Brussels, 08 March 2012
Preparation Environment Council, 9 March 2012
The first Environment Council under the Danish Presidency will be held on 9 March in Brussels. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli will represent the European Commission. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on three issues: the roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy, the follow-up to the Durban climate conference, and the EU negotiating position for the UN Rio+20 conference on sustainable development to be held in Brazil in June. The legislative deliberations will include an attempt to reach a political agreement on the proposed Regulation that would allow Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory. An orientation debate will also be held on the political direction to be taken as regards the Proposal for a new Regulation on LIFE, the funding instrument for Climate Action and Environment. Among the Any Other Business (AOB) points, the Commission and the Presidency will present ideas about how to take forward resource efficiency and low-carbon considerations within the European Semester/Annual Growth Survey in the wake of the March European Council.
Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050
After the adoption of the A points, Environment Ministers will discuss the Commission's Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 with a view to the adoption of conclusions. The Roadmap, published a year ago, identifies milestones and provides guidance on how to transition to a climate-friendly, low carbon economy in the most cost-effective way. The EU's 'climate and energy package' of legislation already sets a binding greenhouse gas reduction target of 20% for 2020 and a fully fledged set of policies to deliver this. To target a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050, as previously endorsed by both the European Council and the European Parliament, the EU needs to start developing long-term strategies to 2050, including milestones for the intermediate decades. Such strategies will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also support the 'resource efficient Europe' flagship initiative set up under the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; will preserve jobs and create new ones, as well as enhance energy security. The European Parliament is also scheduled in March to adopt a resolution on the Roadmap.
Durban climate conference – follow-up
Environment Ministers will discuss the outcome of the Durban climate conference, building on their discussions immediately after the conference last December. At that time, Ministers acknowledged the Durban outcome as an important first step, especially for the roadmap to negotiate a comprehensive new legal framework for climate action covering all countries. This is to be adopted by 2015 and implemented from 2020, and Ministers have already stated their determination to work with all other countries to secure this agreement. The Durban package also included the launch of a work plan to increase the ambition level of global emission reductions up to 2020 so as to keep the goal of holding global warming below 2°C within reach. It was additionally agreed that the new Green Climate Fund for developing countries can begin operations in 2012 and that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will start in 2013. The Durban outcome fully reflected the urgent demands put forward by the EU, least developed countries, and the Alliance of Small Island States for an ambitious outcome. The Council will discuss how to take this forward and best pave the way for a successful COP in Doha, including on issues relating to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.
LIFE Programme for the Environment and Climate Action
Environment Ministers will have a first orientation debate on the proposal for a new LIFE programme for the period 2014-2020. The overall budget for the new programme would be raised to €3.2 billion, of which €800 million would be allocated to a new climate sub-programme, which will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing resilience to climate change, and increasing awareness, communication, and exchange of information on climate actions. The sub-programme for Environment, representing the larger part of the budget (€2.4 billion), will focus on promoting resource-efficiency, using innovative solutions for better implementation of environment policy and integration of environmental objectives in other sectors, as well as addressing biodiversity challenges, and improving awareness, communication and governance as concerns environmental protection. The European Parliament is expected to provide its Opinion in the autumn. Ministers in Council are expected to provide political directions for subsequent negotiations on this file.
During lunch, a debate will be held about the United Nations Conference on sustainable development (Rio+20). Ministers will return to the theme after lunch with a view to adopt conclusions on EU expectations for the conference, which is to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, two decades on from the Earth Summit of 1992. The Conclusions relate to the two priority items for Rio+20, firstly the green economy in the context of sustainable development contributing to poverty eradication; and secondly the institutional framework and means to implement this. One important issue to be discussed is how to implement guidance given by the recent European Council, which called on the Conference to work towards clear and concrete operational targets at national and international level with agreed timeframes. These will need to be defined in priority areas for action with a view to delivering concrete social, economic and environmental outcomes at Rio+20. The Council will also discuss the EU's position regarding the proposals for establishment of Sustainable Development Goals and their level of ambition, as well as the time frame within which discussions about such goals should take place.
The Council will discuss a compromise text prepared by the Danish Presidency on the proposal on GMO cultivation, which gives Member States the possibility to decide on GMO cultivation on their territories, with a view to reaching a political agreement. The compromise text introduces a new possibility for the Member States to request an applicant 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. This option could be used alternatively to the post authorisation opt-out possibility originally proposed by the Commission in July 2010, where a Member State can decide to ban cultivation of (an) already EU approved GMO(s) on part of or all its territory based on grounds clearly not conflicting with the environmental risk assessment carried out by EFSA pursuant to the GMO legislation.
A political agreement would mark the end of the first reading on this text, and allow discussions with the European Parliament to start in second reading.
Any other business
Among the AOB points, the Commission will update Environment Ministers on the latest developments on the implementation of the legislation including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading System, and on progress being made in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on advancing global action. The Commission and the Presidency will present ideas about how to take forward the European Semester/Annual Growth Survey in the wake of the March European Council, in line with the call to promote a greener, more resource-efficient economy, and for rapid progress on the implementation of the Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe. The Commission will stress the importance of further mainstreaming environmental and climate related issues into the economic agenda for growth and jobs. The next step in this process is the preparation and assessment of the National Reform Programmes, on the basis of which the Commission will propose recommendations to Member States.