Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

On the 2nd and 3rd of February I attended the 7thInternational Forum on Illegal, Unreported  and Unregulated (IUU ) fishing held at Chatham House.

The lack of transparency in global fisheries was a key concern raised during the event. Weak institutions and regulation overlap to form a regime (seemingly by design) with more blind alleys and dead ends than the Cretan Labyrinth; a state of affairs that bolsters the impunity with which vessels pursue IUU fishing.

The economic arguments against IUU fishing have been established and are self-explanatory, similar to the economic arguments against shop lifting/bank robberies/ you see what I am getting at. IUU fishing imposes huge costs on coastal state populations and they are likely to be borne by some of the poorest states in the world.  The problem is that these states are unable to raise sufficient capital to protect their own resources. A property right without enforcement, any form of social cohesion/norm against IUU and the presence of unscrupulous vessels (apparently in plenty supply) means the resource is open game.

Even if (a very big if) there is sufficient capacity within a coastal state to undertake significant monitoring, control and surveillance activity (MCS), it is highly uncertain whether anyone will be charged with an offence. Vessels use flags of convenience allowing the ultimate beneficiaries to disappear behind shell companies and weak regulation in flag states (thereby attracting the vessel in the first place). Current port state measures are insufficient to tackle IUU – no true registry of vessels exists and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMO) do not fulfil their obligations to tackle IUU.  A new set of port state measures has been approved by FAO, which would assist identification of IUU vessel and restrict access to ports, but the required number of signatories has not yet been reached. In addition many catch documentation schemes are highly ineffective and susceptible to fraud.

As shown during the event, tools such as effective catch documentation and vessel registries are available to establish successful regimes to tackle the issue of transparency. But as acknowledged by many speakers, an absence of political will has meant the application of these tools, is patchy at best.  The speaker from the EC noted that, strong regulation (in his opinion), was not being applied uniformly in member states because of differing priorities. A lack of political will appears to be the driving force behind such a failing, some countries just don’t appear to be on board with sustainable fishing management.  The paradoxical tension between fish and fishermen is as strong as ever, (bringing to mind this quote from a Spanish officialFor sure we are friends of fish, but still more, we are the friends of fishermen.”)

Whose responsibility is it to ensure action is taken? IUU fishing is a global issue and therefore requires global solutions. But unfortunately as seen with other multi-lateral environmental agreements this is fraught with difficulties. It is likely that the lowest common denominator will set the agenda, in global fisheries this is very low indeed.

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Excuse me for being just a slightly bit amused by this article from the Telegraph headlined “EU to ban cars from cities by 2050” and the ensuing comments.  Although the article plainly quotes Siim Kallas (Vice-President of the European Commission and responsible for transport, but who is amusingly referred to in the Telegraph article as the EU transport commission – we hope the commission consists of more than Kallas!) as saying “That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres” (emphasis added by Betsy) – the rest of the article and its commentators continue on the same vein of the EU will ban all cars completely from European city centres.  I don’t recommend you read the comments because after initial amusement, it might make you lose faith in humanity; sadly, together with the usual spoutings about socialism, elites, etc., the commentators have reacted as you’d expect them to – wondering how people would move around without their cars. And UPS without their trucks. And emergency services without ambulances.

All hilarity aside, while we haven’t actually looked in-depth into the EU Transport 2050 Strategy we have read a quick summary.

The objectives seem fine, although the goalposts are set perhaps a bit too far away in time for our liking. But perhaps our old friend the hand of the market will sort that out for us.  The Transport Strategy aims to have a 50% shift away from conventionally fuelled cars by 2030, phasing them completely out of cities by 2050. The way fuel prices are rising perhaps these targets won’t be so hard to achieve. It’s basic economics that – as the price of a type of fuel increase, demand shifts to cheaper alternatives – perhaps into public transport, or cars that are less reliant or even aren’t reliant at all on these fuels. It all depends how much the price increase is and how available (convenient and cheap) the alternatives are.  As the demand shifts, alternatives will become more available – vehicle manufacturers will be more encouraged to innovate, producing more fuel (of any type) efficient cars.

What will raise fuel prices? Increasing cost of exploration and processing could be one reason but so is political instability and, as we are seeing today, conflict in regions that produce oil. Policy intervention can also increase fuel prices. The Transport Strategy talks about moving towards a full application of “user or polluter pays” principle.

This principle takes the idea that the price for the fuel – no matter how high – pays only to cover the cost of exploration, processing, distribution and so on, but not the cost of environmental damage during the finding and preparation of oil or its use. But users of fuel (the polluters) should pay for these costs too and this can be through taxes on carbon for example and other policy intervention. Taxes, in turn, increase the fuel price encouraging demand to shift to alternatives, reducing the fuel use and emission of carbon and other environmental impacts.

Why should we do that? We know Telegraph readers probably believe that climate change is all a big plot by some world socialist government, but whether they believe the science or not, they will be affected, just as all of us will. Without cuts to greenhouse gas emissions the science tells us that it is possible that rather than worrying about the government stealing their cars by 2050, in 2100 Londoners on their daily row to work may be cursing the government for allowing this climate change business to happen…

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