Officials are gearing up for a brutal debate as they try to hammer out a final text over the next months.“What we are looking for is enough flexibility to shape our energy policy to take into account our specificities,” one official from a CEE country said on condition of anonymity.Several EU countries have already circulated informal papers on the topic, either warning against a monitoring mechanism that is too strict or advocating for robust and binding legal frameworks.The U.K. and the Czech Republic wrote in a joint paper at the beginning of the year that the governance system should be “light touch and non-legislative so as to respect member states flexibility over its choice of measures and technologies.”The same line of argument also comes from countries such as Poland and its neighbors who worry that tough rules could harm their industries.However, in a paper issued over the summer, Germany said there should be “consequences” if countries cannot meet renewables targets. While potential penalties are not spelled out, the uncertainty “constitutes a significant incentive” for member states to pledge a low level of renewables so that they aren’t punished later, according to the paper. Two campsEnforcing compliance is still missing from the draft Council conclusions put out by Luxembourg, said Arno Behrens, head of energy and research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, a think tank.The text mentions a system allowing for “timely corrective action to be taken,” if countries are falling short. But it isn’t clear what would happen if the collective 27 percent renewables target isn’t reached, he added.“It shows that those member states that want the least binding approach are very well represented in this document,” said Behrens. “It is granting maximum flexibility to member states at the moment to avoid the difficult issues.”The problem is that the draft is trying to find a balance between the two camps.“They try to cater to both sides and are trying to build bridges where they can,” said Katharina Umpfenbach, senior fellow at the Berlin-based Ecologic Institute.Energy ministers will meet in Luxembourg on November 26 to discuss the EU’s 2030 energy and climate goals. But other countries keener on slashing emissions and switching to solar and wind, like Germany, Denmark and Sweden, want a tougher system to ensure that everyone is doing their fair share.The worry is that while the EU may reach its promised target by 2030, it could do so thanks to expensive and painful steps by some countries, while others free-ride and do much less.The dispute — known as “governance” — goes to the heart of the division of powers between Brussels and member states.Luxembourg, which holds the presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers, has spelled out its ideas for how to finesse the issue in a first draft of conclusions submitted September 1. The goal of the Luxembourg presidency was to present a methodology for drafting national plans. Officials say the idea was to move away from political discussions and towards more technical ones.National climate and energy plans should outline a country’s goals and “set out a realistic indicative trajectory for the achievement of these targets and objectives,” says the draft.Light touchThe seven-page document emphasizes the need for regional cooperation and calls on states to submit progress reports every two years. National representatives have until September 10 to send in their feedback. The first working group meeting is scheduled for September 15. The EU has pledged that 27 percent of its energy will come from renewables by 2030 — but now the fight is over how individual countries are supposed to pitch in to reach that goal, addressed in a draft proposal issued by Luxembourg this week.At issue is how much flexibility member states should have when drawing up their national climate and energy plans, which will be key in reaching the collective target, and how strong the European Commission’s role should be in monitoring progress.Some countries, especially the U.K. and central and eastern Europeans, want a soft, non-legislative approach which would not interfere with their right to decide their energy mix. In other words, it would allow the U.K. to continue building nuclear power plants and exploring for shale gas, while coal would continue to play an important part in Poland’s power generation.
Dec 3, 2010Mobs kill ‘witches’ as Haiti’s cholera cases mountHaiti’s cholera case count has risen to 84,391, which includes 39,010 hospitalizations and 1,882 deaths, according to the latest report from the country’s health ministry. In other developments, mobs of people in some towns in Haiti’s Grand Anse department, which so far has seen lower cholera levels than other parts of the country, have killed some people they accuse of spreading cholera in the area through witchcraft, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. Kesner Numa, a prosecutor in the area, told AFP that the first such killing occurred last week and that similar attacks have been occurring daily. About half of Haiti’s population practices a voodoo type religion. Elsewhere, public health officials in the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor, have received reports of three more cholera cases, raising the total so far to 12, Diario Libre, a newspaper based in Santo Domingo, reported yesterday.Nov 30 Haiti health ministry updateDec 3 AFP storyDec 2 Diario Libre storyRift Valley fever outbreak reported in MauritaniaAn outbreak of a disease believed to Rift Valley fever has killed 17 people in the West African country of Mauritania, according to an AFP report translated and posted by ProMED-mail, the disease reporting service of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. The disease, which has killed cattle as well as people, erupted in the town of Aoujeft, the report said. The country’s minister of health and interior has warned people in the Adrar region, which includes Aoujeft, not to consume meat or milk until the results of lab tests on infected animals are confirmed. Rift Valley fever, a viral disease for which there is no vaccine or specific treatment, previously struck in Mauritania in 2003, according to the ProMED editors. The disease is usually relatively mild in humans, but in a few cases it becomes severe. Humans usually contract the disease through contact with the blood, organs, and possibly the milk of infected animals or from mosquitoes.Dec 2 ProMED-mail noticeExpert predicts obesity epidemic will magnify dengue threatA tropical disease expert predicted today that treating dengue fever will become more difficult in the future as more people become overweight and obese, according to a Reuters report. The story said dengue patients suffer from blood leakage from capillaries, leading to breathing problems and complications in major organs such as the brain and liver. Jeremy Farrar, a professor of tropical medicine and director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, said obesity itself makes capillary leakage more likely, and dengue infection makes the condition worse. Farrar made the comments in an interview after speaking at a conference in Singapore. The story noted that the World Health Organization estimates there are 50 million cases of dengue each year, including 500,000 severe cases.Severe flu cases reported on Manitoba native reservePublic health officials in Manitoba are monitoring developments surrounding three severe flu cases, two of them fatal, that occurred recently on a native reserve in the northern part of the province, the Toronto-based Globe and Mail reported yesterday. David Harper, grand chief of the Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Manitoba’s northernmost First Nations group, told the Globe that the two who died were in their 30s and 40s and were healthy before they got sick with influenza. He said one more person is hospitalized and that other related illnesses are suspected. Dr Joel Kettner, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said rapid tests on one of the fatal cases revealed an influenza A virus, and more tests are underway on other cases, the Globe reported. He added that certain factors put some First Nations members at risk for flu complications, including poor sanitation and underlying medical conditions.Dec 2 Globe and Mail storyInfluenza began to be recognized in 16th centuryContemporary accounts from the 16th century, which saw influenza pandemics in 1510, 1557, and 1580, suggest it was in that era that influenza began to be recognized as a distinct illness that caused recurrent epidemics, according to an article in the Dec 4 Lancet by three researchers from the National Institutes of Health. The article by David M. Morens, Michael North, and Jeffrey Taubenberger focuses mainly on accounts by seven European authors who wrote about the 1510 pandemic. One of them spoke of “an illness that lasts three days with a great fever, and headache and then they rise . . . but there remains a terrible cough that remains maybe eight days.” The NIH authors observe that the invention of the printing press in the 15th century served as an important catalyst for understanding of influenza. “We suggest that well before the end of the 16th century influenza was beginning to be conceptualised as a specific, clinically recognisable disease that appeared frequently in both epidemic and endemic form,” they write. “Indeed, it is striking how 16th-century chroniclers of this disease recorded how it caused moderate mortality in the very young, the elderly, in pregnant women, and in the infirm, which are the basic features by which we know influenza today.”Dec 4 Lancet article