Wednesday 16 March 2016
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
March Environment Council
I attended the EU Environment Council in Brussels on 4 March along with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Climate Change, Lord Bourne. The Scottish Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, also attended Council. I would like to update the House on the matters discussed.
Follow-up to COP 21 (climate change)
The Council welcomed the presidency’s summary of the implications of the Paris agreement with a number of member states criticising the Commission’s communication for lacking sufficient positive messages to maintain the momentum of Paris. The UK, supported by other member states, emphasised the importance of 2020 as a moment for raising global ambition. A number of other member states expressed their support for the EU increasing its ambition in light of Paris. However, some member states noted this was not the time to discuss raising the EU’s mitigation ambition. In response the Commission confirmed their view that the EU needed to focus now on the implementation of existing commitments.
The Council gave unanimous support for the presidency’s draft statement on the General Court’s ruling on the Commission’s failure to adopt delegated acts setting out the criteria for endocrine disruptors.
The Council debated the EU action plan for the circular economy. The UK highlighted work that had been done domestically, expressed support for elements of the action plan such as industrial symbiosis, and expressed overarching concerns for the proposed waste targets, stressing the need to pay close attention to the costs and benefits. Most member states wanted reassurance that a joined up approach was being taken by the Commission. The presidency stated that they will aim for Council conclusions on the action plan to be agreed at June Environment Council.
European semester/annual growth survey 2016
The presidency introduced the discussion of the contribution of the environment to jobs and growth. The UK emphasised that the semester and EU 2020 should continue to be focused on jobs and growth.
Any other business: international wildlife trafficking
The Commission introduced the recently released EU action plan on wildlife trafficking. This was welcomed by several member states. The UK highlighted the valuable nature of member states working on issues such as an import/export ban on raw ivory. The UK encouraged other member states to follow the UK’s move to an importation ban on lion trophies in 2017 if a sustainable approach could not be found.
Any other business: real driving emissions
France provided a paper calling for greater political transparency regarding the third and fourth real driving emission packages and for using the ordinary legislative procedure for the adoption of conformity factors in the future. The UK welcomed the agreement of the second real driving emissions package as a major step forward in tackling air quality issues in member states. In support of the Commission’s approach, the UK and other member states warned against changes to the current process for determining the test procedure and requirements through the technical committee, which would risk delaying agreement of the remaining legislative packages and implementation of this important regulation.
Any other business: further points
The Council noted the information from Austria of the desire to hold a discussion on energy transition.
The Council noted the information from Belgium for further action and speeding up of the implementation of the 7th environmental action plan. The Commission announced the first review date would be in 2018.
The Council noted the information provided by the Commission on the ratification of the Minamata convention (mercury regulation).
The Commission introduced a paper on innovation deals and noted recent initiatives such as the international green deal on the North sea resources roundabout which was formally agreed the day before Council by the Netherlands, France, the UK and Flanders.
Over lunch, Ministers discussed the ratification of the Paris agreement where the UK confirmed that ratification would only be possible following completion of the negotiations on effort sharing.
Machinery of Government
This written statement confirms that responsibility for the regulation of claims management companies will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Financial Conduct Authority. The date for the transfer will be announced in due course.