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What if all technologies were inherently social?

02-03-2018

How technology has shaped society and how future technologies might affect it in the years to come are subjects for frequent debate. It can be tempting in this context to think of technologies as neutral 'things' that can be used for good or bad depending on the user's intentions and skills. But what if technologies were social objects that reflected and reinforced human activities or even political values? In fact, while mechanisms, effects and implications remain open to debate, experts on the ...

How technology has shaped society and how future technologies might affect it in the years to come are subjects for frequent debate. It can be tempting in this context to think of technologies as neutral 'things' that can be used for good or bad depending on the user's intentions and skills. But what if technologies were social objects that reflected and reinforced human activities or even political values? In fact, while mechanisms, effects and implications remain open to debate, experts on the relationship between technology and society broadly agree that technologies are indeed social in this way. By scripting, restricting and enabling different human behaviours, technologies can influence our lives in much the same way that policy programmes do. A number of key ideas have emerged from this field over the last five decades, with various implications for European policy-making.

Cities: Front line of climate action

05-10-2017

Cities have a crucial role to play in addressing the climate change challenge and delivering on the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. In the European Union (EU), where nearly three quarters of the population live in urban areas, many cities are leading the way in this regard, taking action in three areas central to increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions – namely, buildings, energy supply, and transport – and acting as living laboratories of climate-change-related innovation. The EU supports ...

Cities have a crucial role to play in addressing the climate change challenge and delivering on the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. In the European Union (EU), where nearly three quarters of the population live in urban areas, many cities are leading the way in this regard, taking action in three areas central to increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions – namely, buildings, energy supply, and transport – and acting as living laboratories of climate-change-related innovation. The EU supports cities in their efforts by providing guidance, promoting experience-and knowledge-sharing, fostering cooperation, and funding climate action. Climate-relevant initiatives are in place in various policy fields, from transport to the environment, research and innovation, the most high profile being the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, which currently counts some 7 600 signatories. A supportive framework is essential to ensure city-level initiatives have enough resources and potential to effect meaningful change. Easing access to climate funding and strengthening the role of cities in climate governance are among the main challenges ahead, and the main demands of city associations. The latter issue is being examined by the European Parliament, notably in relation to the proposal for a regulation on energy union governance. Two own-initiative reports exploring the role cities play, first, in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and, second, in the institutional framework of the Union, are also under preparation.

EU sustainability criteria for bioenergy

29-08-2017

Bioenergy, which is generally produced from plants such as agricultural crops or trees, comes in various forms. Wood and other solid biomass are commonly used for heating and electricity generation. Liquid biofuels for transport and other purposes are mainly made from food and feed crops, but can also be produced from waste and residues. Bioenergy can also be delivered in the form of gas. Bioenergy is a renewable but finite energy source, and considered as climate-friendly because the carbon which ...

Bioenergy, which is generally produced from plants such as agricultural crops or trees, comes in various forms. Wood and other solid biomass are commonly used for heating and electricity generation. Liquid biofuels for transport and other purposes are mainly made from food and feed crops, but can also be produced from waste and residues. Bioenergy can also be delivered in the form of gas. Bioenergy is a renewable but finite energy source, and considered as climate-friendly because the carbon which is emitted during combustion was removed from the atmosphere during growth of the biomass and will be removed again after some time if new plants are grown. However, its production and use has environmental impacts and the climate benefits may vary. The existing Renewable Energy Directive sets mandatory sustainability and greenhouse gas saving criteria for biofuels. For forest biomass, the Commission issued recommendations, but these are not uniformly implemented in the Member States. In November 2016, the Commission proposed a revised Renewable Energy Directive which includes mandatory sustainability criteria for both biofuels and biomass. The European Parliament supports sustainability criteria for bioenergy, and highlighted the sustainability issues of forest biomass in its June 2016 resolution on renewable energy. Stakeholder reactions to the Commission proposal have been mixed. While environmental NGOs called for stricter criteria, the bioenergy industries warned that tighter limits on conventional biofuels hinder the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Farmers and forest owners expressed concern about additional economic and administrative burden and stressed the principle of subsidiarity in forest policies.

Briefing for the ENVI delegation to the Porto Marghera refinery in Venice on 17-18 July 2017

14-07-2017

The EU has set a target to replace 10% of transport fuel of every EU country by fuels from renewable sources by 2020. In 2015, 6.7% of final energy used in the EU-28 came from renewable sources. However, efforts will have to increase in order to meet the 10% renewable energy target in 2020. delegation to the Porto Marghera refinery in Venice on 17-19 July 2017. An ENVI delegation is to visit the world’s first example of the conversion of a conventional refinery into a bio-refinery able to transform ...

The EU has set a target to replace 10% of transport fuel of every EU country by fuels from renewable sources by 2020. In 2015, 6.7% of final energy used in the EU-28 came from renewable sources. However, efforts will have to increase in order to meet the 10% renewable energy target in 2020. delegation to the Porto Marghera refinery in Venice on 17-19 July 2017. An ENVI delegation is to visit the world’s first example of the conversion of a conventional refinery into a bio-refinery able to transform organic raw materials into high quality biofuels. The ENI's "Green Refinery project" at Porto Marghera produces green diesel, green naphtha, LPG and potentially jet fuel. It is currently fed by palm oil, but the plan is also to use biomass.

Autor extern

Anne Siemons, Klaus Hennenberg, Hannes Böttcher

Use of energy from renewable sources

26-06-2017

Despite its considerable length and a rather large number of options (over 30), the IA report could have delivered a more coherent, comprehensive, and persuasive analysis. The internal logic of the report and the arrangement of options is at times hard to understand because the options are linked to challenges rather than to clearly defined problems and objectives. Furthermore, the absence of preferred options makes it difficult to assess the usefulness of the impact assessment in informing the political ...

Despite its considerable length and a rather large number of options (over 30), the IA report could have delivered a more coherent, comprehensive, and persuasive analysis. The internal logic of the report and the arrangement of options is at times hard to understand because the options are linked to challenges rather than to clearly defined problems and objectives. Furthermore, the absence of preferred options makes it difficult to assess the usefulness of the impact assessment in informing the political decisions underpinning the legislative proposal. The use of different models, which are by the Commission's own admittance very difficult to compare, may have led to a certain lack of coherence in the assessment of the impacts. The proportionality of proposed measures is not always clearly visible compared with the evidence provided by the models used in the assessment. Overall, given the number of considerable shortcomings and the fact that the assessment twice received a negative opinion from the RSB, one might have expected a better argumentation for the Commission's decision to proceed with the proposal.

Advanced biofuels: Technologies and EU policy

08-06-2017

Road transport remains significantly more dependent on fossil fuels than other sectors. In the early 2000s, biofuels appeared as a way to reduce this dependency and to cut greenhouse gas emissions. However, when greenhouse gas emission reductions through using conventional biofuels were called into question because of the indirect effects involved, advanced biofuels emerged as an alternative. Although the advanced biofuels sector has been facing technological challenges and economic difficulties, ...

Road transport remains significantly more dependent on fossil fuels than other sectors. In the early 2000s, biofuels appeared as a way to reduce this dependency and to cut greenhouse gas emissions. However, when greenhouse gas emission reductions through using conventional biofuels were called into question because of the indirect effects involved, advanced biofuels emerged as an alternative. Although the advanced biofuels sector has been facing technological challenges and economic difficulties, global advanced biofuels production has been forecast to double between 2013 and 2020, with the largest (planned and in operation) production capacity located in Europe. In 2016, most advanced biofuels production routes were at prototype or demonstration stage, with two being considered ready for commercialisation. Advanced biofuels may offer a series of opportunities, in particular as regards greenhouse gas emission savings and energy security, but also pose a series of challenges, in particular as regards sustainability. EU policy support for biofuels started in 2003, but has since been shifting away from conventional biofuels. Since 2015, it has explicitly supported advanced biofuels. A legislative proposal on the regulatory framework beyond 2020, put forward by the European Commission in 2016, seeks to strengthen this support. In addition, funding opportunities are being provided through various programmes.

Energia din surse regenerabile

01-06-2017

Sursele regenerabile de energie (energia eoliană, energia solară, energia hidroelectrică, energia oceanelor, energia geotermală, biomasa și biocombustibilii) constituie alternative la combustibilii fosili care contribuie la reducerea emisiilor de gaze cu efect de seră, la diversificarea ofertei de energie și la reducerea dependenței de piețele volatile și lipsite de fiabilitate ale combustibililor fosili, în special de petrol și gaze. Legislația UE privind promovarea surselor regenerabile a evoluat ...

Sursele regenerabile de energie (energia eoliană, energia solară, energia hidroelectrică, energia oceanelor, energia geotermală, biomasa și biocombustibilii) constituie alternative la combustibilii fosili care contribuie la reducerea emisiilor de gaze cu efect de seră, la diversificarea ofertei de energie și la reducerea dependenței de piețele volatile și lipsite de fiabilitate ale combustibililor fosili, în special de petrol și gaze. Legislația UE privind promovarea surselor regenerabile a evoluat în mod semnificativ în ultimii ani. Cadrul politic viitor pentru perioada de după 2020 se află în discuții.

Promotion of renewable energy sources in the EU: EU policies and Member State approaches

07-06-2016

This paper analyses the development of renewable energy sources (RES) in the EU, with a focus on support mechanisms at the EU and Member State level, including current and upcoming reforms. It presents the principal support mechanisms for RES, as well as developments in selected Member States, outlines the main technical and regulatory challenges associated with an increasing share of renewable energy and highlights the involvement and positions of the European Parliament. The development of renewable ...

This paper analyses the development of renewable energy sources (RES) in the EU, with a focus on support mechanisms at the EU and Member State level, including current and upcoming reforms. It presents the principal support mechanisms for RES, as well as developments in selected Member States, outlines the main technical and regulatory challenges associated with an increasing share of renewable energy and highlights the involvement and positions of the European Parliament. The development of renewable energy sources (RES) is a priority for the European Union. One of the goals of the EU Energy Union strategy is making the EU the world leader in renewable energies. The Renewable Energy Directive sets national targets for all Member States, which remain free to decide how they support RES within the EU energy market rules. The Commission plans to revise the Renewable Energy Directive and other RES-related legislation in 2016. Renewables have a growing share in energy consumption in the EU. However, RES investments in Europe have fallen in recent years due to regulatory changes, economic slowdown and falling technology costs. The development of RES poses a number of technical and regulatory challenges, notably their integration into electricity grids and the sustainability of biofuels, and requires a market design that encourages investment while keeping costs under control. The European Parliament supports the growth of RES in the EU and has called for more ambitious targets. Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy is currently working on own-initiative reports on energy market design and on the renewable energy progress report.

Land Grabbing and Human Rights: The Involvement of European Corporate and Financial Entities in Land Grabbing outside the European Union

10-05-2016

In early research on land grabbing, the initial focus was on foreign companies investing abroad, with a particular focus on those based in countries such as China, Gulf States, South Korea, and India. In recent years, it has become evident that the range of countries land investors originate in is far broader, and includes both North Atlantic - and EU-based actors. In this study, we offer both quantitative and qualitative data illustrating the involvement of EU-based corporate and financial entities ...

In early research on land grabbing, the initial focus was on foreign companies investing abroad, with a particular focus on those based in countries such as China, Gulf States, South Korea, and India. In recent years, it has become evident that the range of countries land investors originate in is far broader, and includes both North Atlantic - and EU-based actors. In this study, we offer both quantitative and qualitative data illustrating the involvement of EU-based corporate and financial entities in land deals occurring outside of the EU. This study also analyses the global land rush within a human rights framework, examining the implications of particular land deals involving EU-based investors and their impact on communities living in areas where the investments are taking place. The research presented here builds partly on Cotula’s 2014 study on the drivers and human rights implications of land grabbing, but differs in that it focuses explicitly on particular cases of possible, actual or potential human rights abuses and violations, in the context of activities involving European corporate and financial entities. In our conclusions, we offer a series of recommendations on how the EU can more effectively address these issues.

Autor extern

Saturnino M. BORRAS Jr. (International Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands), Philip SEUFERT (FIAN International, Germany), Stephan BACKES (FIAN International, Belgium), Daniel FYFE (FIAN International, Switzerland), Roman HERRE (FIAN Germany, Germany), Laura MICHELE (FIAN International, Germany) and Elyse MILLS (International Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands)

What if injections weren't needed anymore?

26-11-2015

Synthetic biology is expected to design, construct and develop artificial (i.e. man-made) biological systems that mimic or even go beyond naturally-occurring biological systems. What are the benefits of this emerging field? Are there any ethical and social issues arising from this engineering approach to biology?

Synthetic biology is expected to design, construct and develop artificial (i.e. man-made) biological systems that mimic or even go beyond naturally-occurring biological systems. What are the benefits of this emerging field? Are there any ethical and social issues arising from this engineering approach to biology?

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