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Biofuels have been high on the agenda within both Westminster and Brussels today, as Europe battles with targets and the UK reviews the sustainability of a renewable future. In other news, the UKs first Small Business Saturday took place on Saturday 7 December and was heralded a success up and down the country.
Small Business Saturday, the first of its kind in the UK, resulted in approximately £468million spent in small businesses across the country (article two).
The Department of Transport has announced a consultation looking into low-carbon transport fuels, with the view of cutting carbon emissions in the transport sector (article three).
The DVLA has announced a range of measures as part of the ‘Cut Red Tape’ initiative, including the need for motor insurance policies to be checked when a vehicle is taxed (article four).
In European news, Energy ministers from the 28 EU member states failed on Thursday (12 December) to agree on a compromise deal to limit the use of transport fuels made from food crops (article five).
The European Council have signed the WHO Protocol against the illicit tobacco trade (article six).
The EU has invested €6.3 billion in Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), making the “Smart, green and integrated transport” programme the world’s largest investment programme in transport research and innovation (article seven).
For more policy updates follow @RMIRebecca
2. Small Business Saturday
Consumers took to the high street in droves on Saturday 7 December as hundreds of small businesses offered flash sales and one-off promotions to reinforce the benefits of shopping locally – an initiative driven by the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna and supported by the Prime Minister and 200 other members of Parliament.
The day was deemed a huge success, with 48% of all shoppers aware of the campaign. According to sponsors American Express, those who knew about the day spent between £1-2000 in small businesses last Saturday – averaging out at £33 per person. This equates to £468million being spent in small businesses last Saturday, with one in five claiming that they spent over 50% more than they normally would have in small businesses.
Umunna said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would get this big.”
Umunna and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, paid a surprise visit to Croydon on Saturday, the south London borough that was devastated during the 2012 riots has a high density of small businesses.
The enterprise minister, Matthew Hancock, said:
“Small Business Saturday is part of the changing culture towards enterprise in the UK,” he said. “A record number of new businesses started this year. There’s a vibrancy around enterprise in the UK now. This is an exciting time.”
Hancock is keen to carry on the momentum of Small Business Saturday. “We will do this every year,” he said. “It’s a very simple call to action, which is also fun and practical.”
The enterprise minister also announced his intention to create a further shopping day to support small businesses in the summer.
3. Low-carbon fuel consultation
Turning yoghurt pots into diesel and making jet fuel out of household waste are just two of the ideas in the spotlight as part of the government’s new ‘call for evidence’ on advanced fuels.
Baroness Kramer, Transport Minister, said:
“Over a fifth of UK carbon emissions come from transport. That’s why it’s crucial we develop sustainable low-carbon fuels so that we can keep Britain moving while meeting our emissions targets.
Britain has a wealth of expertise in this field and is home to many innovative companies like the one I’m visiting today. We are asking for evidence on what this high-tech sector can do to decarbonise transport and create new, green jobs.”
The government is looking at whether such innovative processes can help reduce carbon emissions and support the growth of a high-tech, highly-skilled industry. These technologies could also help to reduce reliance on expensive energy imports.
Earlier this year the government announced a £25 million competition to develop a demonstration plant to produce advanced transport fuels. This document is looking for evidence on how to build on this competition and develop the sector further. It will seek views on what technologies are out there, what benefits they could bring and what role, if any, government should have in their development.
The government is looking to hear the views of industry experts, environmental groups and other interested parties on the future of advanced fuels and the RMI will be responding on behalf of members.
4. DVLA cuts red tape
Motorists will no longer need motor insurance policies to be checked when getting their vehicle tax.
The change, announced this week by Roads Minister Robert Goodwill, is part of a package of measures to get rid of unnecessary red tape.
The changes, which come into force from 16 December 2013, also mean that motorists will only need to tell DVLA once when they declare their vehicle off the road. Currently, motorists who make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) have to renew their SORN every year. Last year, around 4 million SORNs were made, with over 1 million of those repeat renewals.
Roads Minister Robert Goodwill said:
“We want to make it as easy as possible for motorists to access government services.
“Getting rid of needless bits of paper, making changes to free up motorists’ time, while saving money for the taxpayer, is all part of our commitment to get rid of unnecessary red tape.”
The changes to insurance checks have been made possible because DVLA regularly checks existing databases for insurance under Continuous Insurance Enforcement rules. DVLA’s records are compared regularly with the Motor Insurance Database to identify registered keepers of vehicles that have no insurance.
5. EU delays biofuel compromise
Energy ministers from the 28 EU member states failed on Thursday (12 December) to agree on a compromise deal to limit the use of transport fuels made from food crops, which critics say pushes up food prices and can do more harm than good to the environment.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said the delay would only damage the European Union in its efforts to reduce dependence on imported oil and gas and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Last year in response to warnings about food price inflation and unintended consequences on the environment, the European Commission proposed to cap the bloc’s use of crop-based biofuels at 5%.
That compares with an existing goal to get 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020, an amount that would be almost entirely derived from food-based fuels.
Lawmakers in the European Parliament backed a slightly higher cap than the Commission proposed of 6%, stirring opposition from the biofuels industry.
The industry has invested on the basis of the original 10% goal and accuses the Commission of a U-turn that it says will force plant closures and cost jobs.
EU energy ministers debated a new compromise of 7% put forward by Lithuania, holder of the EU presidency. To encourage the transition to advanced biofuels, it also proposed allowing member states to set up a national sub-target within the 10% transport target for renewables.
But member states were deeply divided.
Greece, which takes over the EU presidency in January, will take up the biofuels dossier. However, the changeover of EU institutions next year, with parliamentary elections in May and the expiry of the current Commission in October, means a final deal is unlikely before 2015.
For different reasons, seven member states ended up rejecting the proposed compromise package – Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands and Poland.
6. European Council signs the WHO Protocol
Algirdas Šemeta, EU Commissioner for anti-fraud, welcomed the decision adopted by Council today for the EU to sign the WHO Protocol on the Elimination of the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
Commissioner Šemeta said:
“Every year, public budgets lose around €10 billion a year in the EU alone due to the illegal tobacco trade. Moreover, tobacco smuggling undermines health policies, and helps to fund even more sinister crimes. The EU pours huge resources into stamping out contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. But, it is not a problem we can eliminate on our own. The international nature of this problem demands an international response. The EU must throw its full weight behind the implementation of the WHO Protocol, and help stamp out this pernicious activity across the global.”
The Protocol on the Elimination of the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was agreed in November 2012 by the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Its aim is to establish a global approach to stamping out the illegal tobacco trade, through strict rules and controls on the supply and movement of tobacco products.
Under the Protocol, all those engaged in the tobacco supply chain (which also covers tobacco products and the manufacturing equipment) will be required to conduct due diligence on their customers. Put simply, that means that they must ensure that sales to their customers reflect the real and legitimate demand, and there is not excess supply which could be used in the black market.
The Protocol also foresees the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime for all tobacco products, within 5 years of its entry into force. This would include unique identification markings, which will help determine the origin of tobacco products, as well as the point at which they are diverted into the illegal supply chain.
There is an obligation to implement effective controls on tobacco and tobacco products in Free Trade Zones. Tobacco products will no longer be allowed to be mixed with non-tobacco products when exporting from a Free Zone.
The EU will now sign the Protocol within the coming weeks. To enter into force, the Protocol will need to be ratified by 40 signatories.
The Petrol Retailers Association have been lobbying on tackling the illicit trade in tobacco and we await the result of the ratification process.
Source: European Commission
7. The EU invests in Horizon 2020
With an investment of €6.3 billion in Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), the “Smart, green and integrated transport” programme is the world’s largest investment programme in transport research and innovation. The aim is to transform Europe’s transport system into a competitive (creating jobs) and resource-efficient transport system.
Transport accounts for about 63% of oil consumption and 29% of all CO2 emissions. Congestion makes cities less attractive for citizens and businesses, and costs the EU about €80 billion every year.
The Mobility and Transport Directorate-General (DG MOVE) expects that the results of this investment programme will contribute to reach the crucial objective of cutting carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050 (as set out in the 2011 European white paper on transport). Therefore, Horizon 2020’s activities in transport will focus on stepping up research efforts to speed up deployment of the most promising innovations.
The Mobility and Transport DG is one of the directorates-general in the European Commission that implements the Horizon 2020 programme. DG MOVE will dedicate its financial share to an amount of approximately €1.9 billion over the period 2014-2020.
Source: European Commission
8. Westminster Diary
The following is of note at Westminster during the week 16 – 20 December 2013
Monday 16 December
Transport Select Committee Inquiry: Better Roads
Legislation House of Lords: Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill – Committee of the whole House (Day 3) – Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Tuesday 17 December
Oral Questions: Justice
House of Lords Debate: Government’s policy on regulation of the sale, advertising of ‘e’ cigarettes.
Oral Questions: Prime Minister
House of Lords Starred Question: Ensuring small businesses are not penalised by late payment of bills
Thursday 19 December
Oral Questions: Transport
House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Inquiry: The Government’s lobbying bill: follow up.
The House of Commons will rise for the Christmas Recess at the end of business for the day returning on 6 January 2014 and the House of Lords will return on 7 January.