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MEMO/10/692

Brussels, 17 December 2010

Environment Council, 20 December 2010

The final Environment Council under the Belgian Presidency will be held on 20 December in Brussels. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli, and Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard will represent the European Commission. The Council will open with a progress report on CO2 emissions from light commercial vehicles, followed by an attempt to reach a political agreement on the Biocides Directive. A progress report on the recast of the WEEE Directive will then be presented by the Presidency. Ministers will then adopt conclusions on the outcome of CBD COP 10, the Nagoya biodiversity conference, sustainable materials management and resource efficiency, and better instruments for environmental governance. Views will be exchanged on the outcome of the COP 16 climate change negotiations in Cancun, and on GMOs. Hungary will then present the environmental priorities to be pursued during its term as holder of the Presidency. During lunch, the Director of the European Environment Agency will present the latest 5-yearlyState of the Environment Report.

Light commercial vehicles

The Presidency will report to the Council on the recent informal agreement reached between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on the Proposal for a Regulation setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.

Biocides

The Council will aim to reach a political agreement on the proposed revision of the Biocides Directive. The Commission proposed the Regulation in June 2009 in order to toughen rules on germ and pest-killing chemicals such as insecticides, disinfectants, wood and metal preservers and rodent poisons, particularly where these can cause cancer, hormonal or reproductive problems in humans. The proposal revises the concept of low-risk products and introduces new rules on treated articles (such as furniture), whilst also streamlining authorisation procedures including the Union authorisation procedure. Requirements on data-sharing between Member States are designed to reduce the need for animal testing. The Belgian presidency has devoted some 20 meetings to the dossier, and political agreement at Council is now expected. The Presidency will outline the main components of the compromise proposal that has been reached, before asking ministers for their agreement. Discussions may cover the possible resource implications of the changes, and the procedures used to approve active substances and to set fees payable to the European Chemicals Agency.

WEEE

The Council will then hear a progress report on the state of play regarding the recast of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, adopted by the Commission in 2008. The Commission's proposal is intended to boost the amounts of WEEE being reused and recycled. Member States have still to agree on the scope of the revised Directive, collection targets, and on whether a Community or national approach should prevail as concerns the requirements on producers when placing new equipment on the market. No debate is foreseen.

GMOs

The Council will hear the Presidency's progress report on the proposal on GMO cultivation, which gives Member States the option to decide on GMO cultivation on their territories. There are two issues highlighted in the progress report: a) the legal aspects, including the need to prepare a list of grounds that could be used by the Member States to either restrict or ban the use of GMOs on their territories, and b) the implementation of the 2008 Environment Council Conclusions. Commissioner Dalli will present his views on the way forward, including on the issue of the legal basis, and will give an update on progress in the implementation of the 2008 Council Conclusions. Hungary plans to continue discussions under its Presidency. A first meeting of the ad hoc working group will take place on 11 February, where Member States will discuss a list of grounds that the Commission is currently preparing.

Sustainable materials management

The Presidency will then present conclusions on sustainable materials management; a key priority for the Belgian presidency. The conclusions welcome the Europe 2020 Strategy and the further development of the Resource Efficiency flagship initiative, and cover in particular progress towards a sustainable life-cycle approach, the blend of measures that will be needed to make European material use more sustainable, and need to move towards systemic innovation and better data and indicators. No extensive discussion is foreseen.

Better instruments for environmental governance

Conclusions will also be presented on another priority for the Belgian Presidency, improved instruments for environmental governance, including the desirability of a new Environmental Action Programme to follow the current one, which expires in 2012 and a new Environment and Health Action Plan. The conclusions cover challenges, actions and coherence in environmental policies; environmental information; market based instruments including subsidies; improving the implementation of EU environmental legislation; adequate financing of environmental policy; and eco-innovation and environment.

Biodiversity and COP 10

Conclusions will then be adopted to welcome the outcome of the UN COP10 on biodiversity in Nagoya, reiterating the EU's commitment to implementation and elaborating on the most salient COP10 decisions and their implications for follow-up both within the EU and at global level. The conclusions will focus on the three elements of the package deal agreed at COP10 (the Strategic Plan with its 2020 mission and 20 targets, resource mobilisation and the ABS Protocol), and will underline the need to integrate the relevant global targets through the EU post-2010 Biodiversity Strategy and make use of upcoming and ongoing EU policy reform processes for this purpose.

Climate change

Ministers will have an exchange of views on the outcome of and follow-up to the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference that took place in Cancún (29 November to 10 December 2010). The Cancún climate change conference concluded with the adoption of a balanced package of decisions – the 'Cancún Agreements'. The Agreements set Parties on a path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world. The Cancún Agreements contain an ambitious work programme for the coming year to be addressed by the next Conference of the Parties in Durban in December 2011.

Any other business

Any other business points include information from the Commission about the coming communication on biofuels, information from the Presidency about major environmental events that have been held during the Belgian term, information from Lithuania about nuclear installations in the EU neighbourhood (Kaliningrad and Belorussia), information from the presidency about the implementation of directive 2008/50 on ambient air quality and Clean Air For Europe, with special regard to PM 10, information from Greece about the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative presented in Athens on 22 October 2010, information from Romania on the Helsinki Protocol COP meeting in Bucharest and information from Italy on their electronic waste surveillance system. Hungary will inform the Council about the priorities of its Presidency programme in general and the environmental part in particular.

A press conference is foreseen at 13:00.


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