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Three-quarters of Non-Productive Investments in Farming “Too Costly”, Say EU Auditors



Three-quarters of the audited projects funded under an EU scheme to pay farmers for improving the environment were not cost-effective, according to a new report by the European Court of Auditors. The majority of the so-called “non-productive investments” did contribute to landscape and biodiversity protection. But the auditors found clear indications in 75 % of cases that costs were either unreasonably high or insufficiently justified. Weaknesses in selection among investments for work such as hedging and the restoration of wetlands led to proposals not being appropriately checked against selection criteria and ineligible projects being funded.

For the period 2007-13, about €860M of public money was spent on non-productive investments. Public funding provided by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and national co‑financing often reached 100% of project cost.

The auditors visited four Member States which between them spent 80% of the total – Portugal, Denmark, the United Kingdom (England) and Italy (Puglia). Only five of the 28 audited projects proved to be cost‑effective. The report warns that the issue may not be confined to the sample, since the problems stemmed from weaknesses in Member States’ management and control systems.

“The sustainable management of our farmed environment is clearly important”, said Mr Jan Kinšt, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, “but EU support has to make financial sense as well.”

The audit found that Member States did not appropriately verify the reality of the costs claimed, or accepted the most expensive offer without justification. In several cases, projects which would clearly have increased the value of the holding were fully funded with public money or benefitted from much higher aid rates than those normally granted to productive investments.

Monitoring measured only data such as the amount of public expenditure and the number of holdings receiving support, with little information to show what had been achieved at EU and Member State level. Although the support continues for 2014-20, the Commission and the Member States have not yet corrected most of the weaknesses because they did not do enough to identify them in time.

The auditors’ main recommendations are that in future the Member States should

  • assess the extent to which NPIs are implemented in synergy with other environmental schemes
  • systematically verify supporting documentation for cost claims
  • define specific results indicators and report on them in their annual implementation reports
  • establish criteria to determine the potential returns on NPIs benefitting from the highest aid rates and modulate the levels of support
  • ensure that costs do not exceed the costs of similar work on the open market.

The Commission should monitor implementation of NPIs through their annual implementation reports, provide guidance to Member States on selection criteria and ensure that the contribution to agri‑environment objectives is monitored during evaluations.


A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon




energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”



IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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