Embarrassingly poor EU policy-making – follow the rules and do a proper job on e-cigarettes

NCP word count labelled
A new proposal? For e-cigs the proposal is now five times the size and completely different to the original (word counts don’t include recitals)

From behind closed doors in Brussels, an utter mess is emerging from the EU on regulation of nicotine containing products such as e-cigarettes. Officials who seem to know very little about these products and appear to care even less about the users and the potential, are in a frantic huddle making up new legislation as they go along.  The chart above shows how the text is ballooning with new ideas for rules, restrictions and burdens (see the evolving texts here), most of which will cause more harm.  The idea of further ‘strengthening’ e-cigarette regulation would have the twin counterproductive effects of:

(i) in many different ways, weakening the appeal of e-cigarettes relative to cigarettes, therefore reducing switching and causing more harm to health, and;

(ii) by raising significant barriers to entry, wiping out many legitimate e-cigarette small businesses and aiding tobacco and pharmaceutical companies in dominating the e-cigarette market (see investment analyst views).

Much of what is proposed is unjustified, violating principles of proportionality, non-discrimination and the requirement for a proper legal base – in this case, for development of the internal market.  It seems many of those involved in Council discussions have forgotten or never realised that these products are beneficial for health and represent a huge opportunity to displace smoking with something 99% less dangerous.

There are two ways to address this woeful state of affairs:

Continue reading “Embarrassingly poor EU policy-making – follow the rules and do a proper job on e-cigarettes”

When cancer charities cause cancer, who is responsible?

Continue reading “When cancer charities cause cancer, who is responsible?”

Saving lives in Sweden, banned by the EU: experts call for change to smokeless tobacco policy

Sweden - smoking and cancer
Sweden is a stunning outlier in European Union smoking rates – and the benefits are lower death rates from tobacco-related disease – now and locked in to the future

Spreadsheet data, charts and sources and look at this too.

Continue reading “Saving lives in Sweden, banned by the EU: experts call for change to smokeless tobacco policy”

Environment and conflict in Sudan

I’ve moved to the Sudan… and I’m sitting under a fan in Khartoum writing this… I’ve now been here a couple of weeks and am no longer totally lost. I’ve a new job as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Representative for Sudan. We hail from UNEP’s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, which addresses the links between environment (or more specifically, ‘natural resources’) and conflict.

The Sudan programme has had a fantastic start through a two-year project to create a Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment for Sudan, which was published this year and is one of the best surveys of the challenges of a developing country environment you will find anywhere – a tribute to the energy and drive of Andrew Morton, who led the effort. The assessment develops some 85 recommendations, and our job here is to make as much of that happen as we can. Continue reading “Environment and conflict in Sudan”

Asking the wrong question – biofuels

I don’t want to do a full scale critique of biofuels – not least because that would be to enter an already crowded field [see Biofuelwatch and Global Subsidies Initiative, for example]. But it’s worth looking at how narrowly-focussed, bottom-up policy-making now means we have somehow put the most financial support into the worst ideas… Continue reading “Asking the wrong question – biofuels”

Do not ditch the Kyoto Protocol

My otherwise peaceful morning slumber was disturbed by a radio interview announcing that social scientists Steve Rayner and Gwin Prins want to ‘ditch the Kyoto Protocol’. In a Nature commentary, Time to ditch the Kyoto Protocol, they have a go at the Kyoto Protocol and claim that ‘political correctness’ is inhibiting proper criticism and unnamed Kyoto supporters insist that Kyoto must remain the only game in town, sternly admonishing any dissenters to this orthodoxy. Luckily for us these fearless academics are ready to speak out. The trouble is, they have nothing much to say! Continue reading “Do not ditch the Kyoto Protocol”

Severn barrage – flawed economics

Sometimes you can be wading through a report and hit something that abruptly tells you it isn’t really worth reading on: the report is mad and you are wasting your time. And so it happened when reading through the SDC report Tidal Power in the UK, and coming across Table 33 on page 119 – see left. Continue reading “Severn barrage – flawed economics”

The Merton Rule – an investigation

Once it was famous only for the ’70s Mod-revival band, The Merton Parkas. And, frankly, it wasn’t that famous even for them. But now the London Borough of Merton is famous for the eponymous ‘Merton Rule’. As the map left shows, local government across the nation [list] is at various stages of implementing the Rule. The Merton Rule is a planning condition requiring on-site generation of renewable energy:

All new non residential developments above a threshold of 1,000sqm will be expected to incorporate renewable energy production equipment to provide at least 10% of predicted energy requirements [Merton council site][Merton Rule site]

But how does it actually work and does it make sense? Continue reading “The Merton Rule – an investigation”

Case for the Severn Barrage – does it hold water?

There’s speculation in the papers [last weekend’s Guardian, earlier in the Independent] that the government is to back the Severn Barrage. This huge project would capture renewable energy in the tidal movement of water in the Bristol Channel – the tidal range is one of the highest in the world: up to 15 metres. There have been various designs and locations proposed, but the leading one is promoted by the Severn Tidal Power Group of major construction companies (see picture left and this 2006 presentation by the group making their case). The Sustainable Development Commission is shortly expected to produce its report on tidal power, and we should have much more data and analysis to consider at that point. But I thought I’d get my own thoughts on this straightened out in advance.

The inevitable question must be: “is this scheme bonkers?” Continue reading “Case for the Severn Barrage – does it hold water?”

Land use and food security

One of the big questions for me is whether we devote too much land to farming and not enough to land use for wildlife, wilderness, woodland, places to walk and places to live etc. that is land for its ‘amenity’ value or for development. About 70% of England is given over to farming and only about 10% to development (see my earlier posting), yet surveys show most people think that much more land (>50%) is developed than really is (see Q1 in this survey for the Barker Review). The survey also shows that people have strong preferences for land for its wildlife and landscape value (Q3).

So, why don’t we have more national parks, reforest large areas of rural England, get most of the sheep off the uplands, switch to extensive low impact agriculture producing high-quality and high-value foods, open up access to land, fill the countryside with helpful signposts and paths and let people enjoy living in England? I was out walking in the Thames Valley this weekend – very nice, but I did wonder why there was so much sheep farming going on what must be some of the most highly prized real estate in the land. An occasional sortie out of the city reveals just how much space there is given over to low value agriculture, even in crowded South East England. Continue reading “Land use and food security”