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EU: Environment Council

Volume 712: debated on Monday 13 July 2009


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I and the Minister for Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock) represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 25 June.

Member states agreed the council conclusions on biodiversity and invasive alien species. The conclusions highlighted the urgent need to make further progress on protecting biodiversity and stressed the need for an EU framework to tackle invasive alien species. The UK welcomed the conclusions and stressed the need for any biodiversity targets post 2010 to be achievable and measurable. Furthermore, the UK agreed that a comprehensive approach to invasive alien species was needed but this should explore all options to ensure that targeted measures were taken at whatever levels would be most effective. The Commission said that it would submit a proposal on invasive alien species in 2010.

Ministers reached political agreement on the recast industrial emissions directive, which incorporates several pieces of existing EU legislation on industrial emissions, notably the integrated pollution prevention and control directive. The UK successfully made the case for further flexibility in the large combustion plant provisions in order to ensure increased protection of the environment without compromising moves to low carbon generation and security of supply. In addition, the UK successfully secured a higher threshold for anaerobic digesters to come within scope of the directive.

The presidency provided an update on progress on the soil framework directive. The Commission underlined the urgent need for an EU legislative framework for the protection of soil, as soil degradation did have significant cross border impacts and could affect the internal market. The UK stated that it still had significant concerns regarding the cost and complexity of implementing the proposed directive and called for a different approach which recognised the differences between member states.

Over lunch member states discussed international climate change, where the UK set out its priorities in the run-up to Copenhagen. The UK stated that the EU needed to maintain engagement bilaterally and multilaterally with key partners at the same time as continuing internal discussions on development of an EU negotiating position ahead of Copenhagen.

Ministers adopted conclusions on the management of bio-waste. The conclusions stressed the importance of bio-waste management and urged the Commission to complete its impact assessment with a view to preparing an EU legislative proposal if appropriate.

Under any other business, Ministers discussed a suggestion from Austria that authorisations for cultivation of genetically-modified crops should be taken at member state level; the UK stressed the need for early agreement on the proposal to address illegal timber entering the EU market; and finally, the UK welcomed the Commission communication on carbon capture and geological storage (CCS) in emerging and developing countries.