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Brussels, 19 December 2011

Preparation Environment Council, 19 December 2011

The final Environment Council under the Polish Presidency will be held on 19 December in Brussels. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard will represent the European Commission. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on two issues: the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, adopted in May this year, and on the Roadmap to a Resource-Efficient Europe presented by the Commission in September. Among the Any Other Business (AOB) points, the Commission will present its proposal for a new LIFE fund for environment and climate for the period 2014-2020, which aims at a significant budget increase, expands the current support for climate action and introduces Integrated Projects.

Progress on sulphur in fuels, transfer of chemicals, and Seveso

After the adoption of the A points, the Council will begin by hearing three reports on the progress of various legislative files. The first is the proposed recast of the PIC (Prior Informed Consent) Regulation on the export and import of dangerous chemicals, which will align the Regulation with the Treaty and other legislation; the second is the proposed amendment of Directive 1999/32/EC, which will align EU legislation with the latest International Maritime Organisation rules on the sulphur content of marine fuels. The third progress report will be on the Commission proposal for a Seveso III Directive. No discussions are foreseen.

Biodiversity Strategy

After the Commission's adoption of an EU Biodiversity strategy in May, the June Environment Council adopted a set of conclusions welcoming the strategy, and emphasized the need to further discuss the actions. The Polish Presidency has therefore tabled additional conclusions to secure Member State endorsement of the actions. The conclusions cover numerous actions under all six of the targets in the strategy, and are intended to provide guidance on their implementation. Discussions are expected to centre round the greening of the Common Agricultural Policy, forestry and fisheries targets, and the need for greater integration of biodiversity into specific policies. Reference will be made in this context to a new working document on Financing Natura which the Commission has recently published.

Roadmap to a Resource-Efficient Europe

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions welcoming the Roadmap to a Resource-Efficient Europe adopted by the Commission in September this year. The Roadmap outlines how Europe needs to use resources more efficiently in order to remain competitive and achieve the sustainable growth that is essential for future wellbeing and prosperity. In addition to boosting competitiveness of the wider economy, certain sectors such as waste management have particular potential for enhancing growth. The Roadmap identifies the economic activities with the greatest environmental impacts and key resources that are under strain, and suggests tools to guide action on resource efficiency in Europe and the rest of the world. The conclusions are expected to endorse the cross-sectoral approach recommended in the Roadmap, and support the vision of achieving growth that respects resource constraints and planetary boundaries. The Council will also encourage the Commission and Member States to include resource efficiency actions in the European Semester process, with Member States giving due consideration to resource efficiency in their National Reform Programmes. Discussions are expected to focus on the ways to take the implementation of the Roadmap further, as well as on its objectives and actions.

Durban Climate Conference

Ministers will also discuss the outcome of the Durban climate conference, which concluded on 11 December with a package of decisions that mark a breakthrough in international climate action and a success for the EU's climate diplomacy. The Durban package includes a roadmap, proposed by the EU, for negotiating a comprehensive new legal framework for climate action covering all countries. This will be adopted by 2015 and implemented from 2020. To increase the ambition level of global emission reductions up to 2020 and keep the goal of holding global warming below 2°C within reach, it was decided to launch a work plan put forward by the EU and small island states. It was also agreed that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will start in 2013 with new rules on forest management accounting which strengthen Kyoto's environmental integrity. Following agreement on the roadmap and on strengthening Kyoto, the EU stated that it will participate in the second commitment period. A further highlight of the Durban outcome was approval of the new Green Climate Fund for developing countries, which can now begin operations in 2012.

Any other business

Among numerous AOB points, the Commission will present its new legislative proposal for a revised and enhanced mechanism for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission will also inform about the Annual Growth Survey and its messages on how low-carbon resource efficient policies enhance growth. Environment Ministers will also be updated on the latest developments on the implementation of the aviation EU ETS legislation.

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