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Environment Council, 7Th-8Th June

Volume 520: debated on Tuesday 12 June 1990

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 7th and 8th June 1990.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and my honourable friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside represented the United Kingdom at this meeting.The Council agreed a directive amending the 1975 framework directive (75/442) on waste. The new directive calls on member states to encourage clean technologies, waste minimisation and recovery methods. It also strengthens existing requirements concerning the licensing of waste disposal installations and the production of waste management plans. I particularly welcomed a new requirement for all member states to establish adequate networks of waste disposal installations so as to reduce the currently unacceptable level of transfrontier movements of waste.The Council agreed a directive on batteries and accumulators containing certain dangerous substances (mercury, cadmium and lead). The directive will encourage the recycling or controlled disposal of spent batteries. It will also require batteries, and in some cases the appliances into which they are built, to be labelled to indicate recyclability and heavy metal content, and to facilitate their separate collection. Certain batteries containing more than a specified amount of mercury will be banned from sale from 1st January 1993.Agreement was also reached on a directive to limit inputs of four dangerous substances to the aquatic environment. The directive sets limit values and quality objectives for significant discharges of Trichlorobenzene, 1, 2-Dichloroethan,., Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene. Small discharges of these substances will be controlled through national programmes. These measures will apply from 1st January 1993.The Council agreed the final negotiating position of the Community for the second meeting of parties to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, to be held in London later this month. The Community, and the United Kingdom, will press for early and substantial reductions in CFCs and their elimination before the year 2000, along with strong controls on halons, carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform. The Council also confirmed that assistance to developing countries to meet their incremental costs in complying with a strengthened protocol should be covered by additional funding. We are confident that with this position the Community will be able to play a key role in the finalisation at the London meeting of a strengthened protocol which many more countries will be able to join.There was a short, but wide-ranging discussion of climate change. The European Commission was urged to bring forward its work on specific measures which might be taken at Community level to control greenhouse gas emissions, so that the issue could be considered again at the October meeting of the Council, before the second World Climate Conference. The United Kingdom urged other member states to draw up their own strategies for the control of greenhouse gas emissions in good time for that conference, so that they would be in a position to commit themselves to sensible precautionary steps aimed at ensuring that climate change problems do not get any worse in the period between now and 2005, by when many of the remaining scientific uncertainties should have been resolved.Ministers endorsed the urgent need for a directive setting stringent new standards for motor vehicle emissions and regretted the fact that the absence of the European Parliament's opinion on the current proposal prevented immediate agreement. The Council instructed the Presidency to write to the Parliament seeking its opinion as a matter of urgency so that the measure might be agreed at the next Council meeting. The United Kingdom also stressed the need for urgent action to limit emissions from diesel engines in heavy vehicles, and regretted that the new Commission proposals in this area fell short of the stringent "US 1994" standard.The Council also held brief discussions on proposals for establishing a regulatory committee to review exisiting directives on water protection, and on the scope of the proposed directive on the protection of water from pollution by nitrate.The Commission gave progress reports on the preparation of a Community environmental labelling scheme, on discussions on a recent proposal concerning the treatment of municipal waste water, and on the proposed directive on the protection of natural and semi-natural habitats. On the latter the United Kingdom expressed concern at the lack of recent progress and pledged our assistance in helping to resolve outstanding issues.