Skip to main content

European Environment Council

Volume 569: debated on Wednesday 30 October 2013

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and I represented the UK at the European Environment Council meeting in Luxembourg on 14 October. Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change, also attended.

After adopting the list of legislative and non-legislative “A” items, Environment Ministers had an exchange of views on the proposal to amend the shipments of waste regulation. The Commission emphasised the potentially severe environmental impact of the dumping or mismanagement of waste. The strengthening of inspections could bring economic benefits for member states. All member states welcomed the potential of the proposals to improve compliance with the waste shipments regulation. The UK and Bulgaria argued that further consideration was required as the proposal risked failing to achieve its objectives. Several member states agreed with the UK’s concern that requiring the publication of detailed inspection plans could be counterproductive. The UK argued that such detailed proposals were contrary to the principle of subsidiarity. The UK would prefer an obligation on member states and their authorities to plan effectively for inspections, without being overly prescriptive. A number of member states, including Germany, supported the UK.

Council conclusions were adopted on the preparations for the 19th session of the conference of the parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (the “Warsaw COP”). The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and ministerial colleagues focused their discussions on paragraphs relating to pre-2020 mitigation ambition and the process towards the new 2015 global agreement, including the UN Secretary General’s announcement to host a leaders’ summit in 2014.

There was a great deal of discussion on the importance of a timetable for the proposal of commitments for the new 2015 global agreement. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, supported by many colleagues, emphasised that the aim was to ensure countries left the Warsaw COP knowing they had to do their “homework” on commitments in 2014. This was consistent with the EU’s previous public statements proposing a stepwise approach to the 2015 agreement. Mr Davey also pressed firmly for ministerial engagement on pre-2020 mitigation ambition at the Warsaw COP. Conclusions meeting UK objectives in these areas were adopted. Ministers then broke for a working lunch, during which green infrastructure was discussed.

In the afternoon session the presidency introduced the agenda item on carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars, inviting interventions from any member states who could not agree with or had misgivings about the text negotiated in June under the Irish presidency. The German Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Peter Altmaier, explained he was committed to reaching a first reading agreement on the basis of the previous trilogue discussions that accepted the target of 95g/km for 2020, but that allowed some further limited flexibility.

Several member states supported the request for further consideration, and others offered support for finding a compromise. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change supported the request for further consideration in the light of these concerns, and the suggestion that the presidency and Commission develop further proposals that would generate greater consensus. He none the less noted that the compromise package on the table was a good compromise and we should only be looking to minor amendments. The presidency concluded that it would talk to the Commission, keeping in mind that a resolution was needed as soon as possible, and that it would keep member states informed of developments.

In other business, the presidency updated the Council on recent international meetings and events. There were five events of note, namely: the 11th conference of parties to the convention to combat desertification; the 20th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development; the first meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development; the special event towards achieving the millennium development goals; and the diplomatic conference for the Minamata convention on mercury. There were no interventions from member states. The Hungarian Minister updated the group on the Budapest water summit that had taken place on 8-11 October. The Commission congratulated Hungary for this timely event, as did Sweden.

Updates were also provided on the 38th International Civil Aviation Organisation assembly outcome on climate; the system for monitoring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transport; and facilitating a global hydrofluorocarbon phase-down agreement under the Montreal protocol. Under other business, Denmark also reintroduced the political declaration concerning the use of industrial gas credits under the effort sharing decision which it had released in 2011. This was welcomed by a number of member states including the UK.