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IRENA to Help Deliver Low-Carbon 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China

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The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has today signed a co-operation agreement with the People’s Government of Hebei Province, China to provide the city of Zhangjiakou with a renewable energy roadmap that will support its ambition to deliver a low-carbon Winter Olympics in 2022. The agreement will also help the city become China’s first energy transition pilot city. As co-host of the Winter Olympics with Beijing, Zhangjiakou aims to generate 50 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

The agreement, signed by IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin and the Governor of Hebei Province, Xu Qin, will support the establishment of a ‘low-carbon Olympic zone’ in Zhangjiakou, with plans for both the Olympic centre and Olympic stadiums to be powered by renewable energy. IRENA will also provide strategic advice in the context of the development of an International Center for Renewable Energy Industry Innovation in Zhangjiakou City.

“China has made remarkable progress in the pursuit of renewable energy and in the transition towards a modern energy system,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the signing of the Memoradum of Understanding. “From renewable energy adoption to technological innovation – China is emerging as a leader of the new energy economy and a key actor in energy transformation.

“The pursuit of a low-carbon Winter Olympics in 2022 will not only support China’s ambition to lower harmful emissions, but it will also see them pioneer a movement towards the cost-effective decarbonisation of the world’s greatest spectacles,” continued Mr. Amin. “This agreement reflects the Agency’s deepening cooperation with China and will facilitate a positive, two-way exchange of expertise and knowledge.”

Governor of Hebei Province, Mr. Xu Qin said: “President Xi Jinping’s strategic vision for an ecological civilization has significantly advanced environmental protection in China, greatly benefiting Chinese people whilst representing China’s contribution to global green development. Hebei Province will realise the vision proposed by President Xi, by prioritising ecological protection and exercising green development, as we expedite the speed at which we build a beautiful Hebei.

Mr Xu continued: “With abundant renewable energy resources – particularly the area of Zhangjiakou City – the potential of this cooperation with IRENA is broad and bright. As both sides work to advance R&D, technology innovation and the broader development of the renewable energy industry, this will support our planning for a low-carbon Winter Olympic Games.”

The Games will be the first major global sporting event held in China since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Co-host Zhangjiakou, located approximately 200 kilometers from Beijing, has been identified as having a strong renewable energy resource endowment, with abundant wind, solar and biomass potential in the region.

Between 2012 and 2016 China witnessed a 10-fold increase in solar energy adoption, and in 2017 alone, it added 53 GW of PV. China announced an intention to invest USD 361 billion in renewable power generation by 2020. China chaired IRENA’s 14th and 15th Council Meetings and is President of the Agency’s 9th Meeting of the Assembly in January next year.

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Explainer: Commission adopts new EU Air Safety List

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What is the EU Air Safety List?

The EU Air Safety List (ASL) is a list of air carriers from non-EU countries, which do not fulfil the necessary international safety standards. The carriers on the ASL are banned from operating to, in and from the EU. Also, carriers that do not operate to the EU can be put on the ASL, in order to warn the public travelling outside of the EU about their unsafe status. If the safety authorities of a third country are not able to fulfil their international safety oversight obligations, all the carriers of such country can be put on the ASL.

The EU Air Safety List, while evidently not popular with the affected countries, has developed into a very powerful, and internationally recognised tool to help improve the safety of international aviation. This is the case both for flights to the EU, but also for aviation outside of the EU. The ASL is also seen as a strong preventive tool, because countries, which are under scrutiny, tend to improve their safety oversight to prevent seeing their air carriers on the list.

Which carriers are currently on the EU Air Safety List?

After the update of June 2020, the 35th update, 96 air carriers are banned from EU skies:

  • 90 airlines certified in 16 states*, due to a lack of safety oversight by the aviation authorities from these states;
  • Six individual airlines, based on safety concerns with regard to these airlines themselves: Avior Airlines (Venezuela), Blue Wing Airlines (Suriname), Iran Aseman Airlines (Iran), Iraqi Airways (Iraq), Med-View Airlines (Nigeria) and Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe).

An additional three airlines are subject to operational restrictions and can only fly to the EU with specific aircraft types: Air Service Comores (the Comoros), Iran Air (Iran) and Air Koryo (North Korea).

Who is responsible for the updates to the EU Air Safety List?

For the purpose of updating the list, the Commission is assisted by the EU Air Safety Committee (ASC), which is composed of aviation safety experts from all the EU Member States and chaired by the Commission, with the support of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Acting on a proposal by the Commission, the Air Safety Committee adopts its opinion by qualified majority, which is then submitted to the European Parliament before final adoption by the Commission and subsequent publication in the Official Journal. To date, all decisions taken by the Commission to impose or to lift restrictions have always been reached with the unanimous support of the ASC. Equally, every update of the ASL met with the unanimous support of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee.

What is the procedure for updates to the EU Air Safety List?

All Member States and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have the obligation to communicate information to the Commission, which may be relevant in the context of updating the ASL. The European Commission and the Air Safety Committee use a variety of sources of information when assessing whether or not international safety standards are respected. These sources include ICAO, FAA, EASA, SAFA** and TCO*** reports, as well as information gathered by individual Member States and the Commission itself. It is important to note that this assessment is made against international safety standards (and not the EU safety standards, which are sometimes more stringent), and notably the standards promulgated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

To whom does it apply?

The rules establishing the list of banned carriers apply to all air carriers irrespective of their nationality – EU and non-EU ones. The rules apply only to commercial air transport, i.e. to air transport of passengers and cargo for remuneration or hire. The rules do not apply to private and non-commercial flights (e.g. positioning flights for maintenance purposes).

How often is the list updated and what is the timeframe for this? Is there not a risk that it will quickly become obsolete?

The Air Safety List may be updated whenever the Commission deems it is necessary, or upon request of an EU Member State. The ASC normally meets two or three times every year, as necessary. In cases of emergency, a specific procedure is foreseen.

How can an airline be cleared and taken off the list?

It is possible for states and air carriers to be removed from the air safety list. If an airline considers that it should be taken off the list because it complies with the relevant safety standards, it can address a request to the Commission, either directly or through its civil aviation authority. To enable a ban to be lifted, sufficient evidence needs to be provided to the EU to prove that the capacity of the airline and of its oversight authority to implement international safety standards is of a sufficient level. The Commission services will then assess the evidence presented by the airline and/or its oversight authority to substantiate its request for being withdrawn from the air safety list, and if the result of the assessment is positive, the Commission will make a proposal to the EU Air Safety Committee.

Notwithstanding the case of individual air carriers, if the underlying reason for an air carrier being on the ASL is due to the poor level of compliance with ICAO standards by its safety oversight authorities, it will require the state to address the significant non-compliances before that air carrier can be removed from the list.

In practical terms, this involves the air carrier and its state providing written information, attending meetings with the Commission and Member States, sometimes being subject to an on-site visit led by the Commission, and taking part in hearings in front of the Air Safety Committee.

How is an airline added to the list?

If the Commission or a Member State acquires and confirms evidence indicating serious safety deficiencies on the part of an airline or its oversight authority anywhere in the world, the list will be updated to include such airline or all the airlines of such country.

Does the inclusion of an airline in the air safety list always mean that it is no longer allowed to fly in Europe?

YES. As long as the air carrier is subject to a total ban, it cannot operate with its aircraft and personnel in the Union’s airspace. The airline is included in Annex A to the regulation whereby the Air Safety List is updated. Equally, as long as an air carrier is subject to a partial ban it can operate only with the aircraft stipulated in the Regulation. The airline is included in Annex B to the regulation whereby the Air Safety List is updated.

Banned airlines can, however, use the aircraft and personnel of other airlines, which are not on the ASL, on the basis of contracts called “wet-lease agreements”. In this way, passengers and cargo can still be transported on the basis of tickets sold by a banned airline, whereas the actual flight is operated by airlines which fully comply with the safety rules. Furthermore, aircraft which are used for government or state purposes (e.g. transport of the heads of state and/or government, humanitarian flights), do not fall under the safety requirements of ICAO. Such aircraft are considered to be operating “state flights” and they can fly into the EU even if they are banned from operating commercial flights to the EU. However, such flights do need a special authorisation (“diplomatic clearance”) from all the Member States, which the state aircraft overflies, as well as from the state of destination.

In essence, banned airlines cannot enter the sovereign airspace of any Member State and fly over their territory while they are banned (totally or partially).

Does the list prevent EU Member States from taking individual safety measures at a national level?

NO. The general principle is that whatever measure is considered at national level must be also examined at Union level. When an air carrier is considered unsafe and therefore banned in one Member State, there is an obligation to examine this measure at EU level with a view to applying it throughout the European Union. Nevertheless, even where a ban is not extended to the EU, there is scope for Member States to continue to act at national level in certain exceptional cases, particularly in emergencies or in response to a safety issue specifically affecting them.

What are airlines’ “rights of defence”?

Airlines that have been banned, or that are being investigated in view of a potential ban, have the right to express their points of view, submit any documents, which they consider appropriate for their defence, and make oral and written presentations to the Air Safety Committee and the Commission. This means that they can submit comments in writing, add new items to their file, and ask to be heard by the Commission or to attend a hearing before the Aviation Safety Committee, which then formulates its opinion based on these proceedings and the materials submitted prior to or during the hearing.

Is the Commission approach a punitive one?

The Commission’s sole aim is to improve aviation safety, which is in everyone’s interest, and in no way to affect a country’s economic or social development. Countries affected can put in place technical assistance measures to help airlines achieve a satisfactory level of aviation safety. While in the past the focus has been to put countries and carriers on the ASL, the Commission is now also focusing on working with affected states to help them improve their safety situation, in order to allow them to be released from the EU Air Safety List once the necessary safety levels have been reached.

How is the public informed about the EU Air Safety List?

The latest version of the list is made available to the public online at https://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/safety/air-ban_en. The Commission also liaises closely with European and international travel agent associations each time that any changes are made to the list in order that they may be in the best possible position to aid their clients – the passengers – in making informed decisions when making their travel arrangements. Moreover, the “Air Safety List” regulation also obliges national civil aviation authorities, EASA and airports in the territory of the Member States to bring the ASL to the attention of passengers, both via their websites and, where relevant, in their premises.

In what way does the EU Air Safety List provide rights to European travellers?

The Air Safety List Regulation establishes the right of any passenger to know the identity of every airline they fly with throughout their trip. To this effect, the contracting carrier is required to inform passengers of the identity of the operating air carrier or carriers when making a reservation, whatever the means used to make the booking. The passenger must also be kept informed of any change of operating carrier, either at check-in or, at the latest, when boarding. The Regulation also gives passengers the right to reimbursement or re-routing if a carrier with which a booking has been made is subsequently added to the Air Safety List, resulting in cancellation of the flight concerned.

In what way does the publication of the EU Air Safety List help European citizens travelling beyond EU territory?

The ASL does not only ban unsafe airlines from operating to, from and in the EU. The publication of the list also provides useful information to people wishing to travel outside the European Union, in order for them to avoid flying with these airlines. The list also safeguards the rights of consumers who have bought a trip at a travel agent, which includes a flight operated by an airline on the ASL.

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Central and South America now ‘intense zones’ for COVID-19 transmission

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Greater solidarity must be shown to Central and South American countries which have become “the intense zones” for COVID-19 transmission, a top official with the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO Executive Director, was speaking to journalists listening in to the UN agency’s regular virtual update on the pandemic.

He reported that the Americas are home to five of the 10 countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours: Brazil, the United States, Peru, Chile and Mexico.

The biggest rise in caseloads can be found in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Haiti, Argentina and Bolivia.

“While the numbers are not exponential, in some countries we are seeing a progressive increase in cases on a daily basis”, said Dr. Ryan.

“And countries are having to work very hard to both understand the scale of infection, but also health systems are beginning to come under pressure across the region.”

Countries vary in response

The Americas offer a mixed picture of COVID-19 responses on a national level, Dr. Ryan continued, with some countries taking what he described as an “all-of-government, all-of-society, inclusive, scientific-driven approach” to tackling the disease, and others struggling.

Factors that drive virus transmission across the region include complexities in population structure and urban poverty.

“I would certainly characterize that Central and South America in particular have very much become the intense zones of transmission for this virus as we speak, and I don’t believe that we have reached the peak in that transmission. And at this point, I cannot predict when we will”, he said.

Dr. Ryan called for support and international solidarity for countries in the region.

WHO is particularly concerned about the situation in Haiti due to the inherent weakness of the country’s health system.

Last month, an advisory group with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) warned that the pandemic could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe in the Caribbean island nation, where six million people already live below the poverty line.

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Explainer: rescEU and Humanitarian Aid under the new MFF

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Why is the Commission proposing to strengthen the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and rescEU?

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is a crisis management structure that allows Member States and Participating States[1] to strengthen their cooperation in the field of civil protection, to improve prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. It is based on voluntary contributions of Member States, with the European Commission playing a key coordinating and co-financing role.

The need for a more flexible, faster and reactive system to respond to large-scale emergencies is one of the lessons learnt from the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rapid spread of the virus exposed some limitations in the current crisis management framework. At times when Member States are hit by the same emergency simultaneously and unable to offer each other assistance, the EU is currently unable to help quickly enough to fill these critical gaps as it does not have its own assets and has to rely on voluntary support from Member States.

A reinforcement and upgrade of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism – as requested by the European Council in March 2020 – is therefore necessary to avoid situations where Member States are left alone during crises.

What is the main objective of the proposal?

The Commission’s proposes to allow the EU and its Member States to be better prepared for and able to react quickly and flexibly to crises, in particular those with a high-impact given the potential disruption to our economies and societies.

Under the Commission’s proposal, the EU will be able to;

  • directly procure an adequate safety net of rescEU capacities;
  • use its budget more flexibly to be able to prepare more effectively and react faster in times of exceptional needs
  • dispose of the logistical capacity to provide multi-purpose air services in case of emergencies and to ensure timely transport and delivery of assistance;

These strategic capacities will be supplementary to those of the EU Member States. They should be strategically pre-positioned in such a way as to ensure the most effective geographic coverage in response to an emergency.

In this way, a sufficient number of strategic assets will be available in order to support Member and Participating States in situations of large-scale emergencies and offer an effective EU-response.

What kinds of action will be financed under the proposal?

The upgraded EU Civil Protection Mechanism will equip the European Union with assets and logistical infrastructure that can cater for different types of emergencies, including those with a medical emergency dimension. This would allow the EU to:

  • Acquire, rent, lease and stockpile identified rescEU capacities;
  • Fully finance the development and the operational cost of all rescEU capacities as a strategic European reserve in case national capacities are overwhelmed;
  • Enhance the funding for national capacities deployed under the European Civil Protection Pool to increase their availability for deployment;
  • Ensure timely transport and delivery of requested assistance. This also includes internationally deployable experts, technical and scientific support for all types of disasters as well as specific medical equipment and personnel such as ‘flying medical experts’, nurses and epidemiologists.

Humanitarian Aid

How will EU humanitarian aid be enhanced under the new MFF?

The Commission proposes €14.8 billion for humanitarian aid, of which €5 billion come from the European Union Recovery Instrument to reinforce the humanitarian aid instrument.

The increased budget reflects the growing humanitarian needs in the most vulnerable parts of the world. The Humanitarian Aid Instrument will provide needs-based delivery of EU assistance to save and preserve lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by natural hazards or man-made crises.

A significantly enhanced Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve will reinforce EU action in response to all aspects of the health crisis, as well as other emergencies. Funds can be channelled to provide emergency support as and when needed through EU instruments such as humanitarian aid in cases where funding under dedicated programmes proves insufficient.

Why is the Commission proposing to increase humanitarian aid budget?

Humanitarian crises in the world are increasing: In 2020, nearly 168 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection, a significant increase from 130 million people in 2018 (OCHA humanitarian needs overview 2020). The needs are stemming from the conflicts, global refugee crisis, worsening natural disasters due to climate change.

The coronavirus pandemic further increases already existing humanitarian needs. It has a major health, social and economic impact on societies around the globe, in particular on the poorest countries. It is estimated that up to 265 million people worldwide could be under severe threat of hunger by the end of 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic (OCHA humanitarian needs overview 2020). This requires strong reinforcements to the humanitarian aid budget to meet the growing needs.

The EU adapted its humanitarian response in light of the needs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. However, the impact of the pandemic and the economic fall-out, are compounding existing needs, making it all the more important that the Union is equipped to demonstrate solidarity with the rest of the world.

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