Brussels, 11 June 2014
Preparation Environment Council, 12 June 2014
The second formal Environment Council under the Greek Presidency will be held in Luxembourg on 12 June. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard and Health Commissioner Tonio Borg will represent the European Commission. The Council will deal with climate and health-related points in the morning before moving on to environment issues after lunch. The main climate point will be a public debate on the policy framework on climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030. The main health point will be the Commission’s GMO cultivation proposal. Over lunch, ministers are expected to discuss the recently adopted Commission Communication on Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. The main environment points in the afternoon are an orientation debate on the Clean Air Package proposed by the Commission last December, and conclusions that are expected to be adopted in view of the up-coming multilateral biodiversity conferences to be held in South Korea in the autumn. Any other business points include information from the Commission on the state of play regarding EU ratification of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period and the proposal to establish an EU system for monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions from large ships, information from the Presidency on the Commission proposal to cut plastic bag use, information from France on endocrine-disrupting substances and from Sweden on highly fluorinated substances. The Presidency and the Commission will also report on the outcome of recent international meetings and events. Finally, the incoming Italian Presidency will present its work programme. A press conference will take place at the end of the morning session on the items discussed. A second press conference with Commissioner Potočnik on environment issues is scheduled to take place at the end of the meeting.
2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies
The Council will hold a public debate on the climate and energy policy framework for 2020-2030 presented by the Commission in January (see IP/14/54). The framework aims to make the EU economy and energy system more competitive, secure and sustainable. The Commission proposes that, by 2030, the EU reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % below 1990 levels through domestic measures alone and increase the share of renewable energy to at least 27 %. Improving energy efficiency is also a key pillar of the 2030 framework: the Commission will review progress to date later this year and propose further action as necessary. The Commission also proposes a new governance framework for climate and energy policies and a set of key indicators to assess progress. The European Council is expected to take a final decision on the framework in October 2014.
The debate will be based on input from the informal Energy and Environment Councils held in mid-May and structured around two questions drawn up by the Council Presidency. The first is on whether other sectors could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The second focuses on the investment challenge.
The Council will discuss a compromise text prepared by the Greek Presidency on the Commission’s GMO cultivation proposal, with a view of reaching a political agreement. The compromise text preserves the EU authorisation process based on risk assessment and the free marketing of GMOs and gives Member States the possibility to decide on GMO cultivation on their territories.
It also introduces a possibility for Member States to request an applicant, via the Commission, to adjust the geographical scope of its application, so that parts of or all the territories of the requesting Member State are excluded from cultivation. Should the applicant refuse to adjust the geographical scope, Member States could then use the post authorisation opt-out originally proposed by the Commission in July 2010, Through this opt-out, a Member State can decide to ban the cultivation of an EU approved GMO(s) on part of or all its territory based on grounds not conflicting with the environmental risk assessment carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) pursuant to the GMO legislation. The text also provides the possibility for Member States to adjust their decision on cultivation restriction or ban along the 10 year term of the GMO authorisation, if new objective circumstances arise.
A political agreement would mark the end of the first reading on this proposal, and allow discussions with the European Parliament to start in second reading. The Commission is fully committed to working with the Council and the Parliament to reach an agreement on the GMO cultivation proposal as soon as possible.
Clean air package
Ministers will hold an orientation debate on the Clean Air package adopted by the Commission in December last year (see IP/13/1274). The package contains a new Clean Air Programme for Europe, with measures to ensure that existing targets are met in the short term, and new air quality objectives for the period up to 2030, with measures to help cut air pollution, improve air quality in cities and promote international cooperation. To deliver on these objectives, the package contains a revised National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive with stricter national emission ceilings for six pollutants, and a proposal for a new Directive to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion plants (MCP), which are not covered by current legislation. The debate, which will allow ministers to share their views on strategic policy, will take the form of a tour de table with delegations covering four questions in one intervention. Two questions on the proposed MCP Directive will focus on the degree of flexibility desirable for the Directive, and the extent to which the proposal is appropriate to close the existing regulatory gap. Two further questions on the proposed revision to the NEC Directive will gauge Ministers’ support for the two-stage approach it contains (i.e. with measures for 2020 and 2030), and for the proposal to reduce air emissions from agriculture, a sector where there are substantial cost-effective reduction possibilities.
Conclusions on the Convention on Biological Diversity
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions to inform the overall EU negotiating position at several up-coming multilateral biodiversity conferences: the CBD COP 12, the Cartagena Protocol COP-MOP 7 and the Nagoya Protocol COP-MOP 1 in Pyeongchang, Korea, in October. The Conclusions are intended to enable the EU and its Member States to continue playing a leading role in biodiversity protection at international level and to contribute to successful outcomes in Pyeongchang. The issue of resource mobilisation is expected to be an important issue at COP 12, and this is reflected in the conclusions; the EU and its MS will continue to defend a multi-dimensional approach, looking at all sources of funding, including official development assistance but also innovative financing mechanisms, domestic resources, and from mainstreaming of biodiversity across other sectors. Other items addressed in the conclusions that are particularly important for the EU include the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, biodiversity safeguards in relation to REDD+, the UN-led effort to halt deforestation and forest degradation, boosting the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
The Commission will also report on the outcome of the recent high-level conference on Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) held in Brussels (see MEX 22/0514).
Any other business
State of play of the ratification and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period
The Commission put forward the legislative proposals necessary for EU ratification of the second commitment period (2013-2020) of the Kyoto Protocol in November 2013 (see IP/13/1035). The Commission aims to finalise the main elements of the ratification package so that the EU and Iceland can jointly ratify the second commitment period.
State of play of the proposal for a Regulation on monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport
The Commission put forward a legislative proposal to establish an EU system for monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) emissions from large ships using EU ports (see IP/13/622), as a first step to implement an EU strategy to integrate maritime transport emissions in the EU’s greenhouse gas reduction policies. The Commission proposes that the MRV system apply to shipping activities carried out from 1 January 2018.
State of play of the proposal to cut the use of single-use plastic bags
The Presidency will also present an overview of progress with the Commission Proposal to help Member States cut their use of plastic bags (see IP/13/1017). Member States can choose the measures they find most appropriate, including charges, national reduction targets or a ban under certain conditions. Lightweight plastic bags are often used only once, but can persist in the environment for hundreds of years, often as harmful microscopic particles that are known to be dangerous to marine life in particular.