European business briefs: Spain’s main utility company threatened, Irish waste management, Germany lays down GM law, Ireland announces green schemes, EU snubs Japan over nuclear reactor

Spain has announced proposals to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants by 21% between 2005 to 2007 in a plan that market insiders have proclaimed damaging to the country's utility company, Endesa. Shares in Endesa, Spain's leading coal power producer, closed down 2.2% at €16.34, while the DJ Stoxx index of European utility stocks was flat. The government released its proposals for plant-by-plant emission limits under a wider plan to meet the European Union's commitments to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. The proposals will be open for public comment for one week.

Mr Dick Roche TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local
Government has called for “a less emotive and better informed debate on the issue of waste management”. The Minister was commenting on the publication of a series of leaflets on waste facilities. The leaflets explain issues regarding Integrated Waste Management, Incineration, Biological Treatment, Backyard Burning and Landfill. “It is important that the public has an opportunity to hear the real facts,” said the Minister. It’s time for a rational debate. All too often we have had more heat than light in this debate.”

The German parliament has passed a controversial law laying down strict rules on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops and plants, winning praise from environmentalists but drawing complaints from farmers and biotech companies. The law, which should take effect from 1 January 2005, includes provisions that make farmers using GM plants legally responsible for the contamination of non-GM crops and obliges them to include all land used for GM cultivation in a public register. The law comes after the European Union agreed to lift a long-standing moratorium on GM crops. Friends of the Earth Europe have commended the move by the German government.

Mr Dick Roche TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has announced that he has cleared key stages of three important schemes in County Cavan, two in Kingscourt and one in Redhills. The Minister’s announcement came during a visit to Cavan to view a number of infrastructural projects being undertaken by Cavan County Council. According to the Minister, all three schemes will play a very important role in improving the social, economic and environmental quality of life in the areas concerned. “This high quality infrastructure will mean that new housing and other development will be able to take place in a sustainable way and that local people will be able to enjoy the resulting economic gains without adversely affecting the environment,” he added.

And finally, despite recent statements that the EU would do all it could to include Japan in a project to build a nuclear fusion reactor in France, inside suggestions that it may eventually leave Tokyo out has drawn angry reactions from Japan. The plan to build the world’s first thermonuclear reactor has been sponsored by six partners: the EU, Japan, China, the US, Russia and South Korea, but the EU and Japan are competing against each other to host the reactor. EU ministers recently agreed at a meeting to continue seeking Japan’s backing to build the reactor in France and stated that they would try to get the support of all partners in the project. Japan has stated that it will pursue its bid to host the project, and warned the EU against a unilateral move to go ahead without it.

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