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  • C/98/323
  • 11603/98 (Presse 323)

 

2121st Council meeting

  ENVIRONMENT

 Luxembourg, 6 October 1998

    President: Mr Martin BARTENSTEIN

  •       Federal Minister for the Environment of the Republic of Austria

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S U M M A R Y

PARTICIPANTS 3

ITEMS DISCUSSED

COMMUNITY STRATEGY ON CLIMATE CHANGE - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS 4

FOURTH CONFERENCE TO THE PARTIES TO THE CLIMATE CHANGE CONVENTION 7

REDUCTION OF CO2 EMISSIONS FROM CARS: AGREEMENT WITH THE EUROPEAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS 7

COMMUNITY STRATEGY TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS FROM PASSENGER CARS

- OPEN POLICY DEBATE 9

ENVIRONMENT AND EMPLOYMENT - COUNCIL RESOLUTION 12

END OF LIFE VEHICLES 16

OZONE LAYER 17

EMISSIONS FROM ENGINES USED IN HEAVY DUTY VEHICLES 18

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS 19

COMPETITIVENESS OF THE RECYCLING INDUSTRIES 20

ITEMS ADOPTED WITHOUT DISCUSSION

ENVIRONMENT

Reduction of the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels I

AGRICULTURE

Statistical surveys of milk and milk products I

For further information call 285.62.19, 285.78.33 or 285.74.59

The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:

Belgium:

Mr Jean-Louis SIX

Deputy Permanent Representative

Denmark:
Mr Svend AUKEN

Mr Leo BJØRNESKOV

Minister for the Environment and Energy

State Secretary for the Environment

Germany:
Mr Erhard JAUCKState Secretary, Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety

Greece:

Mr Theodoros KOLIOPANOS

State Secretary for the Environment

Spain:
Ms Isabel TOCINO BISCAROLASAGA

Minister for the Environment

France:
Ms Dominique VOYNET

Minister for the Environment

Ireland:
Mr Noel DEMPSEY

Minister for the Environment and Local Government

Italy:
Mr Edo RONCHI

Minister for the Environment

Luxembourg:
Mr Alex BODRY

Minister for the Environment

Netherlands:
Mr Jan PRONKMinister for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment

Austria:

Mr Martin BARTENSTEIN

Minister for the Environment

Portugal:
Ms Elisa FERREIRA

Minister for the Environment

Finland:
Mr Pekka HAAVISTO

Minister for the Environment

Sweden:
Mr Måns LÖNNROTH

State Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

United Kingdom:
Mr Michael MEACHERMinister for the Environment

* * *

Commission:

Mr Neil KINNOCKMember
  • COMMUNITY STRATEGY ON CLIMATE CHANGE - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS 
  •   
  • "1. The Council stresses that the European Community and its Member States are committed to making substantial progress on outstanding issues both under the Convention and under the Kyoto Protocol at the Fourth Conference of the Parties (CoP4) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place in Buenos Aires in November 1998 in order to keep up the momentum of Kyoto.
  • 2.  The Council believes that in order to facilitate further this work, the CoP4 has to adopt a decision on a detailed action plan for the future work of Subsidiary Bodies including
  •  
    •  - key issues and specific timetables for the further development of the mechanisms provided for in Articles 6, 12 and 17 of the Kyoto Protocol;
    •  - specific ways to facilitate co-operation and coordination amongst Annex I Parties with regard to the implementation of policies and measures under Article 2 in order to achieve the targets of the Kyoto Protocol (for instance through a Working Group). In certain fields international discussions have progressed sufficiently far for it to be conceivable in the fairly near future that some elements of coordinated policies and measures could be derived from these discussions;
    •  - the development of guidelines on
      •   = national inventory systems under Article 5
      •   = information required under Article 7
      •   = the review of implementation under Article 8 and;
    •  - the development of procedures and mechanisms to determine and address cases of non-compliance with the provisions of the Protocol.
  •  To this end, the Council sees the need to further strengthen the co-operation with other Parties in the elaboration and implementation of the Protocol, with a view to reaching agreement on as many operational issues and principles as possible at CoP4.
  • 3. The Council reaffirms that developed countries have to take the lead in combating climate change. The Council further reaffirms that the commitments in Article 4.2 (a) and (b) of the Convention are not adequate to meet the ultimate objective of the Convention. The second review of the adequacy of commitments should therefore address the question of what additional action would be needed to meet the objective of the Convention and the information necessary to answer that question. This should include: an examination of the obligations of the Parties to the Convention, as required by Article 7.2 including assessment of the capacity of Parties to meet those obligations; the scope for the obligations of some or all Parties to be strengthened, including by the assumption of limitation or reduction targets; adoption of policies and measures and ways and means of assisting Non-Annex I Parties through bilateral and multilateral channels in the fulfilment of such obligations.
  • 4.  The Council recalls its views on principles for the flexible mechanisms, as already expressed in previous Council Conclusions, and in particular in its Conclusions of 23 March 1998 and 17 June 1998. It is the aim of the Council that only Parties bound by a compliance regime shall make use of these mechanisms. The Council confirms, as a basis for further negotiations on the mechanisms provided for in Articles 6, 12 and 17 of the Protocol, the positions on International Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which have been elaborated by the European Community and its Member States jointly with Candidate Countries, Switzerland and Croatia, and which have been submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat. The Council stresses the importance of intensifying the dialogue with these and other Parties on the development of the flexible mechanisms as well as on policies and measures for the implementation of the Protocol.
  • 5.  The Council agrees on the need to elaborate modalities and procedures for CDM which fully recognise the innovative character of the mechanism, in particular with regard to technology co-operation, taking into account the aims of CDM as defined in Article 12.2 of the Protocol. On the basis of the above-mentioned position the European Community and its Member States will actively consult with other Parties in order to achieve this objective. In accordance with Article 12.3 (b) only a part of emission limitation and reduction commitments under Article 3 can be met through certified emission reductions accruing from CDM projects. This provision is necessary because emission reductions achieved under the CDM lead to an expansion of the overall assigned amount of Annex I Parties. The part shall be determined in a way which ensures that Annex I Parties overall still achieve a significant reduction in their emissions domestically. The Council reaffirms that an early agreement is needed in this regard.
  • 6.  The Council reaffirms that the flexible mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol are supplemental to domestic action, which should provide the main means for meeting the commitments under Article 3 of the Protocol. The principles, modalities, rules and guidelines for the operation of the mechanisms have to ensure that they do not undermine domestic action or weaken these commitments. In this context, the Council also recalls that a concrete ceiling on the use of flexible mechanisms has to be defined to achieve these aims.
  •  It should be defined in quantitative and qualitative terms based on equitable criteria.
  •  The Council believes that the discussion between all Parties on the practical elaboration of the supplementarity principle has effectively to start at CoP-4. This elaboration needs to constitute an essential element of the work plan to be adopted at Buenos Aires. The Council urges all Parties to co-operate with a view to reaching final agreement on this issue at CoP-5. The Council requests the Ad Hoc Group on Climate Change to continue its work and report back to Council with a proposal for such a definition as a matter of urgency after CoP-4.
  • 7. The Council stresses the importance of a comprehensive compliance regime covering all issues under the Protocol, including compliance regarding flexible mechanisms, and ensuring regular reporting by the Parties as a prerequisite for assessing compliance with the provisions of the Protocol. Procedures and mechanisms to address cases of non-compliance, including binding consequences, should have regard to the proportionality of consequences and the establishment of a due process. Work on the development of such a regime should start at CoP 4 as a matter of urgency.
  • 8.  There are considerable issues of complexity involved in the inclusion of sinks such as links with biodiversity, forest and desertification issues, consistency with sustainable development and the verification and certification of reductions from sequestration activities. The Council supports the conclusions adopted by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) at its eighth session and recalls that the methodological work and in particular the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a necessary basis for decisions of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on issues related to Article 3.3 or to Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • 9.  The Council emphasizes the importance of making early and substantial progress in implementing effective common and co-ordinated policies and measures (CCPMs), including consideration of the potential of measures for effective internalization of external environmental costs, within the Community, as already expressed in previous Council Conclusions and in particular in its Conclusions of 23 March 1998, 11 May 1998 and 17 June 1998. In this context the Council takes note of the Presidency Conclusions at the European Council in Cardiff inviting all relevant formations of the Council to establish their own strategies for giving effect to environmental integration and sustainable development within their respective policy areas. Climate Change was identified as one of the areas where integration is necessary in order to achieve this objective. The Council recalls the Conclusions of the European Council that the "Transport", "Energy" and "Agriculture" Councils are invited to start this process. In the preparations of these Councils central attention should be given to the climate issue; the sectoral reports on integration of environmental aspects for the European Council in Vienna should identify effective policies and measures in order to contribute to the fulfilment of the Kyoto commitments, thus enabling the European Council to take stock of progress.
  •  Progress should be reported to the European Council as an important example of environmental integration.
  • 10. The Council asks the Commission :
    •  - to indicate how Community budgets, programmes and funds can be better geared towards measures to support meeting the Kyoto commitments of the European Community and its Member States;
    •  - to indicate how EC Overseas Development Aid (ODA) funds might better serve the objective of the UNFCCC, noting that these funds should not be used to finance the acquisition of certified emission reduction units;
    •  - to consider the implications of EC rules on state aid on the use of the flexible mechanisms by the Member States."

    FOURTH CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE CLIMATE CHANGE CONVENTION

    At the request of the French delegation, the Council had an exchange of views regarding organisational aspects of the Fourth Conference of the Parties (CoP4) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place in Buenos Aires in November 1998.

    REDUCTION OF CO2 EMISSIONS FROM CARS : AGREEMENT WITH THE EUROPEAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY- Council conclusions

    "The Council

    1. . welcomes the Commission communication of 29 July 1998 entitled "Implementing the Community strategy to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from passenger cars : an environmental agreement with the European automobile industry";
    2. 2. supports the Commission's intention to conclude an environmental agreement with the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) on CO2 emission reductions from new passenger cars on the basis of the commitment of ACEA of 27 July; takes note of the letter from ACEA in which the Commission's communication is considered as representing an accurate analysis of ACEA's commitment;
    3. 3. welcomes the objective of the agreement to achieve an emission target of 140 g of CO2 per kilometre for the average of the new car sales by ACEA members in the EU by 2008; welcomes the intention of ACEA to review in the year 2003 the potential for additional CO2 reduction and notes that this review is undertaken with a view to moving further to 120 g of CO2 per kilometre by 2012;
    4. 4. is satisfied that the agreement is designed to make the major contribution to the achievement of the CO2 emissions objective of the Community strategy to reduce the average CO2 emissions of newly registered passenger cars to 120 g of CO2 per kilometre by 2005 or 2010 at the latest as called for by the Council in its conclusions of 25 June 1996; requests the Commission, in the 2003 review, to evaluate progress towards reaching the established target of 120 g of CO2 per kilometre by 2010;
    5. 5. stresses the importance of a transparent system to monitor the effectiveness of the agreement based on data provided by the competent authorities in the Member States and will therefore as a priority take forward work on the Commission proposal for a scheme to monitor the average specific emissions of carbon dioxide from new passenger cars; in this context asks the Commission to report annually on the results of this monitoring in particular as regards the achievement of the intermediate objectives for 2000 and 2003;
    6. 6. agrees to the need for a broadly based monitoring system, also covering the assumptions underlying the ACEA commitment, and asks the Commission to report annually on the results of this monitoring;
    7. 7. stresses the importance to conclude as soon as possible equivalent agreements to the one concluded with ACEA with the main car producers which are not members of ACEA and asks the Commission to report on this issue to the December '98 "Environment" Council;
    8. 8. confirms the necessity to consider further measures that will be required in order to achieve the objectives of the Community strategy; stresses in this context its intention to take forward work on the Commission proposal relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy in respect of the marketing of new passenger cars as raising consumer awareness has to be a key element of the strategy;
    9. 9. notes that the agreement does not compromise the right of the Community and the Member States to exercise their competence as regards fiscal and other measures; renews its invitation to the Commission to study the possibility of establishing a reference framework for fiscal incentives; reaffirms the conclusions of the joint Council of 17 June 1998;
    10. 0. invites the Commission to present immediately proposals, including legislative proposals, for consideration, should it become clear, on the basis of the monitoring and after consultation with ACEA, that ACEA would not honour its commitments;
    11.  invites the Commission to suggest appropriate measures should an agreement not be reached with the main car manufacturers which are not members of ACEA;
    12. 1. underlines that the agreement will make a substantial contribution to the Community's and Member States' commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change;
    13. 2. stresses that the agreement is only one element of the efforts of the Community and the Member States to control CO2 emissions from transport and underlines the need for a comprehensive policy approach in this area; the Council, in this context, confirms its intention to take forward work on the Commission communication of 31 March 1998 on "Transport and CO2 - developing a Community approach"."

    It is estimated that

    •  an average of CO2 emissions from new passenger cars of 140 g/km would correspond to a 25% reduction compared to 1995;
    •  a reduction to this level would achieve 70% of the Community's established objective of attaining average CO2 emissions from new motor cars of no more than 120 g/km;
    •  emissions of 140 g of CO2 per km would correspond to an average consumption of 6 litres of gasoline and 5 litres of diesel per 100 km while 120 g of CO2 per km would be equivalent to an average consumption of 5 litres of gasoline and 4.5 litres of diesel;
    •  the 140 g/km will make a contribution of 15% towards fulfilling the greenhouse gas reduction objective assigned to the Community as a whole by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change (- 8% in the period 2008-2012 compared to 1990 emission levels).

    COMMUNITY STRATEGY TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS FROM PASSENGER CARS - OPEN POLICY DEBATE

    Having reached unanimous conclusions on the voluntary agreement envisaged between the European Commission and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (see previous item), the Council held a policy debate on two further measures aiming at a reduction of overall CO2 emissions from cars:

    •  a proposal for a Decision establishing a scheme to monitor the average specific emissions of carbon dioxide from new passenger cars, and
    •  a proposal for a Directive relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy in respect of the marketing of new passenger cars.

    This debate was transmitted live to the media and the public.

    In its conclusions of 25 June 1996 on "A Community strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and improve fuel economy" the Council had stressed the need for a comprehensive strategy comprising as a priority an agreement with industry (see previous agenda item), in combination with market incentives and consumer information, in order to reduce the average CO2 emissions of newly registered passenger cars to 120 g of CO2 per kilometre by 2005 or 2010 at the latest. The proposals discussed today are part of this strategy.

    In their interventions during the debate, delegations generally welcomed the proposals and stressed their importance, particularly in connection with the agreement. Some delegations suggested extending both the monitoring and labelling to passenger cars powered by alternative energy sources such as electricity or gas. Furthermore, it was suggested to apply fuel economy labelling to vehicles already in circulation (second-hand cars) whenever they are put up for sale and to extend information to pollutants other than CO2. In a broader strategic perspective, several Ministers stressed the importance of fiscal measures such as road user charges, registration taxes, or the proposed directive on the taxation of energy products as a means of encouraging the use of cleaner vehicles. A wide range of additional measures to reduce emissions was mentioned in the debate, e.g. the promotion of public transport, lighter vehicles or better training of drivers.

    The President of the Council concluded the debate by expressing the wish that the "Environment" Council can reach a political agreement on both proposals at its December session.

    Emission monitoring

    A monitoring scheme is crucial to assess the effectiveness of the Community's strategy. At present no such emission monitoring exists at EU level, and this lead the Commission to propose a Council decision in June 1998. The decision would entrust the competent authorities in the Member States with the task of gathering data concerning the specific CO2 emissions from new passenger cars registered in a given calendar year but also other parameters relevant to these emissions (fuel type, mass, engine power and capacity...). The data would be transmitted to the Commission which would aggregate it further on a EU scale before publishing an annual report.

    In the Commission's view such a monitoring scheme would not only allow to assess the changes in the new car fleet (and their potential impact on other Community environmental objectives : air quality, acidification, ground level ozone) but also to verify whether every manufacturer is contributing to the success of the environmental agreement envisaged between the Commission and ACEA. More generally it would allow to spot trends (e.g. a downsizing of the car fleet) which may have wider repercussions (e.g. for road safety or the future demand for motor fuels).

    Consumer information on fuel economy

    The directive proposed by the Commission in early September aims at influencing consumer choice in favour of more fuel efficient cars. This would be achieved by providing potential buyers with accurate and comparable information on fuel consumption of new cars. Four sources of information would be made available to customers:

    •  Car-dealers and garages selling new cars would have to display information on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions on each car (fuel economy label);
    •  a poster would provide this same information for all cars on sale at the garage or showroom;
    •  manufacturers and dealers would have to include information on fuel consumption in all promotional literature (advertising);
    •  Member States would be required to produce a fuel economy guide at least on an annual basis and to ensure that it is available to consumers free of charge, including from the dealers. The guide would provide information on fuel consumption for all new cars and contain an explicit list of the top ten most fuel efficient new petrol and diesel cars on the market. It would also include an explanation of the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate. Furthermore, it would also offer motorists advice on how to economize on fuel when driving. Dealers would be under an obligation to make consumers aware of the guide's existence.

    ENVIRONMENT AND EMPLOYMENT - Council Resolution

    "THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

    • A) Having regard to the Resolution of the Council and the representatives of the Governments of the Member States on a European Community programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development, which has recently been reviewed;
    •  
    • B) Having regard to the Amsterdam Treaty and in this respect to its Article 2 , whereby the objectives of, inter alia, sustainable development, a high level of employment, a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment as well as economic and social cohesion among Member States shall be promoted, and having regard to its Articles 6 and 127 whereby in the formulation and implementation of all Community policies and activities the integration of environmental protection requirements and the consideration of the objective of a high level of employment are explicitly requested;
    • C) Having regard to the Conclusions of the European Council in Cardiff on 15 and 16 June 1998, in particular as regards "Action for Employment", and its invitation to all relevant formations of the Council to establish their own strategies for giving effect to environmental integration and sustainable development within their respective policy areas;
    • D) Having regard to the Commission Communication on a strategy for integrating environment into EU policies pointing out the benefits of this integration to the economy through the creation of value added and employment;
    • E) Having regard to the Commission Communication on Community policies in support of employment;
    • F) Having regard to the Council's Resolution of 15 December 1997 on the 1998 Employment Guidelines and in this respect to the encouragement to exploit all possible sources of jobs and new technologies and innovations including new activities linked to needs not yet satisfied by the market;
    • G) Having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 18 November 1997 on Environment and Employment (Building a sustainable Europe);
    •  
    • H) Having regard to the Commission proposal 'Agenda 2000' which is currently under discussion in the Council and in this respect to the Commission's efforts to integrate environmental and employment concerns;
    • I) Having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on a strategy for encouraging local development and employment initiatives;
    • J) Having regard to the Resolution from the European Parliament as well as to the Opinions of the Economic and Social Committee and of the Committee of the Regions on the Commission's Communication on Environment and Employment :
    • 1. WELCOMES the presentation of the Commission's Communication on Environment and Employment as a valuable reflection on, and an important first step towards a better understanding of the link between environmental aspects and employment issues;
    • 2. CONSIDERS the Council Resolution on the Employment Guidelines 1998 as an important step towards a better coordination of Member States' employment policies; indeed the issue of employment is central to the concerns of Europe's citizens and the unacceptable level of unemployment poses a threat to the cohesion of our societies;
    • 3. EMPHASIZES the need to strengthen the link between a high level of employment on one hand, and a high level of environmental protection as well as the necessity to conserve nature, including natural resources on the other, as both objectives contribute to raise the quality and standard of living and represent basic conditions for the sustainable development of economies;
    • 4. RECOGNIZES that, while there can be various job gains and losses in different sectors and regions across the Community, frequently environmental policies have a positive employment impact . Synergy effects between employment and environment could be further increased, for example, through a better integration of these two policies into other policy areas;
    • 5. NOTES that priority will be given to improving the use of the Community's own financial support mechanisms as a means of promoting sustainable development which could contribute also to a higher level of employment and REAFFIRMS the intention to take forward this process, since it has been demonstrated that the integration of economic, social and environmental objectives in regional/local development can be a successful way to deal with structural problems and is an important condition for maximising economic, social and environmental benefits;
    • 6. NOTES the increase of environment-related jobs and RECOGNIZES the efforts of many Member States to create such jobs, STRESSES the necessity to further integrate the objective of sustainable development within the employment coordination process and in this respect CALLS ON the Commission to examine whether and how this overall objective can be incorporated in the forthcoming proposal of the 1999 Employment Guidelines;
    • 7. CALLS ON Member States to integrate the objective of sustainable development into all policy areas and ENCOURAGES them to give effect to this integration also in the field of employment policies, taking into account the main lines of action within the Employment Guidelines;
    • 8. CONSIDERS it particularly important that Member States within their national employment policies and reports based on the Employment Guidelines and, with a view to promoting sustainable development, put more emphasis on :
      •  - environmental education and training in order to support the objective of improving employability of the active population;
      •  - activities in the search for new sources of jobs and innovations, inter alia in SMEs, particularly in the field of nature protection and management, clean technologies, waste management, energy saving and efficiency and renewable energies and in other areas by pursuing, for example, knowledge-intensive activities and commercial services;
      •  - employment possibilities at local level including in the social economy and new activities and services linked to needs not yet satisfied by the market;
    • 9. REAFFIRMS that integration of environmental considerations into policies in all sectors is of critical importance in achieving sustainable development and environmental improvement; in particular, prices should better reflect environmental costs; CONFIRMS the necessity of making taxation systems more employment friendly; REAFFIRMS the conclusions of the 17 June 1998 Joint Council, taking also into account the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol;
    • 10. REAFFIRMS that special attention will be given, at an appropriate level and taking into account the principle of subsidiarity, to encouraging the use of fiscal instruments to achieve environmental objectives; CONFIRMS that in this context account shall be taken of employment as one of the general economic objectives of the Community;
    •  
    • 11. REITERATES its Conclusions of 18 May 1998 which called upon the Commission to clarify the scope for taking into consideration environment issues under the existing public procurement rules, taking account of priorities attached to those issues by Member States;".
    • 12. ENCOURAGES the Commission to further explore actions, inter alia those outlined in the Communication on Environment and Employment and, as appropriate, submit proposals to the Council especially concerning :
      •  - the examination of appropriate ways for measuring and assessing investments with regard to their environmental and employment implications and the provision of good practice examples, as the development of further reference criteria and increased information in these fields could be important contributions to promote cleaner investments and sustainable production and consumption patterns;
      •  - the promotion of technology assessment with regard to their environmental and employment impacts and the further development of clean technologies, inter alia in view of the commitments in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change;
      •  - environmental training and education, as the further development of vocational qualifications in the field of environment can make a substantial contribution to implement the aspect of sustainable development in all sectors of living;
      •  - the link between local initiatives and the needs not yet satisfied by the market, in order to widen the conception and the perspective of employment within the sustainable development of economies and to analyze the possible contribution of these activities to sustainable economic systems, taking into account the objective to increase the quality and standard of living."

    END OF LIFE VEHICLES

    The Council held an orientation debate on the proposed Directive on end of life vehicles presented by the Commission in September 1997.

    On the basis of a questionnaire prepared by the Presidency and in order to give some political guidelines, Ministers addressed the following issues: the suitability of the recovery strategy proposed by the Commission; the application of the principle of producer responsibility, including the possibility, foreseen by the proposal, to deliver an end of life vehicle without costs for the last owner; and the possible implementation of certain provisions through environmental agreements.

    Ministers generally supported the Commission strategy which gives priority to re-use and recycling of car components, although some held the view that the proposed targets were over-ambitious in this respect.

    The principle of producer responsibility and the possibility of delivering the end of life vehicles without costs for the last owner were welcomed by most delegations, while some mentioned the need for incentives or for flexibility and caution in applying these principles.

    Finally, the use of environmental agreements for implementing specific provisions of the directive was considered to be possible by some delegations, while several other delegations had doubts about their general suitability in this context.

    In conclusion, the Presidency recalled its intention to pursue work intensively in the light of the debate and with a view to reaching substantial progress at the Environment Council session in December.

    It is recalled that the proposal aims at :

    •  establishing measures which minimise waste from end of life vehicles and maximise re-use and recycling of their components;
    •  improving the efficiency and effectiveness of treatment operators;
    •  operating on the principles of producer responsibility.

    OZONE LAYER

    The Council held an orientation debate on the Commission proposal on substances that deplete the ozone layer, intended to replace the current instrument (Council Regulation 3093/94) which implements the Montreal Protocol in the Community.

    In his introduction, the President recalled that scientific evidence suggests that the depletion of the ozone layer continues, and that further efforts are needed to limit this depletion. He hoped that rapid progress on the proposal would be made, also in view of the next meeting of the Parties to the Convention which takes place in Cairo at the end of November 1998.

    It appeared from the ensuing debate that while some delegations support the proposal, others have difficulties in accepting some of the proposed measures, in particular as regards HCFCs and methyl bromide.

    The President concluded that examination of the proposal will continue actively, on the basis of the debate of the Council, with a view to making decisive progress at the December session.

    EMISSIONS FROM ENGINES USED IN HEAVY DUTY VEHICLES

    The Council took note of the state of play concerning the proposal relating to the measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from diesel engines for use in new heavy-duty vehicles (amendment of Directive 88/77/EEC).

    It is recalled that this proposal, submitted on 23 March 1998, aims at tightening the maximum emission levels in the Community from diesel-powered lorries, but also includes in its scope limit values for heavy-duty engines fuelled by natural gas (NG) and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) which would be identical to those applicable to diesel engines.

    A number of questions remain to be solved, in particular those relating to tax incentives and possible limit values for 2005. The Commission has proposed provisions only for the year 2000; it prefers to put forward proposals for the stage 2005 at the end of 1999, based on first results of the Auto-Oil programme. Most delegations agree that the limit values for the next stage should be part of a comprehensive package based on a future Commission proposal including also other parameters (durability, test procedures, on-board diagnostic systems, conformity of vehicles in service).

    Since the Council meeting of 16/17 June 1998, particular attention has also been devoted to the question of the promotion of the marketing and use of extra low emission vehicles (also known as "improved ecological vehicles") in view of their value for reducing atmospheric pollution in cities. No conclusions have yet been reached on this aspect.

    The new emission limits according to the proposal would amount to a reduction of 30% of pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates; hydrocarbon emissions would even be cut by 34%) compared to the current level; they would apply to newly approved engine types for heavy duty vehicles from 1 October 2000 and to all such vehicles newly registered from 1 October 2001.

    The proposal forms part of a global Community strategy - the Auto-Oil Programme - which includes strengthened requirements for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (a Directive was recently adopted), common standards for cleaner motor fuels (idem) and enhanced roadworthiness testing requirements (still to be decided).

    It is the Austrian Presidency's ambition to conclude the first reading of this proposal (Council common position) by the end of the year.

    GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS

    The Council took note of progress made on the proposed amendment of Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms.

    Delegations generally welcomed the approach followed by the proposal, in particular as regards transparency, risk assessment, attention paid to ethical considerations, monitoring and the role of scientific committees. However, concerns exist about the operation of simplified procedures and labelling requirements. The need to balance the protection of the environment and human health with adequate flexibility is also a concern in this framework.

    The Council will continue to examine the proposal at technical level and the Presidency indicated that it will spare no effort in order to reach an agreement at the December "Environment" Council.

    COMPETITIVENESS OF THE RECYCLING INDUSTRIES

    The Council heard a brief presentation by Commissioner Kinnock of the Communication on the competitiveness of the recycling industries, approved by the Commission on 23 July 1998.

    The Communication addresses the major problems concerning industry's competitiveness in recycling activity. These include the lack of demand due to low prices for primary raw materials, the lack of transparency in the market as well as the negative image which is often linked to the use of waste as raw material.

    The Communication proposes to set up a Recycling Forum with representatives from Member States, economic operators, consumer and environmental organisations. This Forum will be given the task of examining a number of recycling issues and report back to the Commission, if possible by the end of 1999.

    It also includes an action programme, to be discussed within the framework of the Recycling Forum, to meet the challenges raised, promote future recycling and contribute to the implementation of Community rules.

    According to the Commission :

    •  future product standards should not discriminate against recycling
    •  hazardous substances in products should be substituted in order to ensure clean recycling
    •  a "recycling exchange" should be established in order to create a genuine recycling market
    •  public procurement and economic instruments should be used to promote recycling
    •  minimum requirements for the content of recycled materials should be introduced in specific products
    •  future legislation on specific waste streams should promote recycling
    •  future research should focus on recycling and results should be made accessible, good practices should be promoted.

    The communication will also be on the agenda of the "Industry" Council on 16 November 1998 with the objective of adopting conclusions.

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    OTHER DECISIONS

    Adopted without discussion.

    ENVIRONMENT

    Reduction of the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels

    Following the political agreement of 16 June 1998 (see Press Release no 9402/98 Presse 205), the Council formally adopted its common position on the Directive relating to a reduction of the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels (amending Directive 93/12/EEC). The text will now be transmitted to the European Parliament for a second reading in the framework of the co-operation procedure.

    This text is part of a wider Community strategy to combat acidification and was presented on the basis of Article 130S(1) of the Treaty. Its aim is to reduce emissions of SO2 across the EU by placing restrictions on the sulphur content of certain liquid fuel products i.e. heavy fuel oil and gas oil.

    AGRICULTURE

    Statistical surveys of milk and milk products

    The Council adopted by unanimity, with the abstention of Germany, Spain, Luxembourg and Portugal, a modification of Decision 97/80/EC laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Directive 96/16/EC on statistical surveys of milk and milk products.

    The modification foresees that data on different forms of new types of butter and yellow fat dairy products that are appearing on the markets may be collected and transmitted to the Commission for the establishment of statistical data.

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