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Environmental Council: June

Volume 627: debated on Monday 10 July 2017

I attended the EU Environment Council in Luxembourg on 19 June along with the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey).

I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.

The Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) and Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation (LULUCF)

The Maltese presidency introduced an exchange of views on these two regulations which, alongside the EU emissions trading system, will implement the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction target under the Paris agreement. On the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), views were sought on the idea of a safety reserve put forward by the presidency to address concerns from some member states on the starting point for the 2021-2030 emissions trajectory. On the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) regulation, views were sought on how to account for forest reference levels. Member state views remain divided on the best way to balance fairness, environmental integrity and cost efficiency across the dossiers. However, delegations reiterated the importance of making progress in order to reach agreement at October’s Environment Council. This in turn would help reinforce EU climate leadership ahead of the next UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the parties in November.

On both dossiers, the UK spoke in support of the Commission’s original proposals, highlighting the importance of environmental integrity and appropriate flexibility, but recognised the concerns of other member states and indicated a willingness to work constructively with others to reach an agreement. On the ESR, the UK noted some concerns with the current design of the proposed safety reserve, but was open to it in principle. On LULUCF, we spoke alongside several other member states in expressing a preference for forest reference levels to be based on historic policies, to help ensure biomass emissions are fully reflected in LULUCF accounting.

US decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement

Environment Ministers debated the United States’ announcement of its intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, noting that the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) had adopted Council conclusions on the same subject earlier in the day. There was full support of the FAC position, with many member states, including the UK expressing deep regret at the US decision and reaffirming that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated. While underscoring that the Paris agreement was irreversible, the UK also noted that the EU should leave the door open for the US to review its decision.

The Netherlands called on member states to provide funding to make up the shortfall in funding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UK, along with other member states, responded positively towards this suggestion.

EU Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy

Council adopted Council conclusions on the Action Plan, which seeks to improve the practical implementation of the habitats and birds directive and boost their contribution towards reaching the EU’s biodiversity targets for 2020.

AOB items

AOBwaste packagestate of play

The presidency updated Council on the waste (circular economy) package. Many member states, UK included, noted that further discussion on the file would be welcome, particularly on the achievability of targets across all member states. The UK highlighted the variance of current municipal recycling rates across England, the challenge faced in urban areas and recognised the success in Wales.

AOBurban adaptation plans for cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants in PolandInformation

The Polish delegation presented information on the climate implications of their urban adaptation plans.

AOBMember state ratification of the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol—information

The Commission presented information on the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol.

AOBBasel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conferences of the Parties—information

The presidency and the Commission together updated the Council on the outcomes of the international meeting on the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

AOBRole of women in mountain regions—information

The Austrian delegation presented information on the role of women in mountain regions.

AOBUN oceans conference—information

The Swedish delegation presented information on the outcome of the UN oceans conference.

AOB11th Nano-authorities dialogue—information

The Luxembourg, Austrian and German delegations together presented information on the recommendations adopted at the 11th Nano-authorities dialogue.

AOBEstonian presidency work programme—information

The incoming Estonian presidency set out the Council work programme for the next six months.