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European Commission


Brussels, 12 December 2013

Preparation Environment Council, 13 December 2013

The second formal Environment Council under the Lithuanian Presidency will be held in Brussels on 13 December. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard will represent the European Commission. The meeting will start with an exchange of views on the Commission's proposal on the monitoring, reporting and verification of maritime emissions. Other climate-related points to be discussed will cover the state of play of the indirect land use change directive, outcomes of the UN climate conference in Warsaw, and developments following the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly, including proposed amendments to aviation emissions in the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS). The Council will proceed to environment files with an orientation debate on the legislative proposal on invasive alien species and any other business points including the Commission's proposal to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic bags. During lunch Ministers will engage in an informal debate on the environmental perspective of future actions "Towards a post-2015 overarching framework". A press conference will be held after the Council.

Invasive species

In September 2013, the Commission proposed legislation to tackle the issue of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in the EU (see IP/13/818). IAS are species that have moved out of their natural range as a result of human action, reproducing and spreading with negative consequences for the environment, the economy and society. They are now the second most important cause of biodiversity loss in Europe, after habitat loss. The Lithuanian presidency has tabled two questions to guide the orientation debate as part of its efforts to advance the legislative proposal. The debate is intended to clarify the degree of consensus on two main elements of the proposal: its general scale and scope, including the proposal to limit efforts at EU level to a maximum of 50 species alien to the Union; and the question of whether provisions should be included to foster cooperation at the level of EU bio-geographic regions.

Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping

Emissions from the international maritime transport sector today account for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Without action they are expected to increase significantly in the future, in line with expected increases in trade volumes between all continents. In June, the Commission proposed legislation to require owners of large ships using EU ports to monitor and report the ships' annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other climate relevant information (see IP/13/622). The Commission also published a Communication setting out its strategy to address and reduce these emissions, preferably through measures at global level. Environment Ministers will exchange views on the scope of the Commission's legislative proposal and whether it strikes the right balance between ensuring a minimum level-playing field and allowing the necessary flexibility while minimising the administrative burden.

Any other business

Indirect land use change and greenhouse gas emissions

Among the AOB points, the Presidency will inform the Council on the way forward following the Energy Council's political agreement on 12 December on the so-called ILUC (indirect land-use change) Directive amending the fuel quality and renewable energy directives. The ILUC Directive (IP/12/1112) aims to minimise the impact of indirect changes of land use on greenhouse gas emissions whilst protecting existing investments made in conventional biofuels production and start the transition towards advanced biofuels.

UN climate conference

Ministers will be informed on the outcome of the United Nations climate conference held in Warsaw in November (see MEMO/13/1044). The conference agreed a clear timeline for countries to table their contributions to a new global climate agreement well in advance of the Paris conference, and by the first quarter of 2015 by those ready to do so. It also agreed on a Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, ways to accelerate efforts to deepen emission cuts over the rest of this decade, and moved forward on the implementation of issues such as finance to support developing countries, combatting tropical deforestation, and transparency of reporting on emissions.

Aviation/EU emissions trading system

The Commission will inform ministers on the latest developments following the ICAO Assembly, including the EU's follow-up regarding aviation emissions in the EU ETS. In October, the Commission proposed to amend the ETS so that aviation emissions would be covered for the part of flights that takes place in European regional airspace (see MEMO 13/906).

Reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic bags

The Commission will inform ministers about its recent proposal to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic bags (see IP/13/1017). The proposal amends the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and introduces the obligation for all Member States to reduce their consumption of lightweight plastic bags, giving them a free choice of the measures they use.

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