Welcome to today’s Morning Brief. The Morning Brief newsletter is only available to INESC staff and affiliated researchers upon subscription (weekly or daily), after creating an account in the Private Area of the HUB website. To do so, click the log-in icon on the top-right corner of this website.

In today's Morning Brief:

Parliament votes for more independence of European Medicines Agency

Parliament has voted to give the EMA more power and independence in handling COVID-19 pandemic and future health emergencies.  Reforming EMA is a response to how the EU was found wanting by COVID-19, with limited central power to deal with problems including drug and medical devices shortages; the need to quickly approve and set up large scale clinical trials; and a lack of open channels through which to exchange data about the pandemic. To avoid similar problems in future, it is proposed EMA will be responsible for a central database of stocks of medicines and medical devices, allowing it to monitor the position on the ground across Europe and move to head off shortages. The agency will also be given the power to take the initiative on clinical trials of medicines, vaccines and medical devices for health emergencies. In addition, EMA will be responsible for setting up and managing panels of experts to take a broad view of emergency response across Europe and to conduct an annual review of crisis preparedness. Read more on Science Business.


Parliament back proposal to spend € 111 million on coal and steel research

Parliament has also backed a proposal by the European Commission to raise more money for its coal and steel research programme, providing the means to align its R&D with broader targets for greening steel production and decarbonising the economy. Until now, the European Commission has used the returns on assets of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) to support research projects in the steel and coal sectors with €40 million each year. With returns winding down, the Commission has called for member states to decide on new sources funding to ensure a higher and more reliable source of financing. The Commission wants to sell some ECSC assets and broaden the investments to foreign currencies and exchange traded funds and mutual funds, in bring in an annual allocation of €111 million until 2027.


ERA: are member states doing enough to boost their R&D?

Efforts by EU countries to improve their research systems are showing uneven progress and the speed of reforms is slowing down, MEPs warned during a plenary debate on Wednesday. The European Parliament says member states should raise public expenditure on research and innovation from 0.81% to 1.25% of GDP by 2030, to help the EU achieve targets set by the European Commission’s plan to establish a single market for research in the European Research Area (ERA).

It is the first time MEPs have debated the upgrade of the European Research Area in a plenary session since the plan was published by the Commission in September. The debate had been postponed because of a lack of official endorsements from all political groups. As a result of the delay, commissioner Gabriel was not able to attend the session, as she had other commitments in her home country Bulgaria. EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius defended the ERA plan in the plenary. Read more on Science Business.


Slovenian presidency drafts pact for gender equality in research

The Slovenian presidency, which started its six-month stint in the EU Council this month, is drafting the Ljubljana pact on gender parity in research and hopes EU member states will sign it in Brussels in September. The goal of the declaration is to mainstream gender action in research. It won’t be binding but will aim to encourage joint efforts across the EU to close the gender gap.

Slovenia’s science and education minister Simona Kustec says the current efforts of the EU to close the gender gap in scientific research, although useful, are not enough. “These efforts must continue and expand for research and innovation to contribute to the resilience and quality of our democratic institutions, but also sustainability and competitiveness in and of the EU,” she said. EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel expressed support for the pact and stressed that action, not just words, to bring about change. Read more on the pact on Science Business.


Fit-for-55 climate package

The European Commission will table a package of energy and climate laws on Wednesday (14 July) aimed at reaching the EU’s 2030 goal of cutting emissions by 55%, and putting it on track to hit net zero by 2050. EURACTIV gives you the lowdown on the plan. The package consists of 13 legislative proposals – some new and others revisions of existing laws. Here’s what to expect, according to Euractiv.

Updates to existing EU laws:

  • Revision of the EU emission trading scheme (EU ETS)
  • Revision of the regulation on land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF)
  • Revision of the effort sharing regulation (ESR)
  • Amendment to the renewable energy directive (RED)
  • Amendment to the energy efficiency directive (EED)
  • Revision of the alternative fuels infrastructure directive (AFID)
  • Amendment of the regulation setting CO2 emission standards for cars and vans
  • Revision of the energy taxation directive

New legislative proposals:

  • New EU forest strategy
  • A carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM)
  • A Climate Action Social Facility
  • ReFuelEU Aviation – on sustainable aviation fuels
  • FuelEU Maritime – on greening Europe’s maritime space.


DG Energy releases electricity market report for Q1 of 2021

The electricity market report for the first quarter of 2021, released by DG Energy, highlights how EU-wide consumption increased 2% year-on-year, as increasing heating demand and recovering manufacturing industry were able to reverse falls in other sectors of the economy – to the extent that consumption was close to pre-pandemic levels.

The long and cold winter of 2020/2021, fostered a recovery in electricity demand and made more space for fossil fuels in the electricity mix, in spite of increasing carbon prices. Despite lower winds across Europe, the share of renewables still managed to reach 38%, beating fossil fuels (35%) as in last quarter of 2020. The presence of renewables in the mix was supported by an increase of 11% in hydro generation (+11 TWh), 7% of biomass (+2 TWh) and solar (+1 TWh) on yearly basis. Low levels of electricity demand during the start of the COVID crisis (Q1 2020) amplified the comparative increase in fossil fuel generation during this quarter. Coal and lignite generation rose by 14%, while nuclear output remained practically unchanged. Gas profited from the increased demand only marginally, seeing its output grow by 3% (+5 TWh) as higher gas prices partially reversed coal-to-gas switching in some markets.

Demand for electrically chargeable vehicles (ECVs) rose over the first quarter. More than 350,000 new ECVs were registered in the EU from January to March 2021. This was the second-highest quarterly figure on record and translated into an impressive 14% market share, more than one and a half times higher than in China and four times higher than in the United States. Read more on the Commission website here.


JRC study shows benefits from increased green farming requirements

Published on Wednesday, a new study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the Commission shows how the choices farmers make to adopt voluntary green practices are affected by how much they are already obliged to contribute to the environment.

The behavioural science study finds that the more mandatory requirements placed on farmers, the less likely they are to make additional voluntary contributions. However, if the mandatory requirements are ambitious enough, the positive impact on the environment more than offsets the drop in voluntary actions. These new behavioural insights help enhance the knowledge base, which in turn helps design policies that maximise the impact of the payments they receive on the positive contribution of farmers to the environment. For example, in the provisional political agreement on the new CAP, EU Member States are asked to prepare strategic plans to implement the policy over the next five years. Behavioural insights are one tool that can help them do that effectively.

More on the future of EU common agricultural policy here.

More Articles