I attended the EU Environment Council in Luxembourg on 9 October. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), and Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, also attended.
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.
Regulation on C02 standards for cars and vans
The main outcome of Council was reaching an agreed position (“general approach”) on the regulation on emissions standards for new cars and vans, as part of which the European Commission had proposed a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030. Council began with a full roundtable where Ministers set out their respective positions. The UK intervened calling for greater ambition in 2030 and stressing the importance of getting the package right as a whole. Following debate the presidency presented a revised proposal and called for an informal vote for agreement. Agreement was not reached in that round so a further presidency proposal was presented: the key elements included a higher level of ambition of a 35% reduction by 2030, strengthened incentives for zero and low-emission vehicles, a strengthened review clause and a continuation of the niche derogation for smaller car manufacturers to 2030. This was sufficient for Council to achieve a general approach although a number of member states could not support the text or abstained. Trilogue discussions have already commenced.
Adoption of conclusions on the preparations for the United Nations framework convention on climate change (Katowice, Poland, 2-14 December 2018)
The Council adopted conclusions on the EU’s priorities and approach for the negotiations at the 24th session of the conference of the parties (COP24) to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC).
The conclusions focus on: the urgency of climate action, especially in the light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC’s) special report, “Global Warming of 1.5° C”, published on 8 October 2018; completion of the COP21 Paris agreement work programme (PAWP), which constitutes the implementing rules underpinning the agreement; and the Talanoa dialogue, the facilitative process culminating at COP24 for taking stock of collective progress towards the long-term goals of the Paris agreement.
The UK intervened to underline the stark and sobering messages of the IPCC report, that current global efforts are insufficient, and that COP24 is crucial to making the Paris agreement a reality. The UK highlighted the action the UK is taking to address climate change, including hosting Green Great Britain Week, promoted greater climate ambition and the EU updating its nationally determined contribution (NDC) by 2020, and signalled the importance of continued collaboration on climate change. The UK also supported the inclusion of at least one net zero 2050 scenario in the EU’s long-term strategy on emissions reductions and the need for common time frames for submission of NDCs to the UNFCCC.
The conclusions highlighted the EU’s ambitious climate and energy policy framework to 2030 and acknowledged that recent increases to the EU’s 2030 renewable and energy efficiency targets will have an impact on the EU’s level of achievement. Ministers expressed that they looked forward to the European Commission’s proposal for a strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the objectives and long-term goals of the Paris agreement, underlining that the strategy should include a 1.5° C scenario and at least one pathway towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 2050. The conclusions stressed that the EU is ready to communicate or update its NDC by 2020 and recalled the importance of striving towards common time frames for all UNFCCC parties’ NDCs.
Conclusions on the convention on biological diversity (Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, 17-29 November 2018)
Council adopted conclusions on the convention on biological diversity ahead of the 14th session of the conference of the parties in November. Member states stressed the need to prioritise action on biodiversity as well as climate. Minister Coffey called for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030, highlighted the UK’s illegal wildlife trade conference, and stressed the importance of taking action on mangroves. Minister Coffey also argued that a holistic approach was required in order to overcome climate change and other environmental challenges going forward, including biodiversity.
Regulation on C02 standards for heavy-duty vehicles
The Council held a policy debate on C02 emissions from heavy duty vehicles, with the presidency seeking views on the level of ambition and incentives for low and zero-emission vehicles. Council was broadly supportive of the proposals, with some pushing for more ambition and others indicating they thought the Commission’s proposal struck the right balance. The UK indicated its support for high ambition to help meet our clean growth and climate change ambitions.
Directive on single-use plastics
All Member states, including the UK, strongly welcomed the thrust of the proposal, but views were mixed on scope and targets. The UK, alongside other member states, stressed the need for extended producer responsibility requirements to be sufficiently flexible. Minister Coffey also highlighted the importance of taking into account the context in which products were used, for example in a medical setting, and emphasised that any fishing gear regulations needed to be implementable.
Reports on main recent international meetings
The presidency and Commission updated Council on two recent international meetings:
67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC 67) (Florianopolis, Brazil, 10-14 September 2018
United Nations high-level political forum on sustainable development (New York, 9-18 July 2018)
Berlin declaration on nanomaterials
Minister Coffey welcomed the information from the German delegation, and noted that the UK is fully engaged, and working with the Malta initiative, the working party for manufactured goods at the OECD, and with other member states to develop test guidelines for nanomaterials, through research and expert input. Minister Coffey also stated that the UK is leading a series of Horizon 2020 projects which are positively inputting into the Malta initiate, with other member states.
Earth innovation forum conference and the second joint preparatory retreat of the bureaux of the UN environment assembly and of the committee of permanent representatives
Estonia updated the Council on its preparations for the UN environment assembly 4 (UNEA-4), which will take place in Nairobi next year. These preparations included holding a high-level “Earth innovation forum” in Tallinn on 5 September.
EU measures to tackle air pollution related to the import of used cars
The Council noted the Bulgarian, Polish and Slovakian proposal to restrict member states from exporting highly polluting second hand cars to other member states. Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Cyprus and Romania supported this proposal.
The clean air programme—to protect health, climate and environment—for co-financing of new heat sources and thermal modernisation of single-family buildings in Poland
Poland updated the Council on its clean air programme.