The first Environment Council under the Luxembourg Presidency will take place on 10 March in Brussels. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will represent the Commission. The meeting will focus on climate change strategy and preparation of the spring European Council and of several forthcoming international meetings. The presidency will present a progress report on the proposed REACH reform of chemicals legislation. A joint press conference by the President, Luxembourg Environment Minister Lucien Lux, and Commissioner Dimas is foreseen at the end of the Council.
Preparation of the spring European Council
The Presidency is aiming for adoption by the Environment Council of a set of conclusions as input to the spring European Council of EU leaders on 22-23 March. These conclusions will respond to four documents presented recently by the Commission: the report to the spring European Council on re-vitalizing the Lisbon Agenda (see IP/05/130), the 2004 Environment Policy Review (see IP/05/100), the report on implementation of the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP) (see also IP/05/100) and orientations for the review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) (see IP/05/156).
The conclusions have largely been agreed but two points remain open: the role of the Environment Council in the future Lisbon Strategy governance processes, and how and where to refer to the need to halt the loss of biological diversity. After adopting the conclusions ministers will hold an exchange of views on sustainable development. This is likely to focus on the review of the Sustainable Development Strategy later this 2022.
The Council aims to adopt conclusions on an EU climate change strategy for the period after 2012, when the current Kyoto Protocol commitments expire. The conclusions will respond to the Commission’s Communication Winning the Battle Against Climate Change, adopted on 9 February (see IP/05/155 and Memo 05/42), and the request of the European Council in March 2004 for “emission reduction strategies, including targets.” These conclusions will also be addressed to the spring European Council.
The Commission’s Communication of 9 February recommends a post-2012 strategy based on five key elements: Broader international participation in reducing emissions; the inclusion of more sectors, notably aviation, maritime transport and forestry; a push for innovation in the EU; continued use of flexible market-based instruments for reducing emissions from the EU and globally; and EU and global policies for adapting to climate change.
The main outstanding issue is whether or not to recommend that the spring European Council mention specific target ranges by which developed countries should reduce their emissions in the medium and long term. Member States are divided over this.
Preparation of the 13th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development
The Council will hold an exchange of views to prepare for the 13th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), to be held in New York from 11 to 22 April. The CSD session will focus on policy initiatives in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements. To inform the discussion in Council, the Presidency has invited Minister John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, who is current chair of the CSD, to report on an intergovernmental preparatory meeting which took place last week.
Preparation of the second Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention
The objective is to agree on an EU negotiating position for the second Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, to be held from 25 to 27 May in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Aarhus Convention covers access to information, participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.
The Commission and almost all Member States believe the Commission’s negotiating mandate should take the form of a Council Decision rather than conclusions. Another issue is how flexible the EU’s negotiating mandate should be with regard to a proposed amendment of the Convention to cover public participation in regulatory decision-making on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The text proposed by the Presidency allows for negotiations on a possible amendment on condition that this would not require changes to EU legislation.
Preparation of the second Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a protocol to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The Council is being asked to approve an EU negotiating mandate for the next meeting of the Parties, to take place from 30 May to 3 June in Montreal, Canada. The meeting is due to take a decision on the documentation requirements for shipments of GMOs, an area covered by Community legislation, as well as on a number of technical issues.
The Presidency proposes that the negotiating mandate on the issue of documentation for GMO shipments should take the form of a Council Decision, while Council conclusions should cover the other issues.
Preparation of the first Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are toxic chemical substances that accumulate in humans and animals through the food chain, persist in the environment for generations, can travel long distances and pose a risk of harming human health and the environment. The Stockholm Convention restricts the production, marketing and use of 12 POPs, known as the “dirty dozen.” The first Conference of Parties to the Convention will be held from 2 to 6 May in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
The Presidency aims for Council conclusions to prepare the Community position. The outstanding issues are how many more POPs the Community should submit for inclusion under the Convention, and when it should do so. The Commission has proposed the inclusion of nine further substances over time (see IP/04/1039). The draft conclusions leave open the possibility of proposing up to three substances before or at the first Conference of Parties, and are, as an intermediate solution, acceptable to the Commission and most Member States.
REACH chemicals reform
Under Any Other Business, the Presidency will present a progress report on the Council’s discussions at working level so far on the Commission’s REACH proposal. The same report was presented at the Competitiveness Council on 7-8 March.
Over lunch ministers will discuss the EU’s civil protection response in the immediate aftermath of the 26 December earthquake and tsunami in South Asia, as well as general environmental aspects of the follow-up to the disaster.