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Brussels, 11 October 2013
Preparation Environment Council, 14 October 2013
The first formal Environment Council under the Lithuanian Presidency will be held in Luxembourg on 14 October. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard will represent the European Commission. The Council will deal with environment-related points before moving on to climate issues, which form the bulk of the day's agenda. The main environment dossier is the proposed regulation on waste shipments, on which ministers will hold an exchange of views. On climate, the Council is due to adopt conclusions setting out its position for next month's UN climate change conference in Warsaw. It will also seek to finalise an agreement on 2020 CO2 emission standards for cars. Over lunch ministers will discuss green infrastructure. Any other business points include information from the Commission on the aviation part of the EU emissions trading system and on prospects for a global phase-down of HFC gases. A press conference will take place at the end of the meeting.
Ministers will hold an orientation debate on the Commission's recent proposal to revise EU legislation on waste shipments (see IP/13/679). The current arrangements for inspecting waste are widely recognised to be flawed. At least 2.8 million tonnes of waste are illegally shipped every year, often to Africa and Asia, where the waste is dumped or mismanaged with severe consequences for the environment and public health. The proposal aims to cut illegal exports by improving Member States’ inspections, giving greater powers to inspectors and harmonising the EU system to prevent exporters from exploiting lax arrangements that currently prevail in certain ports. Ministers will consider the scope of the proposed amendments (including for example requirements for Member States to establish inspection plans, and the possibility of requesting documents and evidence from suspected illegal exporters), and discuss whether the proposal strikes the appropriate balance between ensuring a minimum level playing field and allowing Member States the necessary degree of flexibility.
Over lunch, ministers will exchange views about Green Infrastructure, in the wake of the Commission Communication "Enhancing Europe's Natural Capital" adopted in May this year (see IP/13/404). Green Infrastructure is a tried and tested tool that uses nature to provide ecological, economic and social benefits. Instead of building flood protection infrastructure, for example, a green infrastructure solution would be to allow a natural wetland to absorb the excess water from heavy rain. Discussions are expected to centre round efforts to mobilise financing opportunities at EU level in support of Green Infrastructure, and on Member State approaches to Green Infrastructure support tools and initiatives required to scale up investments on the ground. After a presentation by the Commission, ministers will react to the Commission Communication and highlight their priorities for the way forward.
Warsaw climate conference
The Council will adopt conclusions setting out the main elements of its position for the UN climate change conference which Poland will host in Warsaw on 11-22 November.
The draft conclusions make clear that the EU wants to see a balanced package of decisions taken. As well as enhancing the implementation of previous decisions, these should advance work on stepping up the ambition of global greenhouse gas emission reductions before 2020 and preparing the ground for the adoption by 2015 of an ambitious legally binding global climate agreement applicable to all countries. The Warsaw conference should capture progress made so far towards the 2015 agreement and plan the work that needs to be done in 2014 so that elements of a draft negotiating text are ready for consideration at the end of next year.
While most of the conclusions text has been agreed, ministers will need to finalise a small number of paragraphs. The main outstanding issues concern the ambition level of emission reductions and the process for countries to inscribe their commitments to reduce or limit emissions in the 2015 agreement.
CO2 emissions from cars
Ministers will analyse the compromise reached by the Irish Presidency in trilogue negotiations in June, with a view to agreeing on this text so that it can be adopted by the European Parliament and Council in first reading. The draft Regulation sets out the modalities for reaching the 2020 target for reducing CO2 emissions from new cars, ie 95 grams/km. The Commission made its proposal in July 2012 together with a proposal for a 2020 target for reducing CO2 emissions from vans (light commercial vehicles) (see IP/12/771).
Any other business
Aviation/EU emissions trading system
The Commission will update ministers on its thinking regarding future arrangements for aviation in the EU emissions trading system. The Commission is considering this matter following agreement by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly early this month to develop a global market-based mechanism for tackling greenhouse gas emissions from aviation by 2016 (see IP/13/918). The mechanism would enter into force in 2020.
Greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping
The Commission will give a brief report on the state of play regarding its proposal for a system for monitoring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transport (see IP/13/622).
Montreal Protocol: Facilitating a global HFC phase-down agreement
In the light of several positive international developments recently, the Commission will urge member states to be ready to discuss and support a global phase-down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) industrial gases at the meeting of parties to the Montreal Protocol on 21-25 October. A global phase-down has long been sought by the EU because HFCs, used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances, are powerful greenhouse gases. The Commission will also urge member states to provide funding for a global phase-down.