EU Policy. ROUNDUP: Key environment votes in parliament

Wilfredo Lee / AP
Wilfredo Lee / AP Copyright Wilfredo Lee/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Marta Pacheco
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Laws designed to reduce shipping waste disposals, restore ecosystems, increase accountability for polluters and to reinforce transparency in the wholesale energy market passed the European Parliament's 25-28 February plenary in Strasbourg. All legislative files have been forwarded to the EU Council.

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Shipments of waste

MEPs rubber-stamped on Tuesday (27 February) the Waste Shipments Regulation with 587 votes in favour and eight against. While EU exports of waste to non-EU countries reached 32.7 million tonnes in 2020, according to the parliament, the new bill, led by MEP Pernille Weiss (Denmark/EPP) will ban EU exports of plastic waste to the global south or other developing countries two years after the bill’s entry into force. It will also establish a central electronic hub, to improve reporting and transparency among EU ships as well as an enforcement group to improve cooperation between EU countries to prevent and detect illegal shipments.

Nature restoration

Provisionally agreed with the EU Council last November after months of highly politicised negotiations, the Nature Restoration Law was backed in plenary on Tuesday (February 27) with 329 votes in favour and 275 against, after pressure from the right-wing and conservatives to drop it amid food security concerns. While over 80% of European habitats are in poor shape, according to the European Environment Agency, the bill led by lawmaker César Luena (Spain/S&D) is meant to rehabilitate at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all degraded ecosystems by 2050. It establishes obligations and targets on various fronts, such as farmlands, pollinators, rivers, forests — with a target of three billion trees to be planted — and urban areas, in order to gradually reverse the environmental damage caused by climate change and unchecked human activity.

Environmental crime

Another clean rubber-stamp, the Environmental Crime Directive was adopted on Tuesday (February 27) with 499 votes in favour and 100 against. Led by the Dutch parliamentarian Antonius Manders (EPP), the bill includes a new list of environmental crimes including the illegal timber trade and depletion of water resources. While environmental crime is regarded as the fourth most diffuse criminal activity worldwide, according to the parliament, the new law aims to bring accountability for environmental crime perpetrators by punishing individual persons by up to ten years in prison and by fining companies up to 5% of worldwide turnover, or €40m.

Manipulation on the wholesale energy market

A response to skyrocketing prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency (REMIT) was approved on Thursday (February 29) with 440 votes in favour and 32 against. Led by MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho (Portugal/EPP), the bill is meant to mitigate the volatility of energy prices during unexpected crises. REMIT's main goal is to shield consumers from speculative practices that could inflate prices and cause supply disruptions. The new law is meant to strengthen the role of regulatory bodies, such as the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER).

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