Fighting housing shortage: Airbnb & Co should share more data with authorities to prevent fraud 

The business of platforms like Airbnb and Booking is booming: more and more private apartments are being rented out online. While this is good for tourists and hosts, it also leads to significant problems in many cities: fraud, housing shortages and rising rents can be the consequences. So far, there is no uniform system for data collection in the EU, which makes it difficult to control and prevent fraud and its negative effects. This is now set to change. Airbnb welcomes the EU’s breach.
Paris, Porto and Vienna: Europe’s major cities are popular travel destinations. Accordingly, many people vacation there. Around a quarter of all overnight stays are now booked via the major online platforms (Airbnb, Booking, Expedia and TripAdvisor). This is because the accommodations offered there are usually cheaper than hotels. This mainly benefits the hosts, platforms and travelers. 
At the same time, it causes immense problems for the cities concerned: lack of tourism taxes, housing shortages and rising rents are the result. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no reliable data on overnight stays. The EU now wants to change that.
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Platforms like Airbnb and booking.com to share data with authorities in future
If the EU Commission has its way, platforms such as Airbnb & Co. should share data with local authorities in the future. Specifically, the following information is to be made available: 

Who is the host?
Where is the accommodation?
How long is the accommodation rented out?

Private individuals who rent out accommodation are to be given a registration number, which is then also publicly available for all to see. This is not only to protect guests, but also to prevent fraud. Unregistered accommodations often lead to the evasion of taxes and tourism levies. The cities then miss out on these taxes when it comes to maintaining and expanding the necessary infrastructure (public transportation, waste disposal, etc.). 
Furthermore, the reporting obligation should contribute to fair competition with other providers such as hotels and youth hostels. In addition, the shared data makes it easier for authorities to manage the crowds in tourism hotspots.
Many cities, many different regulations: Airbnb welcomes EU breach
So far, there is no uniform regulation for the collection of data within the EU. That’s why more and more cities and municipalities are introducing their own. This complicates the business model of the platforms and the further development of the tourism industry. 
In an official statement, Airbnb welcomes the EU’s legislative proposal. This makes it easier to expand cooperation with governments and allows private individuals to rent out their homes without violating applicable rules.
Basically, cities benefit from tourism. Vacationers tend to consume more: they eat out more often, buy souvenirs, and go to the theater or other cultural events. In short, they spend money and that is good for the economy. And, of course, it’s good extra income for anyone who has a vacant apartment or room to rent out. Nevertheless, renting out private apartments in particular can lead to major social problems.
Andreas Schieder, head of the SPÖ-Delegation in the EU-Parliament, wants the new regulation to protect social housing in particular: 
“Short-term accommodation such as Airbnb is now an integral part of the tourism sector. Over the past few years, we have seen an enormous increase and therefore also observe new challenges. Particularly important to me is also the protection of municipal and social housing against misappropriation”.
Rising rents, increasingly expensive restaurants and congested infrastructure
On a random night in 2019, about 1.4 million tourist stayed in a short-term rental apartment. So demand is high. The lack of data and the resulting difficulty in regulation can lead to profound problem in the worst case. Among them, the following: 

Rising rents and less housing: it is often more profitable for landlords:inside to offer apartments as short-term accommodation. They earn more money that way. However, this reduces the supply of housing for the people who live there. 
Overloaded infrastructure: The large number of tourists overloads public transportation and strains waste disposal, since neither is designed for large numbers.
Changed cityscape: There are entire streets or blocks of houses that consist only of Airbnb apartments. 
Burdens for residents: The constantly changing residents can become a burden for neighbours. For example, through noise or the additional garbage that is created.

EU directive comes into force in 2025 at the earliest
Before the regulation on data collection and exchange comes into force, the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the individual member states must first agree on a compromise. This so-called “trilogue” is to take place this year. After that, the EU member states will have two years – until 2025 at the latest – to implement the new regulations. Läs mer…

Swamps as a climate saver: Ireland stores tons of CO₂ through 33,000 hectares of new peatlands

Ireland is reforesting its swamps and bogs in a bid to fight climate change. Although marshlands cover only three percent of the earth, they store 25 percent of the world’s CO2. So far, around 8100 hectares on the “green island” have been flooded with water. The “watering” is intended to create optimum conditions for new peat land. Experts believe that the “renaturation” project will store enormous amounts of climate-damaging greenhouse gases.
Peatlands are considered to be the ecosystem with the greatest storage potential for CO₂. When a plant dies, the CO₂ stored in it is released into the water or into the marsh soil as it decays, rather than into the air. Bogs and marshlands are therefore true climate protectors!
Trees store CO₂ and release oxygen This process is called photosynthesis. When trees die and rot, they release the remaining CO₂ into the environment, especially into the air. However, if a tree falls into a swamp, the CO₂ is not released into the air but stored in the water and soil. If the swamp dries up, and thus also the CO₂-containing mixture, peat is formed. Over thousands of years, a well-known raw material is created from it: coal!
Ireland is reforesting swamps and peatlands to fight climate change
Until the industrial revolution, almost one fifth of Ireland was covered with peatlands. From the 1850s until today, people have destroyed large parts of Ireland’s nature – that is, besides marshlands, also countless forests. The partly state-owned company “Bord na Móna” wants to revive nature and make Ireland the green lung of Europe to fight climate change. For this reason, they are filling 33,000 hectares of alluvial land with water over the next few years. They also want to reintroduce native species of plants and animals that have been driven or wiped out over the years. Currently, just under a quarter, or 8125 hectares, has been “reforested.”
How Ireland’s marshlands were destroyed and rebuilt
The reason for the poor condition of Ireland’s peatlands is historical. The tradition of “peat cutting” has been preserved and carried on for generations. The peat, when dried, is a good fuel. For the economy, especially during the industrialization, the peat was in great demand because it could be found everywhere on the island and was therefore very cheap. Peat was also used to heat the houses in Ireland.
Another reason for the large-scale drainage of the Irish peatlands is agriculture. During the Industrial Revolution, Ireland developed not only railroads and cities, but also agriculture on a large scale. For the cultivation of food, large areas of marshland were destroyed.
Even at the beginning of industrialization, the destruction of the marshes was already underway: by the end of the 19th century, Ireland was more industrialized than the whole of Austro-Hungarian Empire or Spain, two countries that were significantly larger in terms of area and population. The partly state-owned Irish company “Bord na Móna” and others now wants to declare war on environmental destruction and make the “emerald isle” live up to its name again.
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EU to severely restrict export of waste to third countries

The European Parliament voted in favor of a law that restricts the export of waste. Waste from the EU should be processed in an environmentally friendly way—and no longer exported on a large scale to third countries in the EU. There, it often pollutes entire regions via landfills or is incinerated and damages the environment.
On January 17, 2023, the European Parliament voted in Strasbourg in favor of a law that restricts the export of waste from the EU to countries outside the Union. The goal is to reduce pollution and ensure that materials like plastic are reused and recycled instead of thrown away. The whole thing is part of the European Green Deal.
In the future, waste is to be exported only to certain countries outside the OECD area—and they must prove that they process the waste in an environmentally friendly way. For hazardous waste, exports are to be banned altogether. Overall, less waste is to be shipped around the world and less processed in a way that is harmful to the climate, for example incinerated.
“Out of sight, out of mind: this is how we in the EU currently deal with our mountains of waste. In doing so, we not only export our problem, but also leave the task of fair disposal to countries outside the EU. The consequences of this are often illegal landfills, the price of which is paid by the environment and local people,” criticizes Delara Burkhardt, environmental policy spokeswoman for the Socialist S&D Group in the EU Parliament. So now that is to change.
The Parliament’s report on the EU Waste Shipment Regulation was adopted by a large majority: 594 votes in favor, 5 against and 43 abstentions. Talks between the European Parliament and EU member states are to take place this year to finalize the text. Only then can the law come into force.
Most EU waste ends up in Turkey
The amount of waste exchanged around the world is steadily increasing, with 182 million tons traded in 2018, according to the OECD. The European Union plays a central role in this: according to Eurostat, the European Union exported 33 million tons of waste to non-EU countries in 2021. That’s a 77 percent increase over 2004, and Turkey was the main destination for EU waste last year, with about 14.7 million tons—three times as much as in 2004.
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The second-highest amount of EU waste was exported to India this year—about 2.4 million tons. The countries behind are Egypt and Switzerland, with 1.9 and 1.7 million tons, respectively. Eurostat reports that the amount of waste shipped from the EU to China has decreased significantly in recent years. Namely, from a peak of 10.1 million tons in 2009 to 0.4 million tons in 2021.
The EU-Parliament also agreed on a new directive to give platform workers more rights. Including minimum wage, social security and paid vacation. As well as on a new pay transparency directive to end the pay gap between men and women.
This work is licensed under the Creative Common License. It can be republished for free, either translated or in the original language. In both cases, please cite / Kathrin Glösel as the original source/author and set a link to this article on Scoop.me. https://scoop.me/eu-restrict-waste-exports/
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EU: Companies with more than 100 employees must disclose wages to make pay gaps visible

The European Council, the Commission and the Parliament have agreed on the main points of the new EU Pay Transparency Directive. The directive aims to end the pay gap between women and men. In the future, companies with more than 100 employees will have to publish average salaries for the same work or work of equal value. Gender pay gaps must be eliminated in cooperation with social partners. Otherwise, there is a threat of fines. 
“Today is a good day, not just for women, but for all workers,” says Evelyn Regner, vice president of the EU Parliament. She has fought for years for the EU directive for pay transparency. In December, the European Council, the EU Commission and the Parliament have now agreed on the most important points of the directive. An essential step, because in Europe, women still earn on average 14 percent less than men in comparable positions. 
Employees gain insight into wage levels
Above all, a lack of transparency makes it difficult to reduce the gender pay gap. It is considered one of the main obstacles. The new directive aims to change that. In the future, all employees of a company will be able to see the wage structures of their colleagues—at least for people who do the same or comparable work. It does not matter how large a company is. 
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Information about individual wages or the average wage for the same or comparable work forms the basis for fair pay regardless of gender. After all, this is the only way to make discriminatory wage differences visible and correct them through complaints or legal action. 
“With the new law, we have made good progress towards reducing the gender pay gap and ensuring that all employees in Europe receive the same pay for the same work or work of equal value” Evelyn Regner, Vice President of the EU Parliament. 
Companies must disclose any wage differentials between male and female employees
Companies with more than 100 employees must make wage structures publicly available and report them to a monitoring body. It must be made clear whether there are differences or pay gaps between the sexes. 
If the wage gap exceeds 5 percent, the company must develop and implement measures in cooperation with the social partners (e.g., employee representatives, trade unions). However, only if the difference cannot be attributed to objective factors. 
The disclosed data will make cross-industry comparisons possible. This will make the full extent of wage inequality (even) more visible. This will also increase awareness of the problem for employers and employees. 
Penalties and sanctions for violating the EU Pay Transparency Directive
The directive places greater responsibility on individual companies and EU member states. They must publish wage data, make it available to the public and the workforce, and report it to a monitoring body. In the event of violations, the companies concerned face fines. These are to be set and enforced by the member states. 
The newly gained transparency gives employees the opportunity to stand up for their rights from the outset. Companies that pay women and men unequally will have a harder time in the future. 
HR managers are no longer allowed to ask about applicants’ current salaries.
Wage inequality often begins in the job interview. Applicants are asked about their current salary, which then serves as the starting point for negotiations. This deepens gender pay gaps. With the new directive, HR managers will no longer be allowed to do this.
The EU-Parliament also agreed on a new directive to give platform workers more rights. Including minimum wage, social security and paid vacation. Läs mer…