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Environment Council

Volume 594: debated on Thursday 19 March 2015

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) and I attended the EU Environment Council in Brussels on 6 March.

After adopting the agenda, climate Ministers discussed the Commission’s Paris Protocol for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the parties and the presidency’s Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC. Consensus was reached on the EU INDC, which has now been communicated to the UNFCCC. The EU’s INDC can be found at the following website link:

Ministers expressed views on the Commission’s Energy Union proposal. Baroness Verma welcomed the proposal with its forward looking climate policy and supported by member states which favoured a technology neutral approach to decarbonisation, emphasised the importance of enabling all low carbon technologies to be used if countries so choose, to deliver on the EU’s climate and energy objective including energy security. Spain and other member states raised the importance of energy market reform and infrastructure including smart grids to ensure that the full benefits of increased deployment of renewable energy techniques could be realised.

The Council held a discussion on greening the European semester and the annual growth survey 2015. The Commission confirmed the withdrawal of the July 2014 waste proposal. New proposals are planned for autumn 2015. Most member states noted the huge potential in mainstreaming environmental policy across EU policies and aligning the digital agenda to resource efficiency. Some member states were disappointed that the annual growth survey did not sufficiently address actions to promote the circular economy. Germany and the Netherlands joined me in indicating a desire to work with the Commission and member states on shaping the new circular economy package.

Ministers exchanged views on the post-2015 development agenda. The UK stressed the need to ensure that the final targets were specific, measurable and achievable, and for the EU to support the development of the UN Secretary General’s “six essential elements” as a means to aid communication. The UK underlined the importance of including, within the financing for sustainable development negotiations, a strong re-commitment to the official development assistance target with a clear timetable. This would be key to unlocking a successful outcome for the post-2015 and climate change agendas.

Under any other business, the Council noted information provided by the Commission on enabling a global phase down of hydrofluorcarbons under the Montreal protocol, soil-sealing and the second ministerial meeting on environment and renewable energies of the western Mediterranean dialogue.

Over lunch, Ministers discussed the European Environment Agency’s recently published State of the Environment Report 2015.