Brussels, 24 October 2012
Preparation Environment Council, 25 October 2012
The first Environment Council under the Cyprus Presidency will be held on 25 October in Luxembourg, starting at 10.00, chaired by Mr Sofoclis Aletraris the Minister for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard will represent the European Commission. The Council will open with an orientation debate on ship recycling focusing on three questions from the presidency. Conclusions will then be adopted on the follow-up to the Rio+20 Conference that was held in Brazil earlier this year. Climate issues will be discussed in the afternoon. Over lunch, ministers are expected to discuss preparations for next month's UN climate change conference in Doha, Qatar in the light of results from recent international meetings on climate change, including last month's meeting of the Major Economies Forum in New York and the ministerial meeting to prepare Doha held in Seoul, South Korea earlier this week. The Council is then expected to agree Conclusions setting out the main elements of the EU's position for Doha. Among the Any Other Business points, the Commission will inform the Council about the recent adoption of a draft Regulation that would implement the 'Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing' – designed to protect the rights of countries and of indigenous and local communities while also giving researchers in Europe improved, reliable access to quality samples of genetic resources, and Belgium will present its views on the coming review of air policy. The Commission will also update the Council on the state of play regarding the inclusion of aviation in the EU emission trading system (EU ETS), as well as the timing of the auctioning of emission allowances during phase 3 of the ETS starting next year.
Doha climate conference
The Council aims to adopt conclusions setting out the main elements of the EU's position for the annual United Nations climate change conference, being held from 26 November to 7 December in Doha. The EU objective is essentially to keep intact the package agreed at last year's conference in Durban and to take all its elements forward in order to best advance the climate agenda. With this in mind, the EU wants significant progress made in Doha under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, in terms of planning the work needed both to draw up a new global climate agreement by 2015 with all countries on board and to step up global greenhouse gas emission cuts between now and the end of this decade.
Doha should also deliver on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol starting on 1 January 2013, including the rules needed for this to be implemented. In connection with this, Ministers will resume their discussions on the issue of how to deal with surplus emission budgets from the first commitment period ("Assigned Amount Units" or AAUs), on which the EU needs to refine its position by Doha. The EU looks forward to the adoption in Doha of the modalities and procedures for the new market-based mechanism agreed in Durban, as well as on further details of a system for ensuring transparent implementation of commitments. The draft conclusions recall that the UN climate convention's working group on long-term cooperative action should be terminated in Doha, as agreed last year in Durban, to enable the negotiating process to be streamlined by having the Durban Platform as the sole negotiating track in future.
Ministers will also discuss other strategic issues for Doha, in particular climate finance. This will however be further elaborated by the ECOFIN Council, which is due to adopt conclusions on the matter on 13 November.
On 23 March this year, the Commission proposed a Regulation to promote the sustainable recycling of EU ships. Parliament is expected to vote on the proposal in April 2013. The Cyprus presidency has proposed a number of changes on points such as the date of application, the scope of application, and the enforcement of the new regulation. Environment ministers will be asked to consider three questions that have been tabled by the Presidency, focusing on the effectiveness and enforceability of the proposal, relations between the proposal and the Hong Kong Convention on ship recycling, and the proposal's provisions on penalties and access to justice. The debate serves to orient the further debate on the proposal in the Council Working Party on Environment.
The Presidency has tabled draft conclusions recognising that the Rio+20 outcome constitutes a sound basis for further work for achieving sustainable development. The conclusions cover five broad areas – green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; the institutional framework for sustainable development; the framework for action and follow-up; Sustainable Development Goals; and means of implementation. The conclusions underline the need to see Rio conference as the beginning of a series of implementing activities at international and EU level, which require substantial follow up within the EU. Few substantive discussions are expected.