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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 20 March 2013

Preparation Environment Council, 21 March 2013

The first Environment Council under the Irish Presidency will be held in Brussels on 21 March. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard will represent the European Commission. After the adoption of the 'A' points, two orientation debates will be held in the morning, the first on the Commission's proposal to minimise the climate change impact of biofuels, and a second on the proposed changes to the Directive on Environmental Impact Assessments. An AOB item on ETS Aviation is also scheduled for the morning session. Over lunch ministers will exchange views on the recent Commission Communication ‘A Decent Life for All: Ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future’ (see IP/13/166), in the light of the outcome of the Rio+20 conference, the development of Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda. Lunch will be followed by a third orientation debate, on Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources. The Commission will then present – followed by an exchange of views – the recent REACH review, the communication on the Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials, and an AOB item on the Roadmap on Substances of Very High Concern. The remaining other business points will then follow. A press conference will be held after the Council closes.

Environmental Impact Assessments

In October 2012, the Commission proposed to revise the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessments (see IP/12/1158), with a view to ensuring a more consistent, effective and harmonised application of the principles of environmental assessment. In its efforts to advance the file, the Irish presidency has tabled three questions for ministers to answer in an orientation debate. The questions are intended to clarify the degree of consensus on three elements: the proposal for Member States to introduce a single competent authority to assess projects through a coordinated and/or joint procedure (the "one-stop shop"), when several environmental assessments are required (e.g. assessment concerning nature protection or industrial installations); the proposal to improve and streamline EIAs through the inclusion of a mandatory scoping procedure; and the suggestion that experts who work on EIAs and prepare or verify EIA reports should be accredited experts. Building on the results of the orientation debate, the Presidency is aiming to present a Progress Report at the June Environment Council.

Biofuels

Following an orientation debate in the Energy Council on 22 February, Environment Ministers will also give their views on the Commission's proposal for a directive addressing emissions caused by indirect land-use change and encouraging the transition to advanced biofuels (see IP/12/1112). The directive would amend existing directives on fuel quality and renewable energy.

The Irish Presidency has asked ministers to address two questions in the debate. These are whether the Commission's proposal adequately meets the objectives of addressing indirect land-use change emissions and of encouraging the transition to advanced biofuels, and whether it supports the achievement across the Union of the existing EU energy and climate change objectives.

Access and Benefit Sharing

Environment ministers will also hold an orientation debate on the Commission proposal for a Regulation to implement the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-Sharing. The proposed Regulation is designed to protect the rights of countries and of indigenous and local communities that allow their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge to be used, while also giving researchers in Europe improved, reliable access to quality samples of genetic resources at low cost with high legal certainty (see IP/12/1063).

The Presidency is seeking ministers' views on the extent which the proposed legislation will boost user compliance in the Union and bring effective implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, and on the proposed balance between the obligations of users and the monitoring of these obligations to be carried out by Member States.

REACH and nanomaterials

The Commission will present ministers with its recent review of REACH, the EU's legislation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals, which has been in operation for five years (see IP/13/85). The review concludes that REACH functions well and delivers on all objectives that at present can be assessed. Although some needs for adjustments have been identified, balanced against the interest of ensuring legislative stability and predictability, no changes to the enacting terms of REACH will be proposed. The Commission will also present the outcome of the second regulatory review of Nanomaterials, which concluded that REACH is still the best framework for the risk management of such materials. The presentations will be followed by an exchange of views, and by an AOB point from the Commission on the roadmap for Substances of Very High Concern, which aims to identify all the relevant substances of very high concern for their inclusion on the candidate list by 2020.

Any Other Business

The Any Other Business points will inform ministers about the state of play in a number of files, including the recent CITES CoP, which resulted in increased protection for a number shark species and for some tropical timber; the new Minimata Convention on Mercury to be signed in Japan in October; the new institutional arrangements for the enhanced and upgraded UNEP and the renaming of the Governing Council to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), and the first Plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services held in Bonn in January. The Presidency will also provide oral information about the lunchtime discussion on the follow-up to Rio+20. Regarding its proposal to "stop the clock" on the inclusion of international aviation in the EU emissions trading system (see MEMO/12/854), the Commission will update the Council on the state of play in the co-decision procedure as well in discussions in the International Civil Aviation Organization.


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