Agreements and deals

This article is part of: EU2016-ezine 04

Signing for a better future

Five far-reaching agreements signed during the Dutch EU Presidency

During the Dutch EU Presidency a number of agreements and deals were signed. They cover a variety of areas and vary in geographical scope. Five of the most engaging are presented below.

Greener aviation and shipping

What can the EU do to achieve effective global measures that will reduce CO2 emissions in the aviation and shipping sectors? On 15 April, at the informal meeting of the Transport and Environment Council in Amsterdam, ministers discussed how the aviation and shipping sectors can help fulfil commitments made at the Paris climate conference.

Paris climate agreement

At the 2015 Paris climate conference (COP21) 195 countries voted to approve a new, binding climate agreement. Under the agreement, countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to well below 2°C, with 1.5°C as the target.

The aviation sector is one of the fasting growing sources of greenhouse gases. By 2020 emissions are expected to increase by 70% in comparison to 2005. With the shipping sector also expected to grow, CO2 emissions will also increase if no additional measures are taken. In order to achieve the targets set out in the climate agreement, these sectors must take action.

Growth, employment and competition

The EU wants to take an ambitious but realistic approach to CO2  emissions from aviation and shipping. The approach must also be global in scope. In light of this, the EU is working together with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The European ministers explored the following questions at the meeting:

  • How can we ensure effective measures within the ICAO and IMO?
  • What measures will contribute to economic growth, employment and competitive shipping and aviation sectors?
  • And how can we work with allies and find common ground with countries that have different views?

Carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards

The ICAO is aiming for growth to be carbon-neutral from 2020 onwards. It has the full backing of the aviation industry in this regard. To combat greenhouse gas emissions, the EU is focusing on CO2 standards for aeroplanes and an agreement on a global market mechanism at the ICAO General Assembly this autumn. There is a pressing need for such a mechanism. The market mechanism currently being prepared by the ICAO is based on offsets. This allows the aviation sector to offset emissions outside its own sector, and thereby achieve climate-neutral growth. This mechanism is to ensure that parties take the most cost-effective measures.

The aviation sector is already reaping the benefits of sustainable and green innovations. It uses energy-efficient aeroplanes and cleaner fuels, like biokerosene. A number of airports, including Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, opt for sustainable maintenance. (Photo: Serge Ligtenberg)
The shipping sector is also engaged in ‘green’ innovation and sustainability. Some ships can now run on LNG and there are ships equipped with clean, energy-efficient engines. World-class ports like Rotterdam are rewarding cleaner ships with reduced port fees.

Facts and figures to inform discussions

Ninety per cent of all the world’s products are transported by ship. It is the most efficient mode of transport. Under the new standards being introduced by the IMO, the energy efficiency of new ships must be improved by a further 30%, in three stages between 2015 and 2025. But more is needed in order to achieve the targets set in Paris. EU ministers first want to agree on a new data collection system. This will provide the IMO with facts and figures that can inform discussions on additional measures.

Four more agreements

Apart from emissions, agreements were signed on military cooperation, international rail freight, wind farms, and trade of raw materials obtained from waste.

Germany and the Netherlands step up their military cooperation

Germany becomes joint user of the largest and newest ship in the Royal Netherlands Navy, the logistical support ship HNLMS Karel Doorman. On 4 February 2016, Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and her German colleague Ursula von der Leyen signed two agreements on far-reaching cooperation measures.

The signing took place on board the Karel Doorman, moored in Amsterdam's harbour at the time.
Joint use with other countries such as Germany would allow the ship to be deployed for all of its many purposes. Another aspect of the maritime cooperation is the integration of the German Naval Force Protection Battalion (Seebataillon) into the Royal Netherlands Navy. A week earlier, Germany and the Netherlands signed an agreement strengthening ties in the area of ground-based air and missile defence.
The agreements strengthen the pioneering role in European defence cooperation that Germany and the Netherlands have taken upon themselves.

EU member states agree to enhance international rail freight

The 28 EU member states and Norway and Switzerland agreed to take action in the short-term to improve international rail freight. They did so on 21 June 2016, at the annual conference on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).

Governments will work closely with railway managers, freight carriers and consignors, freight terminals, transhippers and parties in the industry to achieve the declaration’s goals.
The sector will continue working to further develop the existing railway corridors, which form the core network for international rail freight. This should make it easier for all parties to run freight trains across the European continent. Europe is currently covered by nine corridors, running in all directions. Traffic along each corridor is centrally coordinated.
Points of improvement concern, for example, real-time exchange of data, noise reduction, performance assessment, infrastructure bottlenecks and harmonisation of work methods.

Countries in the North Sea region collaborate for more wind farms at a lower cost

Nine countries in the North Sea region – the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and Norway – and the European Commission agreed to collaborate in terms of planning and constructing offshore wind farms.

They signed an agreement to this end on 15 June 2016, on the eve of the Gas Meets Wind Symposium that was organised as a side-event of the EU Presidency.
While collaboration will reduce building costs, it also involves looking at whether national regulations for grid management, subsidies and permits could be better harmonised. Additionally, research will be conducted into how to better coordinate national requirements for the offshore wind sector in terms of safety or the environment. Alongside ensuring a secure and affordable energy supply, this will enable a significant contribution to be made to the goal of reducing CO2 emissions on a European scale by 80 to 95% by 2050. (Photo source: Vattenfall)

International trade deal on raw materials from waste

On 3 March 2016 representatives from the Netherlands, France, Flanders, the United Kingdom, the private sector and environmental organisations signed an international deal to facilitate the trade of raw materials obtained from waste. The Green Deal for a North Sea Resources Roundabout (NSSR) will make it easier to trade in raw materials left over after waste incineration.

All too often, raw materials left over from waste incineration, like bottom ash, aluminium and lead, or recyclable plastic are disposed of as waste. And the different ways countries view residual materials make them difficult to trade internationally. Kitchen and garden waste, for instance, can be composted and used as fertiliser but some countries simply consider it to be refuse. It’s a missed opportunity for the economy and the environment. The Green Deal for a NSSR is to remove these obstacles.
Strengthening the circular economy – where waste is used as a raw material – is high on the Netherlands’ agenda during its EU Presidency. The European Commission estimates that by speeding up the transition to a circular economy, EU businesses could save €600 billion in production costs. That’s 8% of total turnover.  It will also lead to 580,000 extra jobs and an annual 450 million-tonne reduction in CO2 emissions.