Editorial of November 2017

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by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor


The forest fires in Portugal and the EU

The Author of this post took the photo above during a common episode of her daily life, returning from work. While I was waiting for someone I stared at the landscape around me. Sadly, I realized, on that sunny, bright and warm October day, that the surrounding green I’d been accustomed to had partially disappeared. And I photographed it. I will not bother the reader with the reasons – these are personal and subjective. That is not the case of the reasons for its disclosure with this post.

The place photographed will not be revealed. The place is not the point – and not being the point, it is the point. It could be anywhere. That landscape is not only the one I photographed in that spur of the moment. Anyone present in that place, at that moment, was contemplating the same landscape – it was not a matter of me, but of us. And similar landscapes are, sadly, scattered through Portugal today and will remain for a long while – us is so much bigger than that place, at that moment.

And because the forest fires that ravaged Portugal in 2017 are so much bigger than that place (Portugal), at that moment (2017), the European within me was on alert as well.

The forest fires that occurred in Portugal were impressive not only because of their dimension and their impact, but also because of the unusual period of recent occurrences. In addition to the heavy human losses – the number of fatalities tragically exceeds a hundred – and to the equally heavy ecosystemic damage – associated with the loss of biodiversity always linked to any phenomenon of forest degradation/destruction –, the anomalous character of the forest fires recorded on October 15 and 16 also generates awareness to the reality of climate change.

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Judgment TTK, of 13 July 2017, clears the air (and land) on environmental liability in the EU as Trump keeps tumbling on climate issues

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by Ana Torres Rego, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Living in the most powerful technological society carries with it advanced innovation and a better quality of life, while simultaneously, a massive number of challenges to deal with, mainly at the environment field. As the progress goes on, the ozone hole gets bigger, the temperatures are crazily increasing, the icebergs in Antarctic are melting and biodiversity is being lost. The planet as a huge ecosystem, where everything flows cyclically and harmonious, is suffering huge threats due to human ambition, every single day.

Constructed under an economic structure, the European Union soon realised that without taking care of Mother Nature, so much progress and improvement would be worthless for the next generations, once their planet would be destroyed if nothing interrupts the rhythm of the consumption of Earth’s resources. Accordingly, the decrease of fossil fuel dependency – which primarily contributes to side effects of global warming caused by the consequent emissions of carbon dioxide – is the trickiest and demanding subject that Member States are concerned about, in the scope of such matters. Actually, that’s because there’s a complex paradox demanding urgent answers between, on one hand, the economic competition and the need to protect the environment through green economic measures, on the other.
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The Almaraz debate – it’s not in Spain, it’s not in Portugal, it’s all around…

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by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

The risk society is a non-knowledge society. Ulrich Beck has long demonstrated that the explosion of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl (26 April 1986) coincided with an «explosion of non-knowledge» in an entanglement that requires a rethinking of the conceptual and institutional constants of the modern world, such as the concepts of rights and human dignity, as well as those of sovereignty and state government[i].

On January 16, the Portuguese government filed a complaint to the European Commission against Spain concerning the construction of a nuclear waste storage facility at the Almaraz nuclear power plant (the news can be found here). Operating since the early 1980s, the Almaraz nuclear power plant is located along the Tagus River about 100 kilometres from Portugal, bordering the districts of Castelo Branco and Portalegre. The construction of the storage facility is intended to extend the operation of the Almaraz nuclear power plant, which has been presenting several problems, especially security problems. Portugal claims that there has been a violation of the EIA Directive, in addition to requesting the suspension of the construction of the Almaraz nuclear waste storage facility.

The EIA Directive – Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 – applies to the assessment of environmental effects of certain public and private projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment. It updates 4 earlier directives (Directives 85/337/EEC, 97/11/EC, 2003/35/EC and 2009/31/EC) and applies from 17 February 2012. Furthermore, Directive 2011/92 has been amended in 2014 by the Directive 2014/52/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014. The revised EIA Directive entered into force on 15 May 2014 and Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with it by 16 May 2017. It should also be mentioned that safety of nuclear installations is also regulated by EU law, namely by the Council Directive 2009/71/Euratom of 25 June 2009 establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations (transposition deadline expired since 22 July 2011), amended by the Council Directive 2014/87/Euratom of 8 July 2014 (transposition deadline expires the 15 August 2017).

As stated above, Portugal claims that there has been a violation of the EIA Directive. The EIA procedure laid down in this directive can be summarized as follows: i) the developer (the applicant for authorisation for a private or public project which falls within the scope of application of the EIA Directive) may request the competent authority to say what should be covered by the EIA information to be provided (scoping stage); ii) the developer must provide information on the environmental impact (EIA report); iii) the environmental authorities and the public (and, as will be explained below, the eventually affected Member States) must be informed and consulted; iv) the competent authority decides, taken into consideration the results of consultations. The public is then informed of the decision taken and can challenge it before the courts.

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