I attended the EU Environment Council in Luxembourg on 20 June along with my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Lord Bourne). Roseanna Cunningham MSP also attended.
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.
EU emissions trading system (ETS)
The presidency introduced its progress report on negotiations to reform the EU ETS, framed in the context of the Paris climate agreement. The Commission saw carbon leakage rules as a priority and cautioned against over-burdening national authorities and industry. The Commission called for more ideas from industry on how best to use the innovation and modernisation funds, and supported a focus on addressing the surplus of allowances in the system rather than direct price regulation.
In the ensuing policy debate, all Ministers supported the presidency’s progress report and proposals for next steps. The UK focused on the need to balance the reducing number of free allowances with appropriate carbon leakage support, protection of the market stability reserve, strengthening of the carbon price, and reaching agreement on ETS alongside the effort share decision.
Paris ratification: presentation from the Commission and Council statement
The Commission briefly presented its proposal for a Council decision on EU ratification of the Paris agreement, published on 10 June. The presidency then invited Ministers to endorse a Council statement calling for ratification of the Paris agreement by the EU and its member states as soon as possible.
Following proposals from other member states, the presidency presented a compromise statement which included references to climate finance, and which the Council agreed by consensus.
National emissions ceilings directive: state of play
The presidency set out the state of play of the negotiations. The presidency was disappointed agreement had not yet been reached, but noted good progress was made in the four trilogue meetings which had taken place. On the key issues of 2030 limits, flexibilities and the nature of 2025 ceilings, the institutions were still some way apart. Despite this, the presidency believed a deal was close and had been in contact with the European Parliament with a view to arranging a fifth trilogue meeting. The Commission fully supported the presidency’s efforts.
The UK along with other member states encouraged the presidency to make another attempt at a first reading agreement by the end of June. However there was some difference in focus between member states in terms of ambition and the need for realistic and attainable targets. A significant number of member states expressed a clear preference for an agreement built on the most recent presidency mandate.
AOB: NOx emissions by diesel
The presidency reported on recent discussion at Transport Council. The Commission reiterated its view that the main issue was member state implementation of the Euro 5/6 regulations. It noted the progress made on the adoption of the real driving emissions (RDE) and worldwide harmonised light vehicles test procedure (WLTP) proposals. The Commission called on member states to accelerate negotiations on the type approval regulations. The Commission said it intended to provide further guidance on the implementation of the Euro 5/6 regulations by the end of the year, but added this had to be based on a transparent exchange of information gathered during national studies.
The UK underlined the urgent need to resolve the issue to ensure health benefits and for member states to fulfil their legal obligations.
AOB: endocrine disruptors
The Commission presented its recently adopted package on endocrine disruptors consisting of a communication and draft Commission acts setting out scientific criteria in the context of EU legislation on plant protection products and biocidal products.
Council conclusions on Closing the Loop: Circular Economy
The Council adopted by consensus conclusions which responded to the Commission communication on an EU action plan for the circular economy. The UK welcomed the conclusions and, in particular, the call for EU action on microbeads which was supported by several other member states.
Council conclusions on illegal wildlife trafficking
Council adopted by consensus conclusions which responded to the Commission communication on an EU action plan against wildlife trafficking. The UK intervened in support of the conclusions and called for a robust EU commitment on trophy hunting at the convention on international trade in endangered species conference of the parties in September. The UK also called for action in working towards the closure of the Chinese domestic market for ivory.
The Council noted updates from the Commission on: negotiations on aviation emissions in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the outcome of which would have implications for the EU’s aviation emission trading system; the outcomes of the eighth Environment for Europe ministerial conference; and the UN Environment Assembly.
The Council noted presidency updates on: April’s “Make It Work” conference, an initiative which aims to improve EU regulation; April’s informal Council of Environment and Transport Ministers; and the recent “REACH Forward” conference on chemicals legislation.
The Council noted information provided by: the Commission regarding environmental implementation review; the German and Belgian delegations regarding the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (BSal) virus affecting salamander and newt populations; and the incoming Slovakian presidency, who informed member states of the key environment priorities for its presidency—climate change, biodiversity, waste and water.