My noble Friend Lord Hunt, the Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, and I represented the UK at the Environment Council in Brussels on 4 December.
At this Council, member states set out their views on the Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) Directive. Several member states raised concerns about the large combustion plant provision with most asking to postpone these provisions until 2020. The UK intervened to welcome the proposal but also to stress some concerns about the large combustion provisions.
Member states also discussed the action plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production and a Sustainable Industrial Policy (SCP-SIP). The UK intervened to welcome the action plan, in particular the proposal to extend the scope of the eco-design directive but highlighted concerns about the energy labelling directive. Council conclusions were adopted without amendment.
Council conclusions on the preparation for the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council were adopted unanimously.
On genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the UK expressed its support for evidence based, case-by-case decision making and argued strongly against setting seed labelling thresholds at the lowest possible level. Instead these levels should be science based, proportionate and workable in practice. In response to the interventions made by many member states the presidency proposed some changes to the conclusions, including a satisfactory formulation on seed thresholds. These were agreed unanimously.
Over lunch member states discussed the climate and energy package and preparations for the December European Council.
There was a discussion of the Council conclusions on deforestation and forest degradation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. The UK argued in favour of maintaining the flexibility to recognise afforestation and reforestation credits in order to maintain the confidence of both rainforest countries and potential investors. Following negotiation facilitated by the presidency, a compromise was achieved which both retains the flexibility around recognition of forestry credits for Government compliance and expresses openness to considering their recognition for ETS compliance in the medium to long term and subject to thorough review/experience.
The proposal for a regulation setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles (CO2 from cars regulation) originally scheduled as a main agenda item—was not formally discussed at the Council as good progress was being made at discussions at COREPER.
Under ‘any other business’, the European Commission presented communications on: the dismantling of ships; the EU strategy on invasive alien species; the EU and the Arctic region; and the implementation of European Community environmental law. Additionally, the European Commission presented a Green Paper on biowaste management in the European Union, the preparations of the EUROMED conference and the EU-Africa Climate Change summit. Finally, the Irish delegation discussed the fall in demand for recycled materials. All AOB items were noted by member states without substantial discussion.