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Brussels, 20 February 2007
European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas welcomed the results of today's meeting of the Environment Council, in particular its conclusions on climate change and sustainable use of pesticides and its contribution to preparations for the Spring European Council. The Commission also took note of the Council's views on two issues concerning genetically modified organisms.
The Council adopted an important set of conclusions that underline the urgent need for a global and comprehensive agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's emission targets expire, with the aim of limiting global warming to no more than 2°C above the pre-industrial level. Negotiations to develop this agreement need to be launched at the annual UN climate conference at the end of this year and completed by 2009.
The conclusions set out the key elements the EU considers the new agreement should contain. In particular developed countries should continue to take the lead by committing to reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases in the order of 30% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, with a view to a collective cut of 60-80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Until a global agreement is concluded, and without prejudice to its position in the negotiations, the EU makes a firm independent commitment to reduce its emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. The conclusions also note the need for developing countries to reduce the emission intensity of their economic development, given their increasing share of global emissions, and emphasise the need for a global agreement to include concrete policies and actions to halt and reverse deforestation within two to three decades.
Commissioner Dimas said: "The Council's position is an affirmation of the EU's leadership and determination to prevent climate change from reaching dangerous levels. But we can only succeed if the international community moves urgently to strike a comprehensive agreement to reduce global emissions after 2012. The EU has demonstrated its seriousness by committing to an emissions cut of at least 20% even before negotiations start. We now look to other developed countries to show responsibility and follow our example."
Commissioner Dimas also welcomed the Council's useful debates on including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and reducing CO2 emissions from new cars.
Preparation of Spring European Council
The Council conclusions providing input to the Spring European Council on 8-9 March respond 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.
Pesticides Thematic Strategy
The Commission welcomes the Council conclusions which clearly support the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides. However, it regrets that the invitation to Member States to apply normal VAT rates to pesticides was not addressed by the Council.
Discussions on the proposal for a Framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides and on the proposal for a Regulation on the placing of plant protection products on the market, amending the directive of 1991 on the same issue, are now handled by the Agricultural Council although they are clearly related to environmental issues.
Commissioner Dimas said: "I would strongly recommend that progress made on both proposals should be presented in both Council formations, Environment and Agriculture, in June. This will allow us to ensure consistency between the legislative proposals of the Thematic Strategy and existing environmental legislation, in particular regarding water, waste, birds and habitat".
Commissioner Dimas also welcomed the useful public debate on the thematic strategy and on the proposed directive on the protection of soils.
The Environment Council voted on two proposals from the Commission concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
One proposal required the lifting of a ban imposed by Hungary on MON810 GM maize. The Council voted against this Commission proposal. The Commission will reflect on all the legal and scientific aspects of this decision in order to decide on the best way forward.
The Council did not find the required majority for or against a separate proposal to authorise placing a genetically modified carnation on the market for import and retailing. EU legislation requires that the Commission take the final decision in cases where the Council fails to reach a qualified majority either for or against Commission proposals in the area of GMOs. This case will therefore go back to the Commission.