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In this Morning Brief, we bring you the launch event of the Smart Readiness Indicator Platform, the launch of the MapMyTree tool, the release of the EU agricultural outlook 2021-31 report and important news reports on opening science up to society and regulating neurotechnology to read this weekend before the INESC Brussels Hub Winter Meeting begins next week, and more!

Any comments or suggestions, hit me up with an email on teresa.carvalho@inesc.pt.

In today's Morning Brief:

In today’s Morning Brief:

Smart Readiness Indicator platform launch event

The potential of smart technologies in the EU building sector was emphasised in the 2018 revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the concept of a Smart Readiness Indicator was introduced.

The Smart Readiness Indicator (SRI) platform contributes to the promotion of the SRI and related best practices. It acts as an exchange forum, involving all interested stakeholders and EU countries, as well as a forward looking discussion hub for technical, regulatory and implementation aspects of the SRI.

The SRI platform will also support working groups focusing on specific elements of the SRI, for instance on exchanging SRI testing experiences, methodological aspects or aspects related to the assessment and implementation of the SRI such as the service catalogues or the design of the SRI certificate.

Register here for this event on December 16 at 09h30 CET.

Biodiversity: Launch of MapMyTree tool

Today, the Commission together with the European Environment Agency (EEA), are publishing a data tool – MapMyTree – for all organisations to join the pledge of planting three billion additional trees by 2030, register and map their planted trees to count the EU target. As part of the European Green Deal, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 commits to planting at least 3 billion additional trees in the EU by 2030, in full respect of ecological principles. This would increase the EU forest area and resilience, enhance biodiversity, and help with climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Organisations using the platform must sign a declaration of honour requiring that the data they provide is correct and that they respect the principles of the initiative. The Commission’s role will be to facilitate, motivate, count and monitor the progress. In spring 2022, the platform will open to everyone, so every new tree that fulfils the requirements can be counted.

Find out more here.

EU agricultural outlook 2021-31: lower demand for feed to impact arable crops

Total agricultural land is due to slightly decline over the outlook period, with forest area exceeding agricultural land by 2031. EU cereal production is expected to decline, driven by a lower feed use. In contrast protein crops production will grow significantly, thanks to their environmental benefits. These are just a few of the projections from the European Union agricultural outlook for 2021-31 report published on 9 December 2021 by the European Commission.

Most of the decline in agricultural land will come from crops areas, and cereals in particular. In contrast, conversion from conventional to organic farming is expected to remain strong in 2021-31. Even without additional support and the future Common Agricultural Policy not yet implemented (as assumed for this modelling exercise), organic land could reach 15% of total EU agricultural land in 2031.

The EU agricultural outlook report for 2021-31 contains all relevant market data, accompanied by an explanation of assumptions, and a description of the macroeconomic environment. The projections and scenarios described in the report are discussed at the annual EU agricultural conference, taking place online on 9-10 December 2021.

Read more here.

Opening science up to society

The European Commission has a strong ambition for open science and societal engagement in research to become common practice at universities and other research organisations within the European Research Area. To this end, an event was held this year to better understand the challenges involved in achieving this goal and effective ways to address these.  A new report on enabling open science and societal engagement in universities and research organisations emerged from this discussion.

Read the report from this event here.

Commission to push for European degrees as part of new universities strategy

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel outlined the upcoming strategy for European universities at the European Education summit this week, describing how it will boost cross-border cooperation and enable universities to play a leading role in delivering the EU’s green and digital policies.

“Our strategy will also announce some flagship initiatives and the next steps,” Gabriel said. “These are the development of a European degree and the legal statute for alliances of universities, the full deployment of the European student card initiative, and last but not least, the further rollout of the European universities initiative.”

Together with the strategy, due to be published in full in January, the Commission will present a proposal for a non-binding pact aimed to support more effective cooperation between Europe’s higher education institutions. The intention is “to take action, where appropriate, for more flexible approaches, supporting and enabling closer transnational cooperation, including conjoined educational and research activities,” said Gabriel.

Read more here.

Time is running out to regulate neurotechnology

Two years on from the world’s first official ethical recommendations for mind-reading technology, experts in the field worry that the industry is still an unregulated Wild West, with the risk that will go down the same privacy-invading, manipulative path taken by social media.

In December 2019, the OECD issued its first recommendations on neurotechnology, warning that although it held “great promise” in treating disorders like dementia and paralysis, there are also serious risks, including political or commercial manipulation.

“The danger is that these frameworks remain academic exercises,” said Diana Saville, co-founder of the brain science accelerator BrainMind at an OECD-convened conference on 7 December, called ‘Technology in and for Society’.

“We learned by speaking with members of our community, the groups who are translating science out of the lab – the scientists, the entrepreneurs, the investors – they’re unaware of the guidelines and standards, and they don’t understand how to use them, or why they need to use them in their day-to-day decision making,” she said.

The dystopian potential of technology that can track brain activity is obvious enough. It could be used to detect our mental state and target advertising during our most suspectable moments. Unscrupulous bosses could use bands to monitor their workers’ attention. And at the most extreme, it could even directly plant images into our mind – something that has already been demonstrated in mice.

EU passes first chunk of green investment rules, gas and nuclear still to come

The European Union has passed the first part of its rulebook on climate friendly investments, which from next year will define which activities can be labelled as green in sectors including transport and buildings.

The first section of the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy will apply from Jan. 1 2022, having passed a scrutiny period that ended on Wednesday night.

The rules set environmental criteria for investments including renewable energy, shipping and car manufacturing – with zero-emission vehicles the only type that can be labelled green from 2026.

By restricting the green investment label to only those activities deemed truly climate-friendly, the EU aims to steer cash into low-carbon projects and stop companies or investors from making unsubstantiated environmental claims.

Read more here.

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