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Brussels, 19 February 2007
The first Environment Council under the German EU presidency will take place on 20 February in Brussels. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will represent the European Commission. Climate change-related issues will be one of the meeting's main focuses. The Council is expected to adopt a statement ('conclusions') setting out the essential elements of a future global climate agreement that would take effect when the Kyoto Protocol targets expire in 2012. There will also be policy debates on the Commission's proposal to include aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 2011 and on its recent review of the EU strategy to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from cars. The Environment Council will also adopt a set of conclusions as input to the Spring European Council next month. Genetically modified organisms will be a second major focus of the meeting, with votes scheduled on Commission proposals to authorise the import and marketing of a genetically modified carnation and to oblige Hungary to lift its ban on the marketing of a type of genetically modified maize. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the sustainable use of pesticides and will hold a policy debate on the Commission's thematic strategy and proposed directive on soil protection. Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs will present an analysis of the relations between energy and climate change during lunch. German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Commissioner Dimas will hold a press conference at the end of the meeting.
Climate change (conclusions)
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions that further develop the EU’s medium and long-term strategy to combat climate change. The text will underline the urgent need for a global and comprehensive agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol emission targets expire. The statement will set out the essential elements that the future agreement should contain in order to achieve the EU’s objective of limiting global warming to no more than 2°C above the pre-industrial level. The conclusions are a response to the Commission’s energy and climate change package (see IP/07/29) of 10 January, particularly the Communication on climate change policy to 2020 and beyond, as well as to recent developments such as the publication of the latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (see IP/07/128).
Inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (policy debate)
Ministers will hold a policy debate on the Commission's December proposal to include aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme (see IP/07/1862), which the Presidency is treating as a priority issue. The scheme would apply to emissions from intra-EU flights from 2011, and then be extended to cover all flights arriving in or departing from EU airports from 2012. The debate will be structured around four sets of questions. These focus on competitiveness issues vis-à-vis third countries, the proposed emissions cap and allocation methodology, regional aspects and special situations in Member States, and whether EU action should also address emissions of greenhouse gases besides CO2.
Review of the EU strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from cars (policy debate)
The Council will also hold a policy debate on the Commission's recent review of the EU strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars (see IP/07/155). The Presidency intends to structure the debate around two key questions. The first seeks Member States' views on the Commission's intention to replace the current system of voluntary agreements by the car industry with binding legislation. The second seeks their views on the revised strategy's target of reducing emissions to an average of 120 grammes CO2 per kilometre by 2012, with improvements in motor technology responsible for reducing emissions to 130g/km and complementary measures contributing a further cut of up to 10g/km.
Contribution to the Spring European Council (conclusions)
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on certain environment-related topics as a contribution to preparations for the Spring European Council on 8-9 March. The statement covers three sets of issues: environment, innovation and employment; the integrated climate change and energy strategy; and the environmental dimension of better regulation. It responds in particular to the Commission's annual progress report on the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs, and to the communications on energy and climate change at the heart of the 10 January energy and climate package. The conclusions underline the important contribution of eco-innovation to the Lisbon Strategy and set the goal of making Europe the front-runner in eco-innovation and the most energy and resource efficient area of the world.
Sustainable use of pesticides (conclusions)
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides (see IP/06/981). As well as a Communication, the Thematic Strategy also consists of a Framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides. However, the German Presidency has decided to shift the legislative proposal to the Agricultural Council. The Commission stresses the need to keep the Environment Council involved as the strategy centres on protecting the environment. It has an Environment legal basis and it also covers the use of pesticides in non-agricultural applications. The Commission adopted the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides in July 2006. It is one of the seven Thematic Strategies that the Commission presented in 2005 and 2006 in accordance with the 6th Environmental Action Programme. It complements existing EU legislation controlling which pesticides can be placed on the market.
Genetically modified organisms (votes)
The Council is due to vote on two proposals from the Commission.
One proposal requires the lifting of a ban (so-called national safeguard clause) imposed by Hungary on MON810 GM maize. In June 2005, the Council voted by qualified majority against a proposal requesting Austria to repeal its safeguard clause on the same product. Before taking any action on the corresponding safeguard clause notified by Hungary, the Commission decided to await the opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In March 2006, EFSA confirmed that there is no reason to believe that the continued placing on the market of MON810 maize is likely to cause any adverse effects for human and animal health or the environment under the conditions of its consent. The Commission therefore prepared a draft Decision asking Hungary to repeal its measures concerning MON810.
The other proposal involves the authorisation for the placing of a carnation, genetically modified for flower colour, on the European market for import and retailing. In June 2006, EFSA concluded that cut flowers of the genetically modified carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) are unlikely to have an adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment in the context of its proposed ornamental use.
Soil protection (orientation debate)
The Council will be holding a first political orientation debate on the Thematic Strategy on how to protect Europe's soils, which the Commission adopted in September 2006 (see IP/06/1241). The strategy is set out in a Communication, accompanied by a proposal for a Framework Directive. This would require Member States to adopt a systematic approach to identifying and combating soil degradation, taking precautionary measures and integrating soil protection into other policies.
Symposium on climate change and the European water dimension
The German delegation will present the outcome of a conference on climate change and the water dimension held in Berlin on 12-14 February and organised by the German presidency and DG Environment of the Commission. Its conclusions will feed into the Commission’s preparation of a Green Paper on adaptation to climate change and a Communication on water scarcity and drought. Portugal has indicated its interest in taking forward discussions of climate-related water issues during its presidency in the second half of 2007.
The Presidency will outline its proposals for the main political priorities of the EU at the 9th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which Germany will host on 19-30 May 2008 in Bonn. There will be an exchange of views which will serve as a basis for conclusions to be adopted by the next Environment Council in June.
Business and biodiversity
In its Communication of May 2006 on halting biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010, the Commission suggested building partnerships with business as a means of achieving the 2010 target. Portugal has identified this as a priority for its Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2007 and will organise a conference on this theme in November in Lisbon.
On 31 January 2007 the Commission adopted a Recommendation to the Council for a Council Decision that would authorise the Commission to negotiate on the Community’s behalf at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in May 2007. The IWC meeting will discuss whether to maintain or lift the current moratorium on commercial whale hunting. The Commission will present the Recommendation and ask the Council to start discussing its substance so that a decision can be reached in time for the IWC meeting.
Protection of the Carpathians
The Czech delegation will report on the first Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians, held in Kiev from 11 to 13 December 2006.
Environment and criminal law
The Commission will give a brief presentation of its 9 February proposal for a directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law (see IP/07/166).
 Limiting global climate change to 2 degrees Celsius – the way ahead for 2020 and beyond