EU Agrees To the World’s Largest Carbon Border Tax

Longtime Slashdot reader WindBourne writes: EU is creating a tariff on certain imported goods based on their CO2 emissions that went into production and transportation. While many have opposed this, others have been correctly pointing out that little would change until nations started charging other nations for their polluting the world. In some ways, this already has a number of attributes going for it. With Kyoto, Europe forced that emissions from bio would count at the point where it was harvested and not where it was burned/utilized. This was because Europe is a major importer of bio products for heating and electricity. With this tariff, it will apply any use of bio, including H2, at point of usage, not of production.

What remains to be seen is:
1) How they will apply it to size (Nation? State? City?)?
2) What data will be used (Information from the local government? Satellite?)?
3) How the data will be normalized (GDP? Per capita?)?
4) How to calculate emissions per good (Total emissions? Worst item? Certain parts?)?
This will no doubt cause a number of nations to scream about it, as well as smaller nations, but hopefully, more nations will join in as well. Looks like the world is finally going to get serious about stopping greenhouse gas emissions. “The measure will apply first to iron and steel, cement, aluminum, fertilizers, electricity production and hydrogen before being extended to other goods,” notes CNN. “Under the new mechanism, companies will need to buy certificates to cover emissions generated by the production of goods imported into the European Union based on calculations linked to the EU’s own carbon price.”

Details of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism can be found here.

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EU Unveils Plans To Cut Europe’s Plastic and Packaging Waste

The EU executive wants to ban mini-shampoo bottles in hotels and the use of throwaway cups in cafes and restaurants, as part of sweeping legal proposals to curb Europe’s mountains of waste. The Guardian reports: A draft EU regulation published on Wednesday also proposes mandatory deposit and return schemes for single-use plastic drinks bottles and metal cans, as well as an end to e-commerce firms wrapping small items in huge boxes. The new rules, which will have to be approved by EU member states and the European parliament, are intended to tackle the surge in plastic and other packaging waste. EU officials estimate that 40% of new plastics and 50% of paper are used in packaging, making the sector a vast consumer of virgin materials.

The EU passed a law in 2019 to ban the most common single-use plastic items, such as plastic cutlery, stirrers and straws, but officials want to go further to tackle soaring amounts of packaging rubbish. The average European is thought to generate 180kg of packaging waste each year, which could rise by 19% by 2030, without action. Under the latest proposals, EU member states would have to reduce packaging waste per capita by 15% by 2040 compared with 2018. Officials think this could be achieved by more reuse and refilling, as well as tighter controls on packaging. For example, e-commerce retailers would have to ensure that empty space in a box is a maximum 40% in relation to the product.

The commission also hopes to end confusion about recycling: it proposes harmonized labels, probably pictograms, to make it clear to consumers which bin to use. In a separate law, the commission seeks to ensure that products claiming to be “biobased,” “biodegradable” or “compostable” meet minimum standards. In an attempt to clamp down on greenwashing, consumers would be able to tell how long it takes an item to biodegrade, how much biomass was used in its production and whether it is really suitable for home composting.

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EU Wants To Know If Microsoft Will Block Rivals After Activision Deal

EU antitrust regulators are asking games developers whether Microsoft will be incentivized to block rivals’ access to “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard’s best-selling games, according to an EU document seen by Reuters. From the report: EU antitrust regulators are due to make a preliminary decision by Nov. 8 on whether to clear Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision. The EU competition enforcer also asked if Activision’s trove of user data would give the U.S. software giant a competitive advantage in the development, publishing and distribution of computer and console games, the EU document shows. The planned acquisition, the biggest in the gaming industry, will help Microsoft better compete with leaders Tencent and Sony. After its decision next month the European Commission is expected to open a four-month long investigation, underscoring regulatory concerns about Big Tech acquisitions.

Games developers, publishers and distributors were asked whether the deal would affect their bargaining power regarding the terms for selling console and PC games via Microsoft’s Xbox and its cloud game streaming service Game Pass. Regulators also wanted to know if there would be sufficient alternative suppliers in the market following the deal and also in the event Microsoft decides to make Activision’s games exclusively available on its Xbox, its Games Pass and its cloud game streaming services. They asked if such exclusivity clauses would reinforce Microsoft’s Windows operating system versus rivals, and whether the addition of Activision to its PC operating system, cloud computing services and game-related software tools gives it an advantage in the video gaming industry. They asked how important the Call of Duty franchise is for distributors of console games, third-party multi-game subscription services on computers and providers of cloud game streaming services.

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EU Proposes Rules Making It Easier To Sue Drone Makers, AI Systems

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed rules making it easier for individuals and companies to sue makers of drones, robots and other products equipped with artificial intelligence software for compensation for harm caused by them. Reuters reports: The AI Liability Directive aims to address the increasing use of AI-enabled products and services and the patchwork of national rules across the 27-country European Union. Under the draft rules, victims can seek compensation for harm to their life, property, health and privacy due to the fault or omission of a provider, developer or user of AI technology, or for discrimination in a recruitment process using AI.

The rules lighten the burden of proof on victims with a “presumption of causality”, which means victims only need to show that a manufacturer or user’s failure to comply with certain requirements caused the harm and then link this to the AI technology in their lawsuit. Under a “right of access to evidence,” victims can ask a court to order companies and suppliers to provide information about high-risk AI systems so that they can identify the liable person and the fault that caused the damage.

The Commission also announced an update to the Product Liability Directive that means manufacturers will be liable for all unsafe products, tangible and intangible, including software and digital services, and also after the products are sold. Users can sue for compensation when software updates render their smart-home products unsafe or when manufacturers fail to fix cybersecurity gaps. Those with unsafe non-EU products will be able to sue the manufacturer’s EU representative for compensation. The AI Liability Directive will need to be agreed with EU countries and EU lawmakers before it can become law.

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Dutch Join Germany, Austria, In Reverting To Coal

The Dutch joined Germany and Austria in reverting to coal power on Monday following an energy crisis provoked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. France 24 reports: The Netherlands said it would lift all restrictions on power stations fired by the fossil fuel, which were previously limited to just over a third of output. Berlin and Vienna made similar announcements on Sunday as Moscow, facing biting sanctions over Ukraine, cuts gas supplies to energy-starved Europe. “The cabinet has decided to immediately withdraw the restriction on production for coal-fired power stations from 2002 to 2024,” Dutch climate and energy minister Rob Jetten told journalists in The Hague. The Dutch minister said his country had “prepared this decision with our European colleagues over the past few days.”

Germany however said it still aimed to close its coal power plants by 2030, in light of the greater emissions of climate-changing CO2 from the fossil fuel. “The 2030 coal exit date is not in doubt at all,” economy ministry spokesman Stephan Gabriel Haufe said at a regular news conference. The target was “more important than ever,” he added.

Austria’s government meanwhile announced Sunday that it would reopen a mothballed coal power station because of power shortages arising from reduced deliveries of gas from Russia. The authorities would work with the Verbund group, the country’s main electricity supplier, to get the station in the southern city of Mellach back in action, said the Chancellery. The European Commission noted Monday that “some of the existing coal capacities might be used longer than initially expected” because of the new energy landscape in Europe.

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EU Joins Mastodon Social Network, Sets Up Its Own Server

The European Union has joined the social network Mastodon, which has seen a staggering 30,000 new users after Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter was accepted. PC Magazine reports: On Thursday, the European Commission said it had set up its own server, dubbed EU Voice, to join Mastodon’s decentralized social network, also known as a “Fediverse.” The effort is currently only a pilot, but it represents the EU’s goal of supporting private and open-source software capable of rivaling mainstream social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. On the same day, the European Commission also launched an account for PeerTube, another decentralized platform that revolves around video sharing. “With the pilot launch of EU Voice and EU Video, we aim to offer alternative social media platforms that prioritize individuals and their rights to privacy and data protection,” said European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiorowski.

“In concrete terms this means, for example, that EU Voice and EU Video do not rely on transfers of personal data to countries outside the European Union and the European Economic Area; there are no advertisements on the platforms; and there is no profiling of individuals that may use the platforms,” he added. “These measures, amongst others, give individuals the choice on and control over how their personal data is used.”

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Apple’s Grip On iOS Browser Engines Disallowed Under Latest Draft EU Rules

Europe’s Digital Markets Act — near-finalized legislation to tame the internet’s gatekeepers — contains language squarely aimed at ending Apple’s iOS browser restrictions. The Register reports: The Register has received a copy of unpublished changes in the proposed act, and among the various adjustments to the draft agreement is the explicit recognition of “web browser engines” as a service that should be protected from anti-competitive gatekeeper-imposed limitations. Apple requires that competing mobile browsers distributed through the iOS App Store use its own WebKit rendering engine, which is the basis of its Safari browser. The result is that Chrome, Edge, and Firefox on iOS are all, more or less, Safari.

That requirement has been a sore spot for years among rivals like Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft. They could not compete on iOS through product differentiation because their mobile browsers had to rely on WebKit rather than their own competing engines. And Apple’s browser engine requirement has vexed web developers, who have been limited to using only the web APIs implemented in WebKit for their web apps. Many believe this barrier serves to steer developers toward native iOS app development, which Apple controls.

The extent to which Apple profits from the status quo has prompted regulatory scrutiny in Europe, the UK, the US, and elsewhere. […] Now those efforts have been translated into the text of the DMA, which, alongside the Digital Services Act (DSA), defines how large technology gatekeepers will be governed in Europe. […] In short, when the DMA takes effect in 2024, it appears that Apple will be required to allow browser competition on iOS devices. “The potential for a capable web has been all but extinguished on mobile because Apple has successfully prevented it until now,” said Alex Russell, partner program manager on Microsoft Edge who worked previously as Google Chrome’s first web standards tech lead. “Businesses and services will be able to avoid building ‘apps’ entirely when enough users have capable browsers.”

“There’s a long road between here and there,” he added. “Apple has spent enormous amounts to lobby on this, and they aren’t stupid. Everyone should expect them to continue to play games along the lines of what they tried in Denmark and South Korea.”

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Will Europe’s Push to Reduce Russian Fossil Fuel Use Hurt Its Climate Goals?

In 2021, the European Union imported about 40% of its gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, reports the Associated Press. But now EU officials “are fixated on rapidly reducing the continent’s reliance on Russian oil and natural gas — and that means friction between security and climate goals, at least in the short term.

“To wean itself from Russian energy supplies as quickly as possible, Europe will need to burn more coal and build more pipelines and terminals to import fossil fuels from elsewhere….”
[T]he EU plans to reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of this year, and to eliminate them altogether before 2030… In the near-term, ending energy ties with Russia puts the focus on securing alternative sources of fossil fuels. But longer term, the geopolitical and price pressures stoked by Russia’s war in Ukraine may actually accelerate Europe’s transition away from oil, gas and coal. Experts say the war has served as a reminder that renewable energy isn’t just good for the climate, but also for national security. That could help speed up the development of wind and solar power, as well as provide a boost to conservation and energy-efficiency initiatives….

The rapid pursuit of energy independence from Russia will likely require “a slight increase” in carbon emissions, said George Zachmann, an energy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. But “in the long term, the effect will be that we will see more investment in renewables and energy efficiency in Europe,” Zachmann said.

Plans that wouldn’t have been contemplated just a few months ago are now being actively discussed, such as running coal plants in Germany beyond 2030, which had previously been seen as an end date. Germany’s vice chancellor and energy minister, Robert Habeck, said there should be “no taboos.” The Czech government has made the same calculation about extending the life of coal power plants. “We will need it until we find alternative sources,” Czech energy security commissioner Václav Bartuska, told the news site Seznam Zprávy. “Until that time, even the greenest government will not phase out coal….”

In Britain, which is no longer part of the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it’s “time to take back control of our energy supplies.” Britain will phase out the small amount of oil it imports from Russia this year. More significantly, Johnson has signaled plans to approve new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, to the dismay of environmentalists, who say that is incompatible with Britain’s climate targets. Some within the governing Conservative Party and the wider political right want the British government to retreat on its commitment to reach net zero by 2050, a pledge made less than six months ago at a global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland….

Yet the shock waves from the war cut both ways. Sharply higher gas and electricity prices, and the desire to be less dependent on Russia, are increasing pressure to expand the development of home-grown renewables and to propel conservation. The International Energy Agency recently released a 10-point plan for Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by a third within a year. Simply lowering building thermostats by an average of one degree Celsius during the home-heating season would save 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year, or roughly 6% of what Europe imports from Russia.

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