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European Commission


Brussels, 28 February 2014

Preparation Environment Council, 03 March 2014

The first formal Environment Council under the Greek Presidency will be held in Brussels on 3 March. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard and Health Commissioner Tonio Borg will represent the European Commission. The Council will deal with climate-related points in the morning before moving on to health and environment issues after lunch. The main climate point will be a public debate on the policy framework on climate and energy for the period 2020-2030. During lunch Ministers will express their positions regarding the way forward on soil: the Commission proposed a Framework Directive in this area in 2007, but ministers have been unable to reach an agreement on the proposal since March 2010. After lunch, ministers will hold an exchange of views on amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs on their territory. This will be followed by an exchange of views on greening the European Semester, with a view to ensuring an appropriate contribution from environment and climate policies to the March 2014 European Council. Any other business points include information from the Commission on the recent clean air package; a communication from the Commission on the EU approach to wildlife trafficking; information from the Commission on the state of play of the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period, and a presentation by the Commission of the recent shale gas proposal. A press conference will take place at the end of the meeting. Before the Environment Council session, members of the Council will attend the "Healthy Oceans – Productive Ecosystems" (HOPE) conference, which will bring together government, NGOs, academia and other stakeholders working with or in relation to the European marine environment, in Brussels.

2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies

The Council will hold a public debate on the climate and energy policy framework for 2020-2030 presented by the Commission in January (see IP/14/54). The framework aims to make the EU economy and energy system more competitive, secure and sustainable. The Commission proposes that, by 2030, the EU reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % below 1990 levels through domestic measures alone and increase the share of renewable energy to at least 27 %. Improving energy efficiency is also a key pillar of the 2030 framework: the Commission will review progress to date later this year and propose further action as necessary. The Commission also proposes a new governance framework for climate and energy policies and a set of key indicators to assess progress.

The debate will be structured around two questions drawn up by the Council Presidency. The first is whether the framework strikes the appropriate balance between ambition in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and flexibility for Member States to define the most appropriate ways to transition to a low-carbon economy. The second asks what the next steps in the 2030 discussion should be and which aspects should be further discussed and defined as a priority. The exchange of views will contribute to discussions on the 2030 framework at the European Council meeting on 20-21 March.


After lunch, ministers will return to the question of GMO cultivation (see IP/13/1038). The Council will hold a discussion on the cultivation proposal on the basis of a new compromise text presented by the Greek Presidency. This compromise preserves the EU authorisation process based on risks and the free marketing of GMOs, but also grants EU Member States the freedom to choose on GMO cultivation at national level.

The Commission remains fully committed to working with the Council and the Parliament to reach an agreement on GMO cultivation as soon as possible.

Greening the European Semester

On 13 November 2013, the Commission presented the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) for 2014, marking the beginning of the 2014 European Semester process. The AGS notes that while attention should focus on dealing with the on-going economic crisis, actions to respond to the current challenges should simultaneously ensure delivery on the objectives of sustainable growth, greening the economy, and promoting resource efficiency by improving waste and water management. Environment ministers will focus on finding ways to ensure that environment and climate policy contribute to this semester process, guided by three questions tabled by the presidency. Ministers will consider the main bottlenecks to the achievement of the Europe 2020 resource efficiency and low-carbon objectives; which resource efficiency and climate action measures at national level have the biggest potential to contribute to sustainable growth and job creation, while addressing existing environmental challenges; and how the role or involvement of Environment Ministers could be strengthened in the various phases of the European semester cycle.

Any other business

A Clean Air Programme for Europe

The Commission will present the Clean Air Policy Package adopted in December 2013, which aims to ensure full implementation of existing air policy legislation by 2020 and achieve significant additional health and environmental benefits by 2030 (see IP/13/1274). It consists of a Clean Air Programme for Europe, with new interim objectives for reducing health and environmental impacts up to 2030, a revised National Emission Ceilings Directive containing updated national emission ceilings for PM, SO2, NOx, VOCs, NH3 and CH4 for 2020 and 2030, a new Directive for Medium-sized Combustion Plants, and a ratification proposal for the amended Gothenburg Protocol under the 1979 UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.

The EU Approach against Wildlife Trafficking

The Commission will also present the state of play regarding efforts to improve the EU approach to wildlife trafficking, a growing concern in Europe, and the on-going consultation on the issue (see IP/14/123).

State of play of the ratification and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period

The Commission put forward the legislative proposals necessary for EU ratification of the second commitment period (2013-2020) of the Kyoto Protocol in November 2013 (see IP/13/1035). The Commission will stress the need to finalise the main elements of the ratification package at the Environment Council in June so that the EU and Iceland can jointly ratify the second commitment period by mid-February 2015.

Review of the Best Available Techniques Reference Document for the Large Combustion Plants

Information from the Czech Environment minister.

Recommendation and communication from the Commission on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (e.g shale gas) using high-volume hydraulic fracturing

The Commission will present information about the recently adopted recommendation on shale gas (see IP/14/55). Member States are to give effect to the recommendation by 28 July 2014, and by December 2014 they should begin to inform the Commission about any measures they might be taking in this area.

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