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EU: Environment Ministers’ Informal Meeting

Volume 710: debated on Monday 27 April 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock), met Environment Ministers from EU member states, candidate countries and the European Commission at an informal ministerial meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, on 14 and 15 April. The theme of the informal council was climate change adaptation and the international climate change negotiations.

On the first day of council, the European Commission presented the EU’s White Paper on adaptation, which had been published the week before council. The presentation was followed by informal discussions on adaptation to climate change.

The UK expressed support for the EU Commission’s proposed approach in the EU White Paper and spoke about the steps being taken in the UK. The UK believes that the EU must lead the way by embedding adaptation in its own policies and programmes. The UK welcomed the idea of establishing an impact and adaptation steering group (IASG) as a way of sharing best practice. Furthermore, it highlighted the need to communicate in a language that resonated with the public, demonstrating that adaptation was about living with climate change which cannot be avoided, and that is about practical steps such as redesigning buildings, resurfacing roads, flood defence and helping people in heat waves.

There was also a strong recognition of the importance of conserving water among member states, but there was not agreement to make it a special case or to have a sectoral approach.

There was also recognition that transboundary issues will need a higher level of governance. There was no general support for new legislation.

The second day of council focused on the state of play of the international climate change negotiations.

Discussions were held on climate financing and the EU’s negotiating strategy going forward to Copenhagen. The UK emphasised the need for further movement in the next set of June councils on options for mechanisms to generate finance and on the institutional structure for delivering and governing finance. The latter was an area the EU had not yet addressed so needed urgent attention.  The UK’s view on topics for further work was well received, though there was little consensus on timing. 

There was also little clarity on how we could feasibly address some of the difficult issues raised in the recent Spring council processes—for example, how any financial burden from any of these or other mechanisms should be shared within the EU and with other non-EU countries.  Ministers agreed to consider these issues further and recommended a joint meeting of senior environment and finance ministry officials before the June councils to help co-ordinate the position for the next set of UNFCCC negotiations.