is involved in supporting Blue Growth projects, agreed  that  islands do need support, and the way to get it was to demonstrate a Can Do approach.

Islands at the forefront of renewable revolution

The presentation by the Western Isles Council showed how the islands could become Energy Positive Islands by investing in their potential for renewables. Bornholm ‘s vice mayor presented the island Bright Green Future.  Kostas Komninos built on that concept by presenting the Smart Island Initiative to be launched in Brussels on 28 March.

Corsica to lead on post 2020 negotiations and insularity clause

Gilles Simeoni, President of the Executive Council of Corsica, was unanimously elected as President of the CPMR Islands Commission (CPMR-IC).

Following his election, President Simeoni said: “The months and years to come will be decisive not only for our islands but also for Europe, in the context of a very marked internal and international crisis”.

He identified the need to put islands at the heart of Cohesion Policy and suggested that an insularity clause should appear in transport, tax policies, waste management and energy.

From a purely Scottish Point of view, it was gratifying to discuss with Mr Simeoni how the Corsican team had come to Scotland to meet with Cal Mac to look at the way they are structured and with a view to replicate the C-Mal and Cal Mac model!

The CPMR IC position 

The CPMR Islands Commission, which represents all of Europe’s island regions, has reiterated that islands and outermost regions are unique because of their remoteness.

The Islands Commission has called for the termination of the traditional perception that islands are too different from one another to justify policy measures at EU level.

While debate on post-2020 policies is emerging, island regions across Europe have called for the EU to develop a strong post-2020 Cohesion Policy with a robust territorial dimension which would earmark specific funding to assist island and outermost regions reach the EU objectives.

The CPMR-IC would welcome a constructive dialogue with the European Commission in 2017 ahead of the legislative proposals for post-2020 Cohesion Policy.

Furthermore, it has urged the European Institutions to correct the glaring exclusion of islands from the legal recognition of different territorial typologies that is currently being debated.

Click here to access the speeches and presentations made at the Gozo 2017 AGM.

Islands: Part of the solution to Europe’s 2030 Climate and Energy Challenges

Islands: Part of the solution to Europe’s 2030 Climate and Energy Challenges

As Europe moves towards the implementation of its 2030 climate and energy agenda and the broader Energy Union objectives, the European electricity sector fully recognises that islands will play an important role in ensuring their success. In this context EURELECTRIC organised a Workshop entitled “Islands: Part of the Solution to the 2030 Climate and Energy Challenges” in Brussels on 20 February 2017.

During the workshop, EURELECTRIC launched a report entitled “Towards an Energy Transition on Europe’s Islands” which highlights the energy situation of European islands. The report is an attempt to synthesise some of the flagship projects pioneered on several islands and showcasing sustainable solutions to the challenge of advancing energy transition efforts on islands. It also proposes how the positive experience from these projects and more systematised effort towards similar projects could be further streamlined to address the unique challenges faced by islands’ energy systems.

The focus of the workshop would be to present some of these success stories but also engage relevant stakeholders in a debate over how to take forward the positive but isolated impact of these projects in a more coordinated manner. In the age of rapid energy system decentralisation, renewables deployment, system smartification and digitalisation, solutions offering answers to challenges on islands are of value to decentralisation issues faced on the mainland as well. The workshop is a first step towards identifying areas requiring further European action as well as opportunities to islands as test-beds to technologies and services, which may prove key to unlocking energy challenges on the mainland.

Check Euroelectric for upcoming events!

How will Brexit impact Britain’s waste management practices?

Brexit: a bad choice is no excuse for not moving towards zero waste

Joan Marc Simon of Zero Waste Europe says that it doesn’t have to mean the end of the path to a zero-waste future for Britain.

“Brexit means Brexit”. This is the most concise explanation we have received so far from the British authorities about how are they planning to implement the results of the referendum held in the UK in June 2016.

Not surprisingly, the immediate impacts of the referendum boosted the support for EU membership around the EU. However, one could think that after the first critical moments, things went back to normal; the economy continued to run, etc. And, after a few months, all seems ok.

Well, this is the result for Britain of continuing to live within the EU; in the Customs Union, in the Single Market and implementing the acquis communautaire. For as long as Article 50 is not invoked, the UK might be able to protect its economy, albeit hampering future investments in the country which will instead look for a place where there is more legal security.

But even when Brexit happens – if it ends up happening – there is agreement that the path to leave the EU will be long and tortuous with great potential to harm economy and negatively affect social and environmental standards in the UK.

With this article, I intend to analyse how the different scenarios of a Brexit might impact the waste sector in the UK.

But before that, let’s make one thing clear: from a democratic legitimacy standpoint, there is no reason why EU legislation implemented so far should stop being British law, for the simple reason that they were laws that were approved with the active participation of the British Government in the council negotiations and the British members of parliament in the European Parliament (EP). The European legislation is as British as it is Italian or German. Nevertheless, when contemplating the different types of European laws, one can make a difference about the legitimacy between EU Directives and EU Regulations.

Directives such as the Waste Framework Directive or the Industrial Emissions Directive were jointly approved by co-decision procedure by the Council and the EP, but they need to go through the national parliaments in order to be transposed into EU law into national law. Hence all directives have gone through the Westminster Parliament and they are fully legitimised to continue to be applicable.

Even more so, considering that normally, with transposition of an EU directive into national law, each Member State (MS) has a certain amount of leeway as to the exact rules to be adopted. Indeed, directives require Member States to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. So, there is nothing to prevent MSs from fixing higher national standards.

Regulations are something else: the European Commission and the Council can produce regulations which have the main characteristic that they need to be applied in MS and they don’t go through national parliaments, being directly applicable in its entirety and enforceable by law. The British legislators might feel legitimated to remove the regulations but this has the risk of creating loopholes or legal lacunae; for instance the waste shipment regulation rules the move of waste for recovery and disposal within EU borders and to the outside. If the Shipment Regulation was repealed, it would mean that the UK needs to create a new law that is compatible with the Waste Framework Directive and the Basel Convention. It makes more to just keep the regulation as it is.

This is an important point because if the UK leadership manages to convince the brexit supporters that in fact the UK participated in the making of the EU law and the British Parliament has transposed them into British law, it will be easier to convince them to keep the laws as they are, thereby saving time and efforts to everybody. Definitely, it would be a measure that should be supported by the local authorities, the industry and the NGOs for it provides legal certainty about what is going to happen in the coming years.

Besides the democratic legitimacy perspective, keeping the acquis communautaire can be observed from the position of the advantages of staying in the single market, which would involve accepting free movement of people. This is where we find at least three possible scenarios for the UK.

Firstly, there is the “out is out” option, with the UK not having access to the EU internal market. This would mean increase in tariffs and controls, less access to European and foreign markets which according to calculations from UK treasury would total a 7,5% loss of GDP over 15 years. The catastrophic consequences for Britain speak in favour of ruling out this option.

The second option is to try to emulate the Swiss option. Switzerland is not a member of the EU nor the EEA. Instead, it has negotiated a series of bilateral treaties governing its relations with the EU. Usually, each treaty provides for Switzerland to participate in a particular EU policy or programme. Adopting the Swiss model following Brexit could be appealing if the UK is looking for an ‘à la carte’ approach to European integration. But this depends also on the EU approach, indeed Commission and key Member States will be concerned about creating precedents for similarly complex and à la carte arrangements in the event of other Member States choosing to leave the EU in future. This option is therefore to be ruled out because of the bad predisposition of the EU to concede such an agreement.

Finally, there is the option of following the “Norwegian model”; that is implementing the EU acquis and being able to participate in the single market whilst allowing the UK to strike its own trade deals outside the EU. This is likely to be a more acceptable option despite implying new bureaucratic burdens for British exporters who will have to comply with complex “rules of origin” and which includes some contributions to the European budget too.

Obviously, if/when Brexit happens, the UK will end up developing a model of its own but it wouldn’t make legal, economic or environmental sense to scrap current Environmental legislation in order to create a completely new set of disparate laws which are not compatible with the definitions, procedures or targets set by its immediate trade partners.

It is indeed a paradox that the result of Brexit would mean that the UK will end up having to implement laws that they didn’t make, hence being in a “worst situation” than before the Brexit. This is not necessarily bad news for the EU environmental policies for it has been because of the UK filibustering that most environmental policies have been delayed or lacked ambition over the last years. As a result of UK’s departure from the negotiating table one could expect faster moves towards a circular economy.

In either case one should not forget that what the EU legislation does is provide the baseline for member states but those are always free to be more ambitious than what the directives say I.e. member states are obliged to achieve 50% recycling by 2020 but they can aim for more –not less – if they want. Examples from the network of zero waste municipalities show very well how in those municipalities where there is political will moving towards zero waste is possible. The UK history, England in particular, is not one of success or vision when it comes to resource and waste management. Countries that joined the EU 30 years later than the UK are performing substantially better; Slovenia and Ljubljana in particular have implemented ambitious and efficient waste collection systems and Estonia and Lithuania already have deposit and refund schemes operating for packaging.

Why can’t we envisage the UK implementing deposit and refund schemes, widespread separate collection at the kerbside and moving away from incinerators, landfills and waste exports? The recent microbeads ban in the UK shows that where there is a will there is a way. If the Brits are so brave to break away from the EU they will surely dare to provide a more resilient future for their new generations, won’t they?

Joan Marc Simon

Director,

Zero Waste Europe

 

Orkney’s Big Hit

Orkney’s naval past is very much in the spotlight at the moment.  However its future as a local hydrogen economy is also firmly in focus, with the recent launch of the ‘BIG HIT’ hydrogen project.

This major EU-funded project builds on the CES-led Surf ‘n’Turf project which is creating an opportunity for the community-owned wind turbine on Eday to generate power which would otherwise be impossible owing to the constraints on the Orkney grid. BIG HIT extends this idea to include local members Shapinsay Development Trust along with existing partners EMEC, ITM Power, Orkney Islands Council and Orkney College and new partners from elsewhere in Europe. Surf ‘n’ Turf, funded through the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund is progressing well.

The BIG HIT project in Orkney stands for ‘Building Innovative Green Hydrogen Systems in an Isolated Territory’ and is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 joint project.   The project, led by Aragon Hydrogen Foundation in Spain, sees us partner community member, Shapinsay Development Trust, and other partners, EMEC, Orkney Islands Council, as well as Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association, ITM (UK) and a number of international partners.

The BIG HIT launch took place in Kirkwall recently and welcomed partners from seven European countries, meeting face-to-face for the first time and hearing how community-owned renewables can produce clean hydrogen for road transport and heating public buildings.

BIG HIT is funded through €5m (around £4m) from the European Commission’s Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.  Its aim is to install and demonstrate the viability of a supply chain for hydrogen in an island territory.  Many of the technical challenges in making hydrogen from renewable electricity have already been overcome by Surf ‘n’ Turf, a project in which CES is leading, and has already attracted Scottish Government investment of £1.2m.

Innovative EV programme for Mull and Iona

MIST-CAR-LOGO

Mull and Iona Sustainable Transport wins Rural Innovators Award 2015-16 for Transport

MIST’s aims to reduce CO2 emissions and dependance on fossil fuel  on Mull and Iona, have been recognised by this award from the Rural parliament.

As travel and transport choices account for up to half or more of many households’ total CO2 emission, Electric Vehicle trials, liftsharing coordination , efficient driving tips and information about switching to EVs are all part of this innovative project.

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund, a team of 3 MIST Project Officers has been appointed to promote environmentally friendly island travel options through to March 2016.

EV hot spot events

With several EVs already being driven routinely here on the islands, 5 public charging points for EVs already operational and plans for rapid chargers in Tobermory and Fionnphort,  Mull is already well ahead of most other island communities. Recognising Mull as a ‘Hot Spot’ for EVs, the Energy Savings Trust has collaborated with MIST to present some special local events to bring all interested islanders up to speed with electric cars and incentives to switch.

Liftshare

The Mull and Iona Lift Share page established on Facebook has attracted over 350 members to engage, supportive of its purpose: To match willing drivers with willing passengers to share journeys. This group is open to any islander over 18 who is interested in linking up to share journeys.

EV trials

A Nissan LEAF electric car  has been purchased by MIST to enable islanders to enjoy the experience of driving with zero emissions and very low running costs. MIST is also acquiring an all electric Citroen Berlingo van for islanders and especially for island businesses to try out for free and to borrow. There is now a long list of folk who have expressed interest in free test drives and borrowing the car for a few days.

Following MIST’s successful collaboration with the Energy Savings Trust to host Electric Vehicle ‘Hot spot’ events on Mull, a Mitsubishi Highlander hybrid 4WD has been offered as a free loan, available for islanders to try out at no cost for a 2 months period.

Free EV training events offered to islanders on Mull and Iona

With several EVs already being driven routinely here on the islands, 5 public charging points for EVs already operational and plans for rapid chargers in Tobermory and Fionnphort, Mull is already well ahead of most other island communities.

On Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 February, MIST – –  is offering free training events to help current and prospective EV owners to look after their EV’s, and make the case for EVs as a suitable alternative for individuals and local groups.

Check the MIST website for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OFGEM consultation on Non Traditional Business Models

OFGEM have just opened a new and important consultation on how they should respond as a regulator to the emergence of ‘Non-Traditional Business Models’ or NTBMs. The consultation will close on  20 May 2015.

OFGEM are saying: “We want to ensure that regulation isn’t getting in the way of organisations delivering desirable consumer outcomes. But, because energy is an essential service, we must also protect the interests of existing and future electricity and gas consumers. And this means we need to understand the benefits, costs and risks of any change to regulation.”
“We have identified four important drivers motivating the emergence of these NTBMs:
• The low carbon transition
• Rapid technological innovation
• Lack of consumer engagement and trust
• Greater focus on affordability and especially on supporting consumers in vulnerable situations. “
“We have grouped these NTBMs into three broad themes:
• Local energy services (eg community energy)
• Bundled services (eg energy service companies)
• Customer participation (eg peer-to-peer energy).
Some NTBMs could also challenge the fundamentals of current regulatory arrangements. For example, some are seeking to generate and supply energy locally, which, at sufficient market penetration, could challenge the centralised way in which the energy market operates.”

Click here for the link to the full consultation document.