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Once again climate talks end with an agreement not very convincing for many

By Guadalupe del Olmo

Posted on 14/12/2014

After a two-day extension, leaders at the COP 20 Conference in Peru, reached an agreement that fails to convince many observers but leaves the path open for a global climate deal in Paris next year.

The Lima Climate Summit solved in an hour, a deal that was held back over two weeks.

Welcomed by the European Union, the outcome of the United Nations climate conference in Lima might signify a step forward on the road to a global climate deal in Paris next year. The conference agreed on two deliverables, the call from Lima for Climate Action and the draft elements text for the 2015 Agreement.

As countries come forward with proposed emissions reduction targets in the coming months, the Lima call requires all countries to describe their proposed target in a clear, transparent and understandable way. This will enable the EU to quantify their proposed contributions. And in order to assess whether these contributions are fair and ambitious and the collective effort puts the EU back on track to keep global warming below the 2 degrees target. The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) will publish the contributions and prepare a synthesis report.

There is an enormous pressure on the Paris talks where a new global pact should be reached as a replacement of the obsolete Kyoto Protocol. Scientists have already pressed leaders to start working for reducing global warming emissions, otherwise the effects on the planet could be devastating.

Gian Luca Galletti, Italian Minister for Environment, said:           "We have spent many long days and nights seeking a compromise. We thank the Peruvian COP Presidency for its leadership and guidance during these intense negotiations. Although this was a difficult conference, it is important to maintain the spirit of optimism and political momentum that brought us to Lima. The outcome provides a solid basis for the forthcoming negotiations."

Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy said: The EU came to Lima to lay the ground for negotiations in Paris. And although the EU wanted a more ambitious outcome from Lima, we believe that we are on track to agree a global deal in Paris next year. The EU has taken a constructive approach throughout the last two weeks and has shown itself willing to build bridges and compromise where possible. The EU particularly builds on its own experience of overcoming differences and finding common ground. Our ambitious 2030 climate and energy package is proof of this."

However, the advancements of the Lima talks are considered by some as relative. Peru’s objective was to prepare a first draft of the future agreement. That was only half achieved. There is a text that compiles all the aspirations of the 196 countries but is still unmanageable. Negotiators are obliged to keep working at it next year to get to France with something more concrete. The real challenge of the delegates of the countries is to define how and when they will have to submit the commitments for each country to fight climate change.

Countries have also agreed on the measures and finance needed that shall be at the core of the 2015 Paris agreement. 

For environmental organizations the agreement reached is not enough. They claim that the climate negotiations have failed to yield results and Governments have missed the opportunity to reach an accord on specific plans to reduce emissions by 2020, and build the foundations to end the fossil fuels era and accelerating steps towards renewable energy and greater energy efficiency.

Oxfam has declared that "the decisions made in Lima do not exclude the possibility of an agreement in Paris, but do little to improve the odds of success."

The next milestone will be the inter-sessional UNFCCC meeting in Geneva from 8-13 February 2015 and the June UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany. Meanwhile, the EU looks forward to continuing the discussions with all its partners in the coming months.

The road to Paris will be anything but easy. The air of optimism that came earlier this year on environmental issues, by the announcement of the US and China to reduce emissions has been dissipated over the last 13 days in Peru.

The deep divisions between the countries of the world seem to be stronger than the common goal of saving the planet. Nevertheless, optimists are left to think like Humphrey Bogart in the film Casablanca, we will always have Paris!


By Guadalupe del Olmo for EU Spectator




European science ministers set to approve development of Ariane 6

EU Spectator correspondent Brussels

Posted on 01/12/2014

The European science ministers are hoping to strike a last-minute deal to provide funding for the Ariane rocket. Ministers from the 20-nation bloc are scheduled to meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to resolve the future of the workhorse Ariane rocket. They will also decide on the future of Europe’s involvement in the International Space Station (ISS).

Funding for the Ariane rocket is crucial if Europe wants to stay in the commercial space race. Officials have been trying to reach an accord for the last two years. Germany has long been the leading European Space Agency (ESA) member state on the ISS. It has borne most of the financial burden and will again make the largest contribution to the € 820 million being requested on Tuesday. But now Germany has given up on its previous plan for a two-step project to upgrade the current Ariane 5 rocket, making the deal possible. Now ministers are set to approve the full development of Ariane 6 satellite launch vehicle.

ESA is looking to respond to the U.S. rival SpaceX and protect thousands of jobs in the region. Founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, SpaceX offers low-cost satellite launches. Europe needs to bring down the cost dramatically to compete with SpaceX. For instance, SpaceX offers launches for € 50 million, compared to € 130 million launch price for Ariane 5. With the development of the next-generation Ariane 6, the ESA                                                                                                                                                plans to bring down the cost to € 60-70 million.

Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders told Reuters that the European deal will be a “new chapter” in the way the 20-nation bloc approaches space. However, he warned that the bureaucratic structure of the European space industry could force the region to be “marginalized” by international competition. European space industry is still heavily influenced by state agencies. Airbus builds the current Ariane 5 launch vehicle.


Europe’s Ariane launch vehicles have captured a staggering 50% market share. But rising international competition poses a threat to the region’s space ambitions. Scientists have proposed a new Ariane 6 concept. The ministers are asked to put in € 3.8 billion for the development of A6 and an upgrade to the Italian-built Vega rocket. ESA’s total budget for this year was over € 4 billion, much smaller than NASA’s € 14 billion.


Ministers are also expected to decide whether the ESA will continue to participate in the International Space Station beyond 2020.

EU Spectator correspondent



3D printer tested on International Space Station

Posted 26/11/2014

The first 3D printed object ever to be manufactured in space has been completed on the International Space Station.

The achievement is being hailed by NASA as an initial step towards providing an on-demand machine shop capability away from Earth.


International Space Station - FreedomInternational Space Station - Freedom

The printer was installed nine days ago on board the orbiting laboratory and it was then tested.

Two days ago, the printer was sent commands from Earth to print a replacement part for itself.

The printer heats a low temperature plastic filament and layers it to build up the object it is printing.

Initial analysis of the part suggest the bonding between the layers is different in microgravity. The aim of the demonstration process is to see whether 3D printers can be used to make parts and tools in space.


Video courtesy of NASA

 Touchdown! Philae landed on the surface of a comet for the first time in history

Posted 12/11/2014

The European Space Agency (ESA) has tonight made history by landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The comet landing is the first in space exploration and the climax of a decade-long mission to get samples from what are the remnants of the birth of Earth's solar system.

Comets come from the formation of Earth's 4.6-billion-year-old solar system. Scientists believe they may have brought much of the water in Earth's oceans.

The box-shaped 100-kg (220-pound) lander, named Philae, touched down on schedule at about 5 p.m. after a seven-hour descent from spacecraft Rosetta around half a billion kilometres from Earth.

ESA director of human spaceflight and operations, Thomas Reiter, said at the European Space Operations Centre in Germany before the landing "we are ready to make science fiction a science fact".

Today’s landing has been a terrifying and meticulous process lasting 7  hours, after a problem with the thruster that meant the probe had to rely mainly on its harpoons to stop it bouncing back from the comet's surface.

After the successful landing, ESA Director General, J-J. Dordain, proudly said “we are the first to have done that, and that will stay forever!".

He also recognised that this type of success is not coming from the sky but from the hard work and expertise that European scientists and industries have put in achieving this endeavour.

Rosetta's journey. Photo: ESA ©Rosetta's journey. Photo: ESA ©



Limiting climate change: Mapping a path to global agreement project


Posted on 09/11/2014

EU-funded project, LIMITS, has mapped the possible outcomes of upcoming global negotiations to curb greenhouse gas emissions-from success to failure. The project's work aims to help leaders achieve a new global pact on how to limit global warming to agreed targets-good for the environment and our future well-being.

Renewable technologies: Tidal energyRenewable technologies: Tidal energy

Photo: European Commission ©

The current commitments to limit carbon emissions will not succeed in keeping global temperature rises below the two degree limit by 2100 without new technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

These are some of the findings by researchers from Europe, China, India, the US and Japan as part the EU-funded LIMITS project.

The project integrated and assessed economic, financial, energy and climate data to model the consequences of possible outcomes of global climate talks in Paris, France in 2015. LIMITS aims to help leaders understand the costs and benefits of their positions and reach agreement on how to limit global temperature rises to below two degrees.

The team entered data for various scenarios. These range from a successful outcome to negotiations in Paris in 2015 resulting in a strict global agreement on emission limits from 2020 (preceded by preparatory actions across the world), to complete failure and reliance on fragmented and regional actions to limit emissions. The models generated possible policy ‘pathways’ that show their probable climate effects, costs and risks.

Policy pathways that could emerge from the success or failure of the Paris talks were central to the modelling by the LIMITS team. The negotiation agenda agreed at the Durban Climate Conference in 2011, known as the ‘Durban Platform‘, will be the basis for climate discussions in Paris.

The Durban Platform agenda includes: a target of two degrees global temperature limit; the inclusion of emerging nations as well as developed ones in legally binding targets; and a strong focus on regional and national climate action.

Potential policy pathways following Paris could include a cap on global emissions of either 450 parts per million (ppm) or possibly 500 ppm.  Certain policy pathways have dramatic effects. It is clear that delayed action on reducing carbon emissions – even just ten years’ delay – greatly increases the costs of limiting temperature rises to 2ºC, notes Massimo Tavoni, LIMITS project coordinator.

The longer the delay before mitigation starts, the greater the lock-in of global economies to fossil fuels, and the greater the transition cost, the research revealed.

Additionally, limiting global temperature rises will be extremely difficult without global agreement to place a price on carbon. The European Union has led the way in global climate change talks, pledging to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

The agreement this year to increase this emissions target to 40% by 2030 shows the EU’s continued commitment to cutting carbon emissions and will push hard for a global agreement in Paris.


Space tourism will have to wait: Virgin Galactic crashes on test flight

Posted on 01/11/2014

One person has died and another is seriously injured after the crash of the first test flight of Virgin Galactic spacecraft, part of Richard Branson endeavour towards space tourism.

Wrecages of Richard Branson SpaceShipTwo found in Mojave desertWrecages of Richard Branson SpaceShipTwo found in Mojave desertThe Virgin Galactic Space Ship Two crashed during a test flight in the Mojave Desert, northeast of Los Angeles, California. "During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly which resulted in the loss of SpaceShipTwo" Virgin Galactic said in a message via Twitter. It was the 35th test flight, according to the company.

The accident is the second of an apparatus of the fledgling private aerospace industry this week, raising doubts about the short-term plans for private space travel, which were to become a reality this year and 2015. President of Virgin Richard Branson, headed Friday toward Mojave, is expected to arrive today.

At a press conference two hours after the accident, the chief executive of the Port Mojave Aerospace, Stuart Witt said he saw nothing wrong with the flight of SpaceShipTwo, but that just after starting their engines, anomalies were reported and then there was an explosion.

The SpaceShipTwo is towed up to 14,000 meters by the mother aircraft. At that point, separates and ignites its engines to keep climbing. The engine flew with a combination of fuel that had been tested on three previous occasions in flight and "often" ground successfully.

Over 500 people have already booked seats on these flights, for which tickets have been reported by different media cost $ 200,000. It is an experience for millionaires a few minutes on the edge of the stratosphere in an apparatus which can carry six passengers each time. Justin Bieber and Tom Hanks were on the list of celebrities that could be part of the first commercial space flights.

The Space Ship Two is the commercial version of the Virgin Space Ship One, the first commercial device that reached space in 2004. The company had planned to begin passenger flights early next year.

The truth remains that space travel is always dangerous and never routine, including this project which is merely a sub-orbital adventure. Last week the European Space Agency (ESA) released a video on how four astronauts train rigorously at Star City near Moscow. 

Richard Branson presenting his spacecraftRichard Branson presenting his spacecraft

While commercial space travel will have to wait, international space missions are much more of a reality thanks to international collaboration. Debate on space tourism will go on, but one thing is sure, the fascination with space travel and the risks involved will not deter from trying to explore space.

Richard Branson has said he will persevere with his space tourism venture.

The billionaire businessman tweeted “all our thoughts are with the brave pilots & families affected by today’s events in Mojave”.




Lighter and stronger materials for greener aircraft

EU-funded researchers have used carbon nanotubes to create exceptionally strong, lightweight and cost-effective materials for aircraft parts. They have demonstrated the potential of this material for making lighter aircraft that burn less fuel - a big boost to the competitiveness of Europe's transport industry.


Aiming to improve environmental performance and cost efficiency, the transport industry is moving away from materials based on metal and towards lightweight composites, such as reinforced polymers. Less weight results in lower fuel consumption – and greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers are now the preferred composite materials as they provide low weight and high strength with cost savings – a particularly attractive combination for the airline industry.

The EU-funded project IMS&CPS has contributed to this advance by developing a new closed-mould manufacturing technology that produces integrated components. This integration allows manufacturers to eliminate a number of metallic parts – with the aim of reducing aircraft weight and manufacturing costs.

More information




World Food Day 2014: EU research success story

Posted on 16/10/2014
Feeding the world without damaging the environment is the focus of World Food Day 2014, an appropriate subject as global demand for food is expected to increase by 70% by 2050, while a steep increase in biomass use will also put pressure on agriculture.

The solution favoured to target this challenge by EU-funded research project NOSHAN is turning agricultural waste into animal feed. If successful, it would open up new opportunities for farmers while cutting Europe’s dependence on feed imports. This would, in turn, create new green jobs in waste collection, treatment plants and feed manufacturing. The concept will be particularly welcome in rural areas, where growth is less intensive than in urban areas, and where the feed industry is a powerful economic engine.


One third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally – a total 1.3 billion tonnes a year – and food processing produces a large amount of this waste,” explained NOSHAN scientific coordinator Montse Jorba of the LEITAT Technological Center in Spain. “Fruit and vegetables have the highest wastage rates of any food. This amounts to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital.”

The team, made up by research centres, a university and companies from six EU countries plus Turkey, began in 2012 by assessing the value of various types of waste, building up a database of potential feed ingredients. By the time the project ends in 2016, the team will also know the best technologies for extracting and upgrading each waste type.

NOSHAN also presents Europe’s agricultural sector with an opportunity to achieve greater sustainability. Using bio-waste as a resource will help the sector to reduce its environmental impact.

The processes developed by the project will help agri-businesses to recover the calories contained in food thrown away, the energy that went into producing this food and also lead to a significant decrease in water use (food waste accounts for more than a quarter of total global freshwater consumption). By reducing the need for separate feed production, the NOSHAN approach could reduce increasing competition between food and feed production – both of which need land and water.

NOSHAN is also working on functional feed ingredients derived from food waste that target specific animal needs, such as health promotion or disease prevention. For example, researchers are currently identifying functional fibres and peptides (chemical compounds) within waste. These will be used to develop feed products tailored to pigs and poultry.

The project is funded with 3 million euros from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (2007-2013).

More information

 Photo: United States Committee for FAO ©