Brussels, 14 December 2012
Preparation Environment Council, 17 December 2012
The final Environment Council under the Cyprus Presidency will be held in Brussels on 17 December. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard will represent the European Commission. After the adoption of the 'A' points, ministers will begin with Council conclusions on the Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources recently adopted by the Commission. This will be followed by a discussion on the annual growth survey, and the greening of the EU semester. Before lunch, the Presidency will inform the Council about progress on the proposed LIFE regulation, and the Directives on Environmental Quality Standards for water (priority substances) and the proposed revision of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Over lunch ministers will take stock of the outcome of the recent Doha climate change conference (see IP/12/1342) and discuss next steps towards adoption of a legally binding global climate agreement in 2015 as well as preparations for ratification of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol starting on 1 January. After lunch, an orientation debate will be held on the 7th Environmental Action Programme recently proposed by the Commission. Any other business points will then follow. A press conference will be held after the Council closes.
On 15 November this year, the Commission adopted a Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources, a strategy for ensuring that enough good quality water is available to meet the needs of people, the economy and the environment. Despite improvements in recent years, EU waters are not doing well in terms of quality and quantity which are two inseparable aspects of water management. Pollution, overexploitation and changes to the shape of water bodies raise great concern. Moreover, extreme events like floods and droughts are increasingly common in many Member States due to climate change.
Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions which endorse the approach and the main proposals contained in the Blueprint to address these challenges. They will recognise that good water status will only be achieved in 53% of EU waters by 2015 and they will underline the need to significantly improve the implementation of current EU water policy by making full use of the opportunities provided by the current framework. They will also stress the need for increased integration of water policy objectives into other policies such as agriculture, fisheries, transport and energy as well as funding. While recognising that the current legislation is extensive and appropriate, Ministers are also expected to note a few gaps to be addressed by future Commission proposals such as in relation to standards for water re-use.
Greening the European Semester
Following the Commission's presentation on 28 November of its Annual Growth Survey (AGS) for 2013, which marks the beginning of the "European semester" policy coordination exercise for next year, ministers will hold an exchange of views on greening the 2013 European Semester. Discussions will cover areas such as phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, and ways to encourage a shift from labour to environmental taxation or measures to increase recycling, improve energy efficiency of buildings and water efficiency as well as promoting green jobs and skills. This forms part of Council discussions to prepare the Spring European Council in March 2013.
To guide the exchange of views the Presidency is asking ministers to address two questions: first, in light of the 2013 AGS, what are the main bottlenecks that might prevent the achievement of the Europe 2020 resource efficiency objectives at EU and national levels? And secondly, which resource efficiency and climate action measures at EU and Member State levels have the biggest potential to contribute to growth and job creation and should be brought to the attention of the Spring European Council?
Environment Ministers are expected to hold a first discussion on the Commission's recent proposal for a new (7th) EU Environment Action Programme. The proposal put forward on 29 November includes nine priority objectives to guide environment policy up to 2020. Against the backdrop of a long-term vision of a healthy environment within an inclusive, green economy, the nine objectives are intended to protect nature, safeguard human health, stimulate growth and set Europe on a path to sustainable prosperity and well-being within the limits of the earth's ecological capacity. The programme includes a framework to support the achievement of these objectives through, inter alia, better implementation of EU environment law, state of the art information to underpin policy, securing the necessary investments in support of environment and climate change policy, and improving the way that environmental concerns and requirements are reflected in other policies. Discussions are expected to focus on questions set by the Presidency regarding the overall scope and ambition of the programme, how far it addresses the shortcomings identified in the previous (6th) Environmental Action Programme, and the extent to which its nine priorities respond to current and emerging environmental challenges.
Any Other Business
The Presidency will inform ministers about the state of play in a number of legislative files: the proposed Regulation on a mechanism for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions; the proposed Decision on accounting rules and action plans on greenhouse gas emissions and removals resulting from activities related to land use, land use change and forestry; proposed Regulations relating to the reduction of CO2 emissions from new light commercial vehicles (vans) and from new cars; and the proposal for a new Regulation on LIFE, the funding instrument for climate and the environment.
The Commission will also update ministers on recent developments concerning the EU Emissions Trading System.