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Environment Council (14 October)

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 28 October 2010

I represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council on 14 October in Luxembourg, together with the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker).

The Council agreed conclusions on the EU’s negotiating position for the Nagoya conference on biodiversity. In support of the conclusions, I underlined the need for a united EU position to push for an ambitious but at the same time deliverable and realistic agreement. I pointed to the need to find a satisfactory agreement on a protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) and innovative ways of financing. I also highlighted the interconnection between biodiversity, climate change and development. Finally, I stressed the importance of the intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystems services (IPBES) work and the progress of the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity (TEEB) study.

Environment Ministers exchanged views on the Commission’s proposal on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the EU. The discussion revealed that there are differing views among the member states on the proposal. In particular, several member states questioned how the proposal would work in practice and the compatibility of the proposal with WTO rules. I set out that the UK had yet to finalise its position but welcomed the Commission’s proposal as an attempt to find a way through the current impasse on GMO decisions. I underscored that careful reflection was needed of the wider impacts, in particular on the consistency of the proposal with the WTO and the single market as well as the impact on consumer perceptions of food and food security.

Moving on to climate change business, the Council adopted procedural conclusions on the analysis of options to move beyond 20% greenhouse gas emission reductions and assessing the risk of carbon leakage. These take note of the report prepared by the presidency to follow up the Commission communication adopted at the end of May; welcome the ongoing discussions to assess policy options; invite the Commission to conduct further analysis; and indicate that this should also be informed by the roadmap for a low-carbon economy by 2050 currently under preparation by the Commission. The Council decided to revert to these issues as soon as possible with a view to the spring 2011 European Council.

Climate Change Ministers agreed the EU’s negotiating position to take forward to COP 16 in Cancun at the end of November, adopting conclusions which set out the need to achieve a balanced outcome which paves the way for a global and comprehensive legally binding framework. The main focus of the discussion was the EU’s position on agreeing a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol, which will be a key issue for these negotiations. The Minister insisted on the need for the EU to send a clear signal of its willingness to agree a second commitment period provided that other countries enter a parallel legally binding agreement and the environmental integrity of the Kyoto protocol is addressed.

Under any other business, Hungary informed the Council about their ongoing efforts to contain the environmental damage from the recent red sludge.