19th June 2013 – The final Environment Council under the Irish EU Presidency took place in Luxembourg today (18 June), with Ministers focusing their main discussions on the EU Climate Adaptation Strategy and the follow up to last year’s Rio+20 Summit and the post-2015 Development agenda. The proposal from the Commission in relation to Indirect Land Use Change (or ILUC) was also discussed.
Speaking in Luxembourg today, the Irish Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., who chaired the Council, welcomed the adoption of Council Conclusions on the Climate Adaptation Strategy, highlighting that Ministers had taken “a very positive step forward in EU climate policy, demonstrating a progressive and coherent response to adaptation at EU level and across the Member States.” He added that “at a time in which many Member States have yet again recently experienced severe weather events, it will also have a very positive impact on the general level of awareness of climate change, not just among policy makers and the key sectors concerned, but also, more generally, among our citizens.”
The Council also took note of a progress report on the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) proposal, with a particular focus on the 5% threshold for conventional biofuels, ILUC factors, treatment of new installations, the bonus for degraded land, fraud prevention, the review clause and delegated acts. ILUC is a challenging but important environmental dossier that seeks to limit the emissions due to indirect land-use change associated with the use of conventional biofuels. Stressing the importance of this agenda item, the Minister said that “there are real concerns in relation to the potential impact on food production, particularly in developing countries, and these require careful consideration in the discussion on the proposal”. He noted that “Member States generally support the aim of tackling the global occurrence of indirect land-use change resulting from the production of biofuels that compete with food and feed. However, some Member States are concerned about a policy shift that could create uncertainty among investors, jeopardise existing investments and render the achievement of the existing EU renewables objectives more costly and challenging. Finding an acceptable and workable balance between the objective of the proposal and the concerns expressed by Member States will require considerable further work”. Further work on this file will now be taken forward by the incoming Lithuanian Presidency.
Following on from the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development in June 2012, the Council also endorsed Conclusions on the post-2015 framework. “These Conclusions have been prepared in cooperation with colleagues across environment, development and foreign affairs work streams, a co-operative approach which has been a particular hallmark of the Irish Presidency. The post-2015 agenda will require input from a broad range of stakeholders, and this recent joint-working initiative is a strong foundation on which we in Europe can continue our efforts in this regard”, the Minister said.
The Council also discussed the recent report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development agenda. There was broad support for the report and in particular its emphasis on the need to ensure that the three dimensions of sustainable development – environmental, economic and social – are at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. Ministers also considered the report’s call for a fundamental shift in the global approach to economic development towards sustained, long-term, inclusive growth and highlighted the importance of the transition to the green economy in addressing unemployment, resource scarcity and adaptation to climate change.
The Council also took note of progress reports on F-gases, Environmental Impact Assessment and Access and Benefit Sharing which, along with the ILUC file mentioned above, will be taken forward by the Lithuanian Presidency. The Council also received updates from the Presidency and the Commission on a range of international environmental issues, including an update from Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, on the recent two-week inter-sessional meeting of the UNFCCC, ahead of COP19 in Warsaw in November.
Over lunch, the Council, joined by the Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, had an exchange of views on progress on implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. “The purpose of our discussion today was to take stock of progress to date, to look ahead and to consider how the Directive links to other EU policies”, said the Minister.
Concluding today’s Council, Minister Hogan highlighted the significant progress made on a range of environment/climate legislative dossiers during the Irish Presidency, with 4 First Reading Agreements already achieved and a number of other files expected to be brought to finality in the remaining 10 days of the Irish Presidency. He also highlighted the leadership of the Irish Presidency in achieving progress on a range of international environmental issues, not least among these the conclusion of a new international treaty on mercury. The Minister conveyed the Presidency’s gratitude to all those across the Council, Commission and Parliament that contributed to this significant level of success.
Source: European Council, press release – 3246th Council meeting – ENVIRONMENT – Luxembourg, 18 June 2013