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07/06/2021 09:54

Environment Council, 10/06/2021

Chair: João Pedro Matos Fernandes, Portuguese Minister for the Environment and Climate Action

European Commission representatives: Executive Vice-President of the Commission for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans and Virginijus Sinkevičius European Commissioner for Environment Oceans and Fisheries.

Starting time: 10:00

The meeting will be held physically in Luxembourg. Discussions will be held in public session throughout the meeting, except for AOB points.

Ministers will start their discussions with the approval of Council conclusions on the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. The strategy outlines a long-term vision for the EU to become a climate-resilient society that is fully adapted to the unavoidable impacts of climate change by 2050.

Ministers will exchange views on the Commission’s communication on the EU action plan on zero pollution. As a key element of the European Green Deal roadmap, the action plan sets out a vision for a zero-pollution EU by 2050. It aims to step up the fight against pollution in air, water and soil to create a toxic-free environment.

The Presidency will present a progress report to ministers on the state of play of discussions on a legislative proposal on batteries and waste batteries. The proposal aims to reduce the environmental and social impacts of batteries throughout all stages of the battery life cycle – from sourcing materials to production, use, recycling and disposal.

Under other business, the Presidency will provide an update to ministers on the Aarhus regulation and the 8th environment action programme, both entering the phase of trilogue negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament. The Dutch delegation supported by Belgium and Luxembourg will draw the attention of ministers on preventing fraud in the biofuels sector. The Dutch delegation will inform ministers on the Transport Decarbonisation Alliance. The Estonian delegation will present information about a meeting of the international water convention. The Czech delegation, supported by Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, will draw the ministers’ attention to implications of the EU taxonomy for the transition to a sustainable economy. The Swedish delegation supported by France and Luxembourg will draw the attention of ministers on the subject of reversing the decline of pollinators.

Press conference: at the end of the meeting +/- 17:30

1           This note has been drawn up under the responsibility of the press office.

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AnchorEU strategy on adaptation to climate change

The Commission published its Communication on a new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change on 24 February, as one of the key actions identified in the European Green Deal.The strategy outlines a long-term vision for the EU to become a climate-resilient society that is fully adapted to the unavoidable impacts of climate change by 2050.

Building on the 2013 climate adaptation strategy, the new strategy aims to deepen and expand adaptation actions, with a strengthened focus on financial and economic considerations, the international dimension and a role of insurance. The strategy shifts the focus from understanding the problem to developing solutions, and moving from planning to implementation.

The strategy proposes to improve data gathering and sharing in order to better manage climate- related risks and losses. It aims to enhance Climate-ADAPT as the European platform for adaptation knowledge.

The adaptation strategy aims to integrate climate adaptation considerations into macro-fiscal policy in order to improve macro-fiscal resilience and ensure that financial and fiscal frameworks are climate-proof and sustainable.

The strategy also aims to align its objectives with international developments, in particular the Paris Agreement, which established adaptation as a global goal and highlighted it as a key contributor to sustainable development. It foresees to increase support for international climate resilience and preparedness by, among other things, scaling up international finance and strengthening global engagement and exchanges on adaptation.

During their informal video conference in March, EU environment ministers held an exchange of views on the strategy.

 

Zero pollution action plan

Ministers will hold a first exchange of views on the Commission’s Communication “Pathway to a Healthy Planet for All – EU Action Plan towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil’. The Commission adopted the Action Plan on 12 May 2021.

The Action Plan aims to steer the EU towards the 2050 vision of a healthy planet for all. It outlines key 2030 targets for various types of pollution such as air, noise and waste. Furthermore, it sets out a number of actions and flagship initiatives to achieve the zero pollution ambition, including several ongoing and planned legislative proposals. The action plan foresees among other things:

  • a revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives, new Euro 7 standards for vehicles and assessing the need to cap ammonia emissions,
  • revisions of the Groundwater Directive and the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive,
  • a review of rules on marine litter and other marine legislation,
  • the upcoming EU soil strategy as well as actions to identify and remediate contaminated sites.
  • an integrated Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Framework as part of the 8th Environment Action Plan monitoring.

In order to structure the exchange of views between ministers, the Presidency has prepared a background paper including three questions:

  • What is the Member States’ assessment of the approach, scope and level of ambition of the Zero Pollution Action Plan?
  • Considering the interlinkages with several strategies presented under the European Green Deal, how can the effect of synergies be increased?
  • What do Member States consider to be the main actions on implementation and enforcement set out in the Zero Pollution Action Plan?

The Zero Pollution Action Plan is an integral part of the European Green Deal and is complemented by the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.

 

Batteries and waste batteries

The Presidency will present a progress report to ministers on the state of play of discussions on batteries and waste batteries. On 10 December, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal updating EU legislation on batteries and waste batteries.

Batteries are a key element of the clean energy transition. In the EU, transport is responsible for roughly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and the main cause of air pollution in cities. More widespread uptake of electric vehicles is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and noxious emissions from road transport.

The proposal aims to reduce the environmental and social impacts of batteries throughout all stages of the battery life cycle – from sourcing materials to production, use, recycling and disposal. Thereby it aligns the current legislation with the European Green Deal, promotes circular economy and aims to ensure a high level of protection of health and the environment. The proposal also aims to address discrepancies on the internal market due to uneven rules and information, by creating a level playing field for batteries through a common, clearer set of rules.

The Presidency progress report will present a synthesis of the discussions held so far. Delegations have sought detailed clarifications from the Commission on the full extent of the proposal, due to its technical complexity, innovative nature and broad scope, allowing for a thorough technical analysis of the text. Discussions have further deepened on the subjects of sustainability and safety requirements and end-of-life management of batteries. The Presidency has identified a number of aspects that need further deliberations, notably:

  • the legal basis,
  • batteries of light means of transport,
  • the procedure for amending restrictions on hazardous substances,
  • deadlines for sustainability and safety requirements and for collection targets,
  • the articulation with the existing waste legislation, namely on extended producer responsibility
  • the articulation of due diligence provisions with upcoming legislation on due diligence.

EU environment ministers held a policy debate on the subject during their informal video conference in March this year.

 

Any other business

8th Environment Action Programme

The Presidency will give Environment ministers an update on the 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP). The proposal for a Decision on the 8th EAP, presented by the Commission on 14 October, aims at accelerating the green transition in a just and inclusive way. It will serve as an overarching guide to European environmental policy until 2030. The proposal for a Decision builds upon the European Green Deal and the list of actions detailed in it.

Ambassadors of EU member states approved on 17 March a mandate that will serve as the Council’s position to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the 8th EAP. Among other things, as the 8th EAP runs until 2030, member states added provisions regarding the need to define further actions when the European Green Deal’s key actions have been put in place by 2024. After the European Parliament adopts its position, the Council and the Parliament will start trilogue negotiations, under the Slovenian Presidency.

Press release on the mandate on the 8th EAP

 

Access to justice

The Presidency will update ministers on the state of play of the proposal for a revision of the Aarhus Regulation on access to justice in environmental affairs. The Aarhus Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 sets out how the EU and its member states implement the international Aarhus Convention, which aims to guarantee access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

The proposal responds to findings by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in case C-32 of 2008 that the EU was in non-compliance concerning some aspects of the Convention. The proposal foresees to correct the situation by broadening the scope of acts for which a request for review can be addressed to the Community institutions and bodies and extending the deadlines for such requests, thereby facilitating the use of the procedure.

The Council reached a general approach on the proposal on 17 December 2020. Since then, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (“ACCC”) has issued its advice on the Commission proposal and the European Parliament has also adopted its position. Trilogue negotiations between the Council and Parliament to find a political agreement on the file have started in early June 2021.

The Dutch delegation supported by the Belgian and Luxembourg delegations will draw the attention of ministers on preventing fraud in the biofuels sector.
Information note from the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg

The Dutch delegation will inform ministers on the Transport Decarbonisation Alliance (TDA) and speeding up the transition to a fair and zero carbon transport system via the TDA and by ensuring the quality of exported used vehicles.
Information note from the Netherlands

The Estonian delegation will present information about a meeting of the international water convention.
Information note from Estonia

The Czech delegation will invite ministers to reflect on the EU taxonomy for sustainable economic activities and further possible steps regarding it. The Taxonomy Regulation (EU) 2020/852 provides a framework for classifying economic activities that can qualify as environmentally sustainable. The Regulation was followed up by the first Climate Commission Delegated Act released on 21 April 2021, classifying economic activities with regard to their contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Economic and Financial Affairs Council is in the lead for this file.
Information note from Czechia

The Swedish delegation supported by France and Luxembourg will draw the attention of ministers on the subject of reversing the decline of pollinators. On 27 May 2021, the Commission published a report on the implementation of the EU Pollinators Initiative, which the Commission adopted in 2018 to address the decline of wild pollinating insects. Based on this, and further stakeholder consultation in the second half of 2021, the Commission will then revise the EU Pollinators Initiative.

Information note from Sweden

Finally, the Slovenian delegation will present the work programme for its upcoming presidency.

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