European business briefs: BP announces Dutch wind expansion, EU faces more drought, Ireland’s nitrate programme, EU offers aid to Asia, Ireland tackles floods

BP, the international energy company, today announced that it has begun construction of a 9 MW wind farm at its oil terminal in the port of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The project will have capacity to provide sufficient electricity for some 5,000 Dutch homes and displace 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. It is due to be completed in the first half of 2005. Eric Bakker, BP's Director of Wind Energy, said: "This project is a good example of BP's wind strategy, which is to focus on brownfield opportunities on our own operational sites. This enables us to lower environmental impact and to make good use of land already being used for industrial purposes. The Amsterdam wind project will consist of three wind turbines supplied by Vestas, one of the world's leading manufactures of wind turbines. Each turbine will be capable of generating three megawatts of electricity, the largest yet to be ordered for the Dutch market. The electricity will be sold into the Dutch grid."

Europe and many other parts of the world are increasingly being stricken by serious drought, according to new research. The overall percentage of land area affected has doubled in the last thirty years, with climate change singled out as the key factor. The new scientific evidence underlines the threat global warming poses to our planet, Friends of the Earth Europe said this week in Brussels. The environmental group has urged Europe’s leaders to face up to the challenge and agree drastic cuts in the emissions that are leading to global warming. The analysis, from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), reveals that, as a result of climate change, over the past 30 years the proportion of Earth’s land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The fraction of global land experiencing very dry conditions rose from about 10-15% in the early 1970s to about 30% by 2002. The findings were presented at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in San Diego, California.

Ireland’s Environment Department has received a letter of formal notice from the EU Commission (under Article 228 of the EU Treaty) in response to its Nitrates Action Programme. The Programme was sent to the EU Commission on 22 October 2004. The Commission view is that the Nitrates Action Programme as submitted does not represent a complete and compliant response to the judgment delivered on 11 March 2004 by the European Court of Justice, and that modifications and further actions are necessary. Minister Roche expressed his disappointment at the EU Commission response to the Nitrates Action programme. The Minister said that the programme represented a tremendous amount of work and consensus by Government Departments and the farming community. The terms of the letter are being considered in the Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food and a reply will be issued within the required 3-month period following consultation with interested parties including the main farming organisations.

The EU has announced it may send old or unused fishing boats to states in south east Asia to replace vessels wrecked by the recent tsunami. Trawlers are scrapped every year by the EU, but it has pledged to donate the vessels to coastal Indian Ocean states instead of destroying them to help rebuild their fishing industry, which was destroyed by the giant wave. The Commission has also pledged €1.5 billion to the affected states and backed calls for debt relief. It is also seeking to give trade breaks to the areas that were worst hit by the disaster.

And finally, Irish Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Dick Roche, TD, has confirmed that officials in his Department have contacted all County Managers in vulnerable counties to ensure that all necessary arrangements have been put in place to deal with possible flooding or other problems arising from the severe weather conditions. Managers have been reminded that local authority engineers should give priority to looking after the interests of the general public. The Minister ensured that the necessary equipment and sandbags were provided to deal with any potential floods, especially in coastal areas. He also contacted the Minister for Defence to confirm that the local civil defence is constantly on call to deal with any difficulties.

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