Brussels, 17 March 2022
Fit for 55 package
The Council held a policy debate on the files in the “Fit for 55 package” that are within the remit of the Environment Council. The package aims to bring the EU’s climate and energy legislative framework into line with the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050 and its target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
Ministers exchanged views on an emissions trading system for the road transport and buildings sectors (ETS RTB) and, in particular, on the effectiveness of the tool in reducing emissions with a view to reaching the -55 % target in 2030.
Ministers presented options and key parameters they considered to be the most relevant to improve the social acceptance of such a scheme while guaranteeing its effectiveness, as well as some possible alternatives to this scheme.
Ministers discussed the parameters that should be set for the Social Climate Fund to enable it to effectively support the most vulnerable groups if the ETS RTB is set up.
Batteries and waste batteries
Ministers adopted a general approach on a proposal for a regulation updating EU legislation on batteries and waste batteries.
Batteries are a key element of the clean energy transition. The new rules will promote the competitiveness of European industry and production chains and make more batteries available for our shift towards zero-emission modes of transport. The new rules will ensure end-of-life batteries will be properly collected and will not end up discarded in the environment. This will prevent toxic substances contained in them from being released in the environment and drastically limit the wasting of precious materials that could be recovered in the context of a circular economy.
Barbara Pompili – French Minister for Ecological Transition
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 and recycling.
The proposal also aims to address discrepancies in the internal market due to uneven rules and information, by creating a level playing field for economic operators through a set of clearer common rules.
Deforestation and forest degradation
Ministers held a policy debate on the Commission’s proposal to reduce to a minimum the consumption of products coming from supply chains associated with deforestation or forest degradation.
The proposal was published on 17 November 2021 and sets mandatory due diligence rules for operators that make available on the EU market commodities and derived products, such as leather, chocolate and furniture, associated with deforestation and forest degradation.
Ministers exchanged views on how to ensure an efficient and effective due diligence system in order to achieve the traceability needed to ensure that the products included in the regulation have not involved deforestation and forest degradation. Ministers also shared their views and presented suggestions for common definitions of key terms for the operational application of the regulation.
Greening the European Semester
During a lunch discussion, ministers held an exchange of views on Greening the European Semester. The European Semester is a cycle of economic, fiscal, labour and social policy coordination within the EU.
Ministers focused their discussion on how the European Semester can better integrate the challenges of an inclusive and fair green transition, while ensuring the achievement of the European objectives in the fight against climate change and the preservation of biodiversity.
Ministers also exchanged views on the key principles and good practices for taking into account the just transition in economic policies, particularly in terms of analysing the distribution of effects, which should be strengthened in the European Semester.
Convention on mercury
The Council adopted without discussion two Council decisions relating to the EU’s position at Conference of Parties 4.2 of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Convention provides a framework for the control and limitation of the use of mercury and mercury compounds and of the anthropogenic emissions and releases from such substances to air, water and land, with a view to protecting human health and the environment.
The first decision concerns the amendment of Annex A to the Convention to extend its scope to additional mercury-added products, including certain types of lamps. It also concerns the amendment of Annex B to extend its scope by setting a final phase-out date for a mercury process covered by that Annex.
The second decision aims to define more precisely the scope of the Convention’s provisions on waste, and in particular Article 11(3) on the obligation to treat the mercury waste concerned in accordance with the principle of environmentally sound management.
The 2nd segment of the 4th conference of the parties (COP) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury will take place from 21 to 25 March 2022 in Bali, Indonesia.
The Council also adopted the opening statement by the European Union and its member states at the conference of parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The opening statement has been adapted notably to reflect the position of the EU and its member states on the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine.
Persistent organic pollutants
The French presidency briefed ministers on the state of play of the proposal for a regulation on persistent organic pollutants (POP). The Council adopted its negotiating position at ambassador level on 11 March with a view to future trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament.
The proposal amends the annexes to the current regulation, with the aim of eliminating or minimising the emissions of these chemicals from waste.
Although persistent organic pollutants are generally no longer used in new products, they can still be found in waste coming from some consumer products such as waterproof textiles, furniture, plastics and electronic equipment. The proposal introduces stringent limits for the following three substances, or groups of substances, in waste:
- perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and related compounds – found in waterproof textiles and fire-fighting foams;
- dicofol – a pesticide, previously used in agriculture;
- pentachlorophenol, its salts and esters – found in treated wood and textiles.
It also sets stricter limit values for a number of other substances already listed in the annexes, such as dioxins and furans, which are present as impurities in ashes and soot. Waste with POP content above those limit values has to be treated in specific ways to ensure that the POP content is destroyed or irreversibly transformed.
Clean Energy Transitions Programme
The Council approved the Commission’s intention to join a non-binding joint commitment to accelerate the transformation towards a net zero energy system through the IEA (International Energy Agency) Clean Energy Transitions Programme.
The Presidency and the Commission shared information on the second segment of the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), which took place from 28 February to 2 March in Nairobi, Kenya. The overall theme of the session was “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
The Commission shared information on a new proposal for a directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law, which defines new environmental criminal offences and introduces more detailed provisions on sanctions, rules to strengthen enforcement and measures to assist people who report offences and cooperate with enforcement authorities.
The Commission called on member states for urgent action regarding the ratification of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).
The Estonian and Finnish delegations shared information on the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). The Water Convention was adopted in Helsinki in 1992. It is a legally binding instrument promoting cooperation in the sustainable management of transboundary water resources.