2016 Theme: Housing at the Centre

WHD 2016

"On this World Habitat Day, I urge national and local governments, city planners and communities everywhere to keep “Housing at the Centre”. Guaranteeing dignity and opportunity for all depends on people having access to affordable and adequate housing. I look forward to a successful Habitat III Conference that will help us advance our sustainable development agenda for the benefit of all humankind."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


In Resolution 40/202 of 17 December 1985, the UN General Assembly designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day.

The 2016 World Habitat Day campaign aims to raise awareness about the need for affordable housing for all in urban areas, towns and cities.

Access to adequate housing is a global challenge growing fast with urbanization. Around one quarter of the world’s urban population continues to live in slums and informal settlements.

An increasing number of urban dwellers, especially the poor and vulnerable groups (women, migrants, persons with disabilities and HIV, elder, youth and LGBT) are living in precarious conditions, addressing their housing needs informally, lacking access to basic services and living space, isolated from livelihood opportunities and vulnerable to forced evictions or homelessness.

Every day, as people are born in or move to urban centres in search of opportunities, the demand for housing grows. Globally, a billion new houses are needed by 2025 to accommodate 50 million new urban dwellers per year.

Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development will take place in Quito, Ecuador, from 17 – 20 October 2016.

Read more about it:


EU’s decarbonisation plans scrutinised by divided transport industry

EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc has to make good on a few promises she made before the summer break.

Bulc published a plan to cut carbon emissions from the transport sector in July that sent a chill through the car industry and perked up the ears of MEPs and environmental NGOs who had been pushing for measures including an EU-wide cap on truck pollution.

In July, Bulc’s announcement included a lot of detail that could mean dramatic changes for the transport sector. The executive will promote cleaner fuels for transport and vehicle types that produce fewer emissions, like electric or fuel cell cars, for example.

Some of the commissioner’s ideas will mean major changes for transport companies and will also force regulators to reconsider legislation: Bulc has promoted connected and driverless car technologies as another way to cut emissions, once they’re commercially available. Over the weekend, Bulc spelled out her support for those technologies at the G7 transport ministers’ meeting in Japan—in November, she’ll publish a detailed plan of how she wants to push them in the EU. 

60% emissions reduction by 2050

The Commission had been under pressure to cut emissions from transport for a while. Five years ago, the executive promised a 60% reduction from the sector by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

MEPs pointed out that while other areas, like industry and housing, managed to clean up their act, emissions levels from transport—especially from automobiles and aviation—kept climbing.

“The transport sector is nullifying all the efforts that have been done with taxpayer money in other sectors,” German Green MEP Michael Cramer, the chair of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, told EurActiv.com.

Bulc’s plans to slash emissions will come in piece by piece over the next three years. Next week, she’ll be in Montreal to negotiate for the EU in a meeting of ICAO, a UN body, focused on limiting emissions from aviation.

Many campaigners reacted positively to the commissioner’s decarbonisation agenda on the whole, although some criticised the plans back in July for being too soft on policing aviation emissions.

Other industries have piped up since the commissioner presented her plans to tout the progress they’ve made to use less fuel or produce fewer emissions.

The car industry had lobbied against one of the bombshell’s in the July announcement: a first-ever binding limit on emissions from trucks across the EU. Bulc said she would propose the new standard for trucks by the end of her mandate in 2019. Other countries outside the EU, including the US, Canada and Japan, already have binding standards for trucks.

Calls for ‘balanced approach’

When Bulc went public with her plans, car industry association ACEA called for a “more balanced approach” that doesn’t put too much of the emission-cutting burden on road transport while going easy on other modes of transport.

ACEA secretary general Erik Jonnaert called the Commission’s decarbonisation agenda “very ambitious” but insisted the industry would “do its part to continue reducing CO2 emissions across its entire portfolio, which includes passenger cars, vans, trucks and buses”.

To varying degrees, the different industries of the transport sector—road transport, rail, aviation and maritime—compete with each other for shipping and passenger traffic. Each of those corners is waiting eagerly for more details and the first proposals to come out of Bulc’s plans—for some, big business is at stake.

The Commission’s decarbonisation strategy specifies that policymakers will have an eye towards “incentivising a shift towards lower emission transport modes such as inland waterways, short-sea shipping and rail.” Upcoming EU rules to overhaul how the rail sector works should “make rail more competitive and attractive for both passengers and freight,” according to the strategy.

That won’t make everyone happy in the transport sector.

Bulc will give a recorded keynote tomorrow (27 September) at a Brussels conference, where companies from different transport industries will gather to mull over the decarbonisation initiative.

Road freight bracing for change

The road freight industry—which now outweighs shipping on rail or any other mode of transport in Europe—is bracing itself for changes.

The sector will be hit with a new set of rules early next year, when Bulc proposes changes including an overhaul of how trucks are tolled and new measures to rein in how truckers can work when driving between EU countries.

MEPs have asked the Commission to consider a tolling system that would encourage cleaner trucks by charging them according to their CO2 emissions levels or energy efficiency.

Currently, railways and automobiles are tolled very differently. Michael Cramer called the large gaps between the tolling systems “unfair competition”.

“One hundred percent of the rail network is tolled and only one percent of the road network,” he said.

Further reading:

Source: https://www.euractiv.com/

Picture Of International Day Of Peacejpeg

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The Day’s theme for 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were unanimously adopted by the 193 Member States of the United Nations at an historic summit of the world’s leaders in New York in September 2015. The new ambitious 2030 agenda calls on countries to begin efforts to achieve these goals over the next 15 years. It aims to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

The Sustainable Development Goals are integral to achieving peace in our time, as development and peace are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world's leaders and the people,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.”

Sustainability addresses the fundamental needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Modern challenges of poverty, hunger, diminishing natural resources, water scarcity, social inequality, environmental degradation, diseases, corruption, racism and xenophobia, among others, pose challenges for peace and create fertile grounds for conflict. Sustainable development contributes decisively to dissipation and elimination of these causes of conflict and provides the foundation for a lasting peace. Peace, meanwhile, reinforces the conditions for sustainable development and liberates the resources needed for societies to develop and prosper.

Every single one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is a building block in the global architecture of peace. It is critical that we mobilise means of implementation, including financial resources, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building, as well as the role of partnerships. Everyone has a stake and everyone has a contribution to make.

source: http://www.un.org

Environment Council, 30/09/2016

Environment ministers are meeting today to discuss the ratification of the Paris Agreement. They are expected to agree on the conclusion of the global agreement on climate change on behalf of the EU.

More about the meeting: http://bit.ly/2cFkARt

Source: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/


Building industry demands stronger leadership on energy efficiency


Leading voices from Europe’s building industry have called on the Commission to do more to improve the energy efficiency of Europe’s building stock, saying this would benefit the economy and the climate.

A group of 42 CEOs from some of Europe’s major construction and building materials companies have signed a letter to European Commission, urging it to show “vision” in its revision of the Energy Performance of Building Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive, which is due to take place this autumn.

Addressed to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Vice-President Frans Timmermans, the letter warned that the EU’s target of a “Nearly Zero Energy” building stock by 2050 could not be achieved without a “high level political commitment”. This, the signatories said, would give the renovation industry the certainty it needs to boost investment in the sector and put the EU on track to meet its climate targets.

“We, representatives of major European industries and building community, see the upcoming review of the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) as a unique opportunity for the European Union to act “big on big” issues: jobs and growth, while putting our economies on the right track to meet the Paris Agreement,” the business leaders said.

Old, inefficient buildings

Europe’s building stock is ageing and highly inefficient. It accounts for 40% of the bloc’s energy consumption and 36% of its carbon dioxide emissions.

The average new building is at least five times more energy efficient than an old building. But 35% of the EU’s building stock is more than 50 years old and 90% will still be standing in 2050, according to the Commission.

In its contribution to the Paris Agreement, the European Union committed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and to become carbon neutral by 2050. Improving the energy efficiency of Europe’s buildings is essential if the EU is to achieve this target.

The EU executive estimates that widespread energy efficiency renovation could reduce the bloc’s overall energy consumption by up to 6% and cut its CO2 emissions by 5%.

Stronger leadership needed

Under the current EPBD, all new buildings must be nearly energy neutral by the end of 2020. To achieve this, EU countries must adopt minimum energy performance standards for all new buildings, major renovations and replacement elements like roofs, heating and cooling systems and walls.

The EED limits governments to buying only highly energy efficient buildings, and obliges them to report on national rates of building renovation.

Widely accepted figures put the EU renovation rate of buildings at just 1%. But the true figure could be even less because there is no common standards of what constitutes renovation.

Stronger leadership from the EU would spur investment in energy efficiency renovation, the letter’s signatories said. As 90% of actors in the building industries are SMEs, this would have a positive impact on the European economy, they added.

Source: https://www.euractiv.com/


bratislava hollande merkel

The Heads of Governments of the EU member states were gathered -for the first time without the UK representative- for an informal meeting on the 16th of September. Fiscal Policy, international trade, Brexit, as well ashot topics such as the common defence or migration were on the official agenda with the aim to draw the road map to be followed by European Governments over the next 12 months.

Together with the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Junker expressed its satisfaction concerning the firm support Member States have announced regarding the new initiatives declared in his speech about the State of the Union.

More particularly, Junker highlighted a unanimous backing concerning the pace recently adopted with regards to the promotion of the EU's Digital Single Market. These measures should foster Europe’s “modernisation, economic growth and creation of new jobs" the President said. EU leaders also approved the commission’s propositions aiming at increasing the amplitude of Europe’s investment plan, which has already mobilised €116 billion during the first year of its implementation.

Concerning the migration crisis, Junker confirmed that the EU is already implementing measures in order to respond to the request of Bulgaria, which has to face increasing pressure on its frontier with Turkey. The President affirmed that, in addition to material support aimed at protecting the frontier from illegal migration, the Union will provide €108 million in emergency funding in order to strengthen Bulgaria’s reception capacities. The objective is to raise this figure to €160 million in the coming weeks in order to fully respond to the needs of the Bulgarian government.

reference: http://ec.europa.eu


The EU needs to stop treating all energy sources as if they were equally desirable when it comes to energy savings. This approach undermines the promotion of renewables, with negative effects for the EU’s energy independence, writes Anders Stouge (deputy director-general of the Danish Energy Association).

The energy sector in Europe is integrating at remarkable speed, through the regional building of interconnectors and market coupling. It is happening in parallel through different parts of the value chain, across sectors and across technologies.

This is a new reality that European lawmakers need to face up to.

The right direction has already been set. When the European Commission in February 2015 presented its Energy Union strategy, it did so with the ambition to adopt a “holistic approach” by integrating energy and climate with “transport, research and innovation, industry, regional, trade, consumer protection, the digital economy … into a cohesive framework”.

This is exactly what is needed to adapt energy regulation today to the energy market of tomorrow. However, despite the importance of the path set out in the Energy Union strategy, it was no more than a strategy.

In the coming months much more important documents will flow from the Berlaymont and land on the desks of lawmakers in the European Parliament and the Council. Legislative proposals on energy efficiency, buildings, renewable energy and the design of the electricity sector will be presented this autumn. This is where the holistic vision and intentions will stand the test of real legislation.

First up is the proposal for a revised Energy Efficiency Directive, expected on 12 October.

To fully realise the potential of energy efficiency measures, we must adopt a new approach to energy savings. An approach that exploits the synergies across sectors: a holistic approach. Considering every form of energy consumption as if they are equally undesirable would be out of line with a holistic approach. Actually, the holistic approach would fully endorse a situation with higher consumption of certain types of energy while the total consumption of energy decreases. One could say “use more to use less”.

Most obvious is the potential for increasing the use of electricity in the heating sector. By the European Commission’s own figures, at least 45 % of electricity will be based on renewable energy in 2030. This means that not only will electricity be less carbon intensive, it will also rely less on imported fuels.

It would therefore be logical to adopt a more nuanced approach to energy saving measures than is currently the case. Under current legislation, member states are required to make energy savings of 1.5 % per year, regardless of what type of energy is saved. For the energy system of tomorrow, this approach is too simplistic. Energy saving measures should, in future, be designed to promote initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduce import dependency – two of the key horizontal ambitions of the Energy Union.

Ensuring such an approach requires us to look at how energy savings are calculated. In the current Energy Efficiency Directive, energy savings from electricity are multiplied by a factor of 2.5. Originally this was done to account for the energy losses that occur when burning fuels like coal or gas to generate electricity.

However, the calculation also assumes that primary energy goes into generating electricity from wind turbines or solar panels. Not only is this a false assumption, it also contributes to incentivising electricity savings – even if the electricity is to a large part based on renewables and produced with no losses. In other words, the method currently applied when calculating energy savings incentivises savings on renewables.

Thus, every time households and companies use1 kWh of electricity, they are punished by a factor of 2.5, or rewarded with the same factor every time they save electricity. This is a disproportionately large incentive to save electricity, even though it is becoming greener and greener.

This “factor bashing” simply converts into the opposite of what we want. It does not help companies and citizens in the member states to convert their consumption of oil, gas and coal into consumption of green electricity that would otherwise reduce GHG emissions and imports of fossil fuels.

At the same time, we have a Renewable Energy Directive that promotes the building of renewables. But promoting new renewable energy sources, while disproportionally incentivising cutting electricity use from these renewables, does not make a lot of sense.

It is not compatible with the establishment of a holistic Energy Union.

The way energy savings are currently calculated stands in the way not only of enhancing the integration of sectors and technologies in the energy sector. It also undermines the reduction of GHG emissions and the reduction of energy imports.

Thus, as we await the upcoming key proposals from the Commission on the Energy Union, it is important that EU lawmakers consider what type of energy savings deliver the greatest benefit to the European economy, its citizens, the environment and the energy system. That would be a truly holistic approach.

Source: https://www.euractiv.com/



Paris Agreement – Slovakia is on board


150 world leaders at the opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris
Photo credits:  Hajü Staudt/UNFCCC


After France, Hungary and Austria, Wednesday 22 september Slovakia became the 4th European country to ratify the Paris Agreement after its Parliament voted in favour of the international treaty aimed at fighting climate change. The Paris Agreement seeks to keep the increase in global average temperature by the end of this century to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The motion for ratification was presented by the Slovak Environment Minister László Sólymos. “I’m happy to see that the Agreement has passed through the ratification process of our Parliament, and I believe that Slovakia will set a positive example for the other EU member states,” Sólymos said after the vote.

“As the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, we’re now able to focus fully on completing the ratification procedure at European level as soon as possible. This is one of our key priorities,” said the minister.

Slovakia aims to coordinate the ratification process so that the EU can finish it by 7 October 2016. To this end, Sólymos has called an extraordinary session of the Environment Council on 30 September in Brussels.

If all EU countries ratify the agreement, the climate conference that opens in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 7 November, could feature the first meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement, including the EU and Slovakia. The parties would thus be involved in decision-making on crucial issues regarding the implementation of the Agreement.

The treaty will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, accounting in total for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification.

China and the US, which together represent the largest share of global emissions, have already completed this process. The EU is the third largest emitter.

To date, the treaty has been ratified by 29 countries representing over 40% of global emissions. Another 30 countries are set to deposit their instruments of ratification today at a ceremony organised by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Slovak President Andrej Kiska now has to append his signature to Parliament’s approval of the ratification.Kiska represents Slovakia at the current session of the UN General Assembly in New York, where he is seeking to send a strong message later this week and urge countries in which the ratification procedure is still ongoing to complete the ratification process as soon as possible.

Source: https://www.euractiv.com/

For more information about The Paris Agreement and climate change actions in general follow the links:

Address: Charles Martel 54, 1000 Brussels, Belgium                e-mail: info@eu-about.eu                  Telephone: +32 25227315