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Environment Council

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

Anne Lambert (UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU) represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 28 June.

The Council reached a unanimous political agreement on the draft directive on waste. The UK supports the agreement reached and the agreed text will now be negotiated with the European Parliament. In particular the Council agreement meets two of the UK's key concerns, namely that the single market for waste materials for recycling should not be impeded, and that the Commission should carry out proper impact assessments before introducing any new EU-wide minimum standards for waste treatment operations. Political agreement was also reached on a draft Directive establishing environmental quality standards (EQS) in the field of water policy. The UK supports this which provides a high level of protection for the environment with a risk-based and cost-effective approach in line with the Water Framework Directive. The Council also reached political agreement on a draft regulation banning exports and ensuring the safe storage of metallic mercury. At the request of Sweden, Ministers agreed that metallic mercury should only be eligible for underground storage after the development of specific environmental criteria through the EU’s comitology process.

The Council agreed a set of Conclusions to inform the Commission's forthcoming legislative proposal on reducing CO2 emissions from cars. Ministers endorsed the general thrust of plans set out by the Commission in February and gave their backing to a target to reduce average CO2 emissions to 120 grams per kilometre by 2012 for new cars sold in the EU. Council Conclusions were adopted on the Review of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the Commission will now aim to present legislative proposals by the end of 2007. With regard to preparations for the Convention on Biological Diversity (Bonn, 19-30 May 2008), Environment Ministers adopted the Council Conclusions. The Council also adopted Conclusions on new perspectives for EU environmental policy which deals with three specific issues: the 6th Environmental Action Plan, market-based instruments, and eco-innovation.

The Council adopted by qualified majority a mandate for the Commission to negotiate an international regime on liability and redress for damage resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The UK voted against, because we have political, legal and practical concerns. A planned vote on whether to approve a genetically modified potato for cultivation in the EU was withdrawn from the agenda by the Presidency.

Under ‘AOB’, the German Presidency provided progress reports on: the inclusion of aviation activities in the EU ETS, the Fuel Quality Review, and the Soil Directive. The Presidency also provided information on the sustainable use of pesticides Directive, the Environment for Europe process, the proposed Regulation on marketing of Plant Protection Products and the outcome of the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The Commission provided information on emissions from heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI), ship dismantling, the Green Paper on adaptation and on the deliberate release of GMOs.

Information on the risk assessment of GMOs, the Commission for the protection of the Danube river, the Midnight Sun Dialogue on climate change, the Council of Baltic Sea States meeting, the Aarhus Convention and Natura 2000 was requested by Member States. Information on the Workshop on the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection and VII Ibero-American Forum of Ministers of the Environment was provided by Member States.