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GeoPolicy: An overview of EU funding for the Earth, atmosphere, and space sciences

GeoPolicy: An overview of EU funding for the Earth, atmosphere, and space sciences

Are you thinking of applying for funding? Or are you considering a career in academia and want to know where your research funding could come from? The European Union (EU) has large financial resources available for academic scientific research and innovation (R&I). This is in addition to national government funding bodies. This blog post, the 5th in the EGU’s GeoPolicy series, introduces R&I funding policies in the EU, and lists the major funds available for EGU scientists.

The EU aims to ensure EU scientific research is at the forefront of knowledge discovery. EU member states are encouraged to invest 3% of their GDP by 2020 to provide funding for R&I. Its goals are to tackle the ‘challenges of our time’ (food security, energy demand, climate change, an aging population etc.) and to boost European economy through a single European Research Area [1].

The EU has a variety of interlinked programmes which offer funding for R&I. These are available to public and private sector organisations and total a staggering 130 billion euros. Funding for academics is primarily available through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme, although some other initiatives, which are sector focused, are also open to researchers. The figure below shows all EU R&I funding opportunities, and the amount each programme has to spend (in million euros).

 

 

H2020 is by far the largest available funding resource for EGU academics. Some specific areas of EGU science have additional funding sources available. These include:

  • Space: There are two programmes which offer funding for space related activities (in addition to H2020). The Galileo initiative aims to improve global satellite navigation, with the intention of launching over 300 satellites around Earth by 2020. Funding is available for R&I into the development of ‘fundamental elements of the satellite system’ i.e. electrical components. The Copernicus programme provides ‘accurate and reliable information and data in the field of environment and security’ using both satellites and in-situ equipment. Funding is available for the development of Earth observation techniques.
  • Agriculture & forestry: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development provides grants for those performing research and innovation activities in the fields of agriculture, food production, and forestry.
  • Research networks: The European Social Fund can be used for ‘the training of researchers and to support networking between research institutions’.

As a side note the EU also indirectly provides funding for students through the Erasmus+ scheme to relocate ‘in the pursuit of education and training opportunities’. [2]

H2020

H2020 offers funding for successful applications that meet some of their policy objectives. There is little under 75 billion euros available for R&I. The H2020 subsections which are relevant to EGU scientists are listed below:

How to apply

The video below gives a basic introduction to applying for H2020 funding. [3]

Funding for research grants (i.e. from the ERC or a Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant) is done through the Participant Portal. This is where scientists can submit a research proposal of their own design. Alternatively, funding for specific projects, proposed by the EU, can be applied for through the Calls for Proposals webpages. Calls are uploaded to this website throughout the running of H2020 (2014-2020) so it is worth regularly checking for recently postings. [4]

The application process involves submitted proposals to be evaluated by academic and industrial experts, rather than European Commission employees. More information about the application process can be found here. Academics who wish to apply as a registered expert to review research proposals can find more information here.

Edit: The Marie Curie Alumni Association website lists 10 direct links where european research funding can be found.

Sources used for this blog post

[1] – http://europa.eu/pol/rd/

[2] – http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2015/568327/EPRS_BRI(2015)568327_EN.pdf

[3] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmN0NccQCD0

[4] – http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/home.html

 

GeoPolicy: What was decided from the Paris COP21?

GeoPolicy: What was decided from the Paris COP21?

Last week saw the world’s leaders come together in Paris for the 21st ‘Conference of the Parties’ (aka COP21) to discuss climate change. The 12 day meeting saw over 50,000 participants (half of which from Government organisations) come to reach an agreement on limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) production.

Background

Manmade climate change, resulting from the increased production of GHG into the atmosphere, has caused the Earth to warm by over 1 °C since pre-industrial times. If global emissions continue to rise at this rate the world will be roughly 5 °C warmer by 2100 (that’s the same difference in temperature between now and the last ice age). A temperature change of that range will have major impacts on the Earth and its inhabitants. For decades, world leaders have met to discuss strategies for reducing GHG emissions. The 2009 COP aimed to limit global warming to 2 °C; a level considered to be preventing “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” [1]. However, there has been no legally binding treaties to come from a COP where all countries were in agreement. A legislative agreement was the major goal for COP21.

The video below gives a good summary of the COP history including which meetings were considered successes and which were failures.

COP21 primer: A brief history of climate talks

What did the EU countries pledge?

Before COP21, countries submitted ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’, or INDCs, which laid out their individual plans for GHG reduction.

As a whole, the EU submitted relatively aggressive INDCs, pledging a reduction of GHGs of at least 60 % below 2010 levels by 2050. This pledge would be legally binding if all parties agree. The EU already has legislation that requires all 28 member states to reduce their emissions by at least 40 % by 2030, compared to 1990 [2].

The UNFCCC ‘Climate Action Now’ briefing

The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the organisation who organises the COPs. After all the INDCs were submitted but before the meeting they published their ‘Climate Action Now’ briefing which summarised the pledges so far and the major policy routes to be taken to achieve only a 2 °C warming. I summarised this document into a storify of tweets but the major highlights are listed below:

  • Current INDC pledges do not limit global warming to 2 °C but to 3.7-4.8 °C
  • 2 °C limit can still be reached through suggested policy solutions but ‘Achieving the 2 degree goal requires immediate action and the full engagement of Parties and other relevant stakeholders’
  • Targeted financial support, tech transfer and capacity-building (especially for developing countries) is needed.
  • There are multiple co-benefits to climate mitigation policies which include water and food security, biodiversity improvements, economic benefits, improved health, and higher air quality.
  • 6 policy themes are: Renewables, Energy Efficiency, Transport, Carbon Capture, Non-CO2 GHGs, Land use, Adaptation co-benefits.

Highlights from the meeting

  • Drafting the agreement throughout the meeting and getting the new treaty signed was the primary goal of COP21. A consensus had to be met from all 196 participating countries to make a legally binding document. The draft agreement went through three rounds of edits over the 2 week meeting. It started being 48 pages in length which was reduced to 28 pages, then 27, but finally ending up at 31 pages. Prior draft agreements highlighted any contentious issues in square brackets. The first draft had a staggering 939 areas of disagreement. This was reduced to 367, and then to 50 in the final draft published on December 11th.
  • Day 1 of the meeting saw 150 of the world leaders come together to give key speeches and highlight their Nation’s pledges. President Obama spoke of the need for a “flow to the countries that need help preparing for the impacts of climate change we can no longer avoid”. China’s President, Xi Jinping, spoke of his country’s aim to peak GHG emission by 2030. Other new initiatives were announced including the Solar Alliance, which aims to “foster cooperation and collaboration between solar-rich nations”. New Zealand’s Prime Minister spoke of the need to reduce fossil fuel subsidies and to allow these funds to be invested in low-carbon technology. [More information on Day 1’s highlights can be found on the Carbon Brief Website[3].
  • 1.5 or 2 degrees warming was a hotly debated topic throughout the meeting. It was put forward at the beginning of COP21 by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which consists of 20 developing countries. 100% renewable energy and full decarbonisation by 2050 was also called for by this forum. Before the meeting the 2 degree limit was discussed more often, but surpassing a 1.5 degree rise could still be damaging, as Dr Rachel Warren, a from the University of East Anglia, told the Carbon Brief: “In the 5th assessment of the IPCC (2013), when we assessed the reasons for concern about climate change and we considered unique and threatened systems, we found that a transition from moderate to high risk to those systems occurred somewhere between 1.1-1.6 °C above pre-industrial, whereas by 2 °C the risks to those systems were already high.” Article 2 was heatedly debated but the final wording of the treaty became “Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C” [4].
  • The long term goal has been included in the agreement to account for the current pledges falling short of the 2 degree limit. This was another debated issue throughout COP21. The resulting text reads that “a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of GHGs in the second half of this century”. This is a compromised statement compared to previous drafts which offered either specific dates for these goals to be achieved or used the more vague term of achieving “emissions neutrality”. The term ‘balance’ has also been criticised as being too ambiguous. Additionally, the final text offers the opportunity for carbon capture techniques to be used to achieve net zero emissions [5].
  • A five year review cycle features in the agreement where countries must continue to make pledges, similar to the INDCs, that demonstrate how they plan to further reduce their emissions. This section was included to account for the gap in countries’ pledges and the desired 2 degree warming limit. These meetings will commence in 2020 (when the agreement legally comes into being).
  • Financial aid from developed countries to support developing states with renewable energy projects is described as a legal requirement in the agreement. In previous drafts this included a quantified amount of at least $100 billion per year, however this value is now in a flexible / voluntary section of the agreement. A new ‘Loss and Damage’ term legally requires developed countries to offer financial aid to ‘small islands and vulnerable states’ to help them tackle inevitable effects of climate change these nations are/will experience. However, liability and compensation terms have been explicitly left out of the agreement. For a full list of the current funding pledges please see the UNFCCC’s Climate Funding Announcements webpage. [6].

‘Not perfect’

The agreement has been described by many as ‘not perfect’. Some phrases have been criticised as too vague and not all terms are legally binding, for example, a voluntary emissions trading scheme is described. Willing countries can sign up but there must be at least 55 parties, covering at least 55% of global emissions for the scheme to be adopted.

Future implications

President Obama stated that the Paris agreement is “the best chance we have to save the one planet we have”. China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua also stated that, although the agreement is not ideal, “this does not prevent us from marching historical steps forward” [7]. The positivity and optimism from the first day of COP21 has remained throughout the whole meeting. Now, countries must adhere to their pledges to decrease GHG emissions if we are to limit global climate change to a 2 degree warming.

You can read the signed treaty on the UNFCCC’s website.

Sources

[1] – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/climate/2015-paris-climate-talks/what-are-the-paris-climate-talks

[2] – EP At a glance plenary 12 October 2015 ‘EU approach to the Paris climate conference’

[3] – http://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-the-key-announcements-from-day-1-at-cop21

[4] – http://www.carbonbrief.org/scientists-discuss-the-1-5c-limit-to-global-temperature-rise

[5] – http://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-the-long-term-goal-of-the-paris-climate-deal

[6] – http://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-the-final-paris-climate-deal

[7] – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35086346

GeoPolicy: An expert discussion on ozone – working at the science-policy interface

GeoPolicy: An expert discussion on ozone – working at the science-policy interface

Erika von Schneidemesser is our first guest blogger for the newly established EGUPolicy column. Erika is a Research Scientist at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies based in Potsdam, Germany. Her post gives an insight into working at the science-policy interface by describing a recent project she has been involved in.

As scientists and researchers we are increasingly being asked to conduct or participate in interdisciplinary (working across disciplines) or transdisciplinary (working with stakeholders outside of academia) research. Science-policy work is one aspect of this. However, it is often hard to know how, who, where, or when to engage. To hopefully shed a bit of light on this topic I will take you through the process for a recent science-policy activity we collaborated on, topically focused on ozone air pollution. An activity like this can easily be part of a larger context or series of actions integrated into a research project, or it could also be a one-off event.

Erika von Schneidemesser

Erika von Schneidemesser, researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies.

As a bit of context, I work at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany. This institute is set up as a combination research institute-think tank hybrid with a focus on transformational and transdisciplinary research. Topically the research program that I work in has a focus on air quality in the larger context of global change. Through previous participation in local science-policy events, we developed a relationship with a German NGO (Deutsche Umwelthilfe) that also has as one area of focus, air quality. (As a side note: working with Deutsche Umwelthilfe, or any NGO, does not mean doing advocacy work, but is rather focused on providing solid, up-to-date science information.)

With the revisions to European air quality-relevant emission directives planned, we discussed organizing a ‘Fachgespräch’ (expert discussion) on ozone. This was a natural fit given that much of our research focus is on ozone, and it is still a critical air quality issue for Europe. More than 98% of the population in European urban areas was exposed to concentrations of ozone exceeding the WHO guideline values in 2012.[1] Our interest was to communicate some of our latest work on ozone and to raise awareness of the relevance of ozone as an environmental and air quality issue that is still important in Europe and globally. Their interest was to be able to inform revisions of air quality legislation, as well as being able to provide a solid scientific basis for justification to reduce ozone precursor species.

Together we designed the Fachgespräch. Considering the questions: What do we want to get out of it? What would make the activity a success? What aspects should be included to reach these goals? Who is our target audience? In this case we were aiming for a robust discussion including perspectives from science and policy. To lay the groundwork for the rest of the discussion, it was important that we cover the state of the science regarding ozone. This can inform how proposed mitigation might be supported by the science and/or identify areas where more research might be needed. We also included experts not only from atmospheric chemistry, but from health and ecosystem impacts.  Understanding the state of the knowledge on the human health effects and ecosystem impacts of ozone is important in addressing the current air quality guidelines and standards. Are the guidelines and standards sufficient to protect our health and ecosystems? Experts from local to national policy (in this case local government representatives and the German Environment Agency) were also key participants, to address what has been implemented in terms of policy. Where have previous reductions in ozone precursor emissions (substances which react in the atmosphere to produce ozone) been made, and where is there significant potential for progress? A mix of participants from different science, policy, and societal organizations made for a robust and interesting discussion.

As part of this Fachgespräch we had planned to write a policy brief that could be distributed to a wider audience that built on the information presented and any conclusions that came out of the event. This was a collaborative publication, and without going into the content, you can read it here. This briefing was used by the NGO in their discussions with EU ministers to aid their considerations for revisions to air quality-relevant emission directives. Furthermore, after publishing the policy brief, it became clear that this document appealed to a wider audience than previously identified   as we received requests for copies from members of academia who found it useful as support for research funding/facilities on ozone. Events and discussions such as these are often useful to inform research by identifying areas particularly relevant to informing policy, or where interdisciplinary collaboration or additional disciplinary efforts could add significant value to advance the science.

Hopefully this post has shed some light on science-policy work, and maybe even given you a few ideas for discussion of your own. There are a lot of different options out there, but it is important to identify what fits to your work and goals. Attending such events in your field and geographical area to cultivate relationships that may lead to future collaborations is a great way to start.

[1] EEA. Air Quality in Europe – 2014 Report. p.54.

 

By Erika von Schneidemesser, researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies.

GeoPolicy: EGU sciences on debate at the European Parliament

GeoPolicy: EGU sciences on debate at the European Parliament

The adoption of legislation within the European Union (EU) is a complex process involving many steps. In my first blog post in this GeoPolicy series I highlighted an example of this process.

Several draft legislation pieces are currently being assessed within the European Parliament (EP) and Council of Ministers (Council) that have been influenced by EGU-related science. This blog post summarises this draft legislation and to where in the process each piece has progressed.

Much of the information for this blog post has been taken from the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS) website, which produces support documents for the EP. It is here that you can find out more information about all EU legislation currently in progress.

 

 

Post-2020 reform of the EU Emissions Trading System

The EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by buying and selling emission ‘allowances’. One allowance is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide or gas equivalent . The video below gives a good overview of the ETS.

The total amount of allowances is capped relative to 1990 emission totals, but this cap is reduced every year by 1.74 % to incentivise industries to reduce their emissions. If companies have reduced their emissions to below this cap they can sell surplus allowances, or keep them for the next year. The price of the allowance depends on supply and demand. Industries are incentivised to invest in carbon-reducing technology if this is a cheaper alternative than buying allowances. If carbon prices are lower than alternative technologies, extra allowances can be purchased from companies who have already reduced their emissions.

This EU legislation concentrates on the 4th phase of the ETS which spans the years 2020-2028 (we are currently in the 3rd phase, 2013-2020). The major policy points are:

  • The introduction of a market stabilisation reserve where 12 % of surplus annual allowances are stored for future use;
  • The annual cap decrease will change from 1.74 % to 2.2 % to reduce emissions faster;
  • Industries will now have to account for indirect carbon leakages in their emission inventories;
  • New funds will be available to aid start-up renewable projects.

This legislation is in the early stages of the process: the EC proposal document is currently receiving feedback and suggested amendments.  National parliaments, the European Economic & Social Committee and/or the Committee of Regions must still give feedback before an edited draft can be formed.

ETS Progress Bar

Progress stage of the drafted legislation. Sourced from the ‘Emissions Trading Scheme legislation EP progress briefing’.

 

 

National emission ceilings for air pollutants

Qir Quality Exposures

Percentage of the urban population in the EU28 exposed to air pollutant concentrations above EU and WHO reference levels (2010-12). Sourced from the ‘European Environment Agency: Air quality in Europe’. 

In December 2015 the EC produced an impact assessment focusing on five different policy options to achieve the EU’s health and environment objective goals. Despite considerable improvements, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has indicated that the EU still breaks pollutant levels that are considered to result in unnacceptable risks to humands and the environment. These levels are defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and are based exclusively on scientific findings. EU targets are much less restrictive than those of the WHO, but these levels are still being broken, as the figure on the right shows. Health-related costs of air pollution in the EU range between €330–940 billion per year.

The Gothenburg Protocol (1999) aimed to reduce acidification, eutrophication, and ground-level ozone by setting emissions caps for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia by 2010. This new EU legislation aims to further reduce emissions by setting new caps and larger fines for non-compliance. The European Commission estimates that implementation costs would range from €2.2 to 3.3 billion per year.

The legislation has been reviewed by impacted stakeholders and the EP advisory committee. The next stage is to discuss and amend the proposal in the EP plenary session. Once accepted, it will become the official stance of the EP. Negotiations are then continued with the Council in the trilogue before a final decision is made and the legislation is adopted.

 

 

Organic Farming Legislation

Organic farming is a political object of the EU, described as an “overall system of farm management and food production that respects natural life cycles”. Since the initial adoption in 2009,

 European Union Organic Produce Logo . Credit: ec.europa.eu (distributed via Wikimedia Commons )

European Union Organic Produce Logo . Credit: ec.europa.eu (distributed via Wikimedia Commons )

legislation has been continuously edited and expanded. The percentage area of agricultural land in the EU used for organic farming has remained at 6 % despite a steady expansion of the organic market. Currently, the EU imports organic produce to cover this gap in supply and demand.

The new legislation proposed by the European Commission (EC) has streamlined current legislation and removed historical ‘exception rules’ in order to define organic farming more rigorously. These changes include:

  • Organic farmers would no longer be able to use non-organic seed or introduce non-organic young poultry;
  • Organic farmers would be compensated if unintentional non-authorised products are found within their farms;
  • Mixed farming techniques (organic and conventional farming) would be allowed only during the conversion period from traditional to organic practices.

Market for organic foodstuffs: the top 10 countries. Sourced from the FiBL and IFOAM report ‘ORGANIC IN EUROPE: Prospects and Developments’

 

The figure below shows the progress of this drafted legislation: currently at the ‘trilogue’ step. This means the drafted legislation has been proposed by the EC and submitted to the Council, the EP and relevant stakeholders who have been able to give their feedback (a staggering 950 amendments were received!). Both the EP and the Council have produced their amended legislation drafts, which have been approved by their respective allocated subcommittees. Now, selected members from the EP and Council are to produce the final drafted legislation in the trilogue, which then will be voted to be adopted by the EP.

Progress stage of the drafted legislation. Sourced from Organic farming legislation EP progress briefing.

Progress stage of the drafted legislation. Sourced from the ‘organic farming legislation EP progress briefing’.

 

More information about the current draft legislation being considered in the European parliament can be found here.