21 Dec

Ministers at the Environment Council agreed on the “partial general approach” on LIFE Program and reached a political agreement on the proposed regulation on CO2 emissions reduction standards for heavy-duty vehicles. The ministers had a first exchange of views on the new EU long-term decarbonisation strategy presented by the European Commission the end of November.

The European Commission presented its Communication about the EU long-term decarbonisation strategy (A Clean Planet for all) and the ministers had a first exchange of view at the ENVI Council on the 20th of December 2018. The strategy analyses eight scenarios for emissions reduction. Among these, the Commission and several Member States prefer the most ambitious scenarios under which the EU could reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050. The majority of Member States welcomed the Commission’s communication. Many ministers emphasized the importance of analysing the social and economic impacts on Member State level. Many minister considers as a priority to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Several minister firmly believe that broad consultation of the strategy is necessary before any political and economic decision is taken. The economic competitiveness, taking into account the national specificities, technology neutrality, cost-effectiveness, socially just transition were often repeated principles in the debate.

Ministers discussed the emissions reduction for heavy-duty vehicles. Ministers’ view differed mainly on the level of ambition. Many Member States wanted to strengthen the 15% and indicative 30% emission reduction target in 2025 and 2030 proposed by the European Commission. In contrary, a group of Member States including Hungary argued that the Commission proposal was already ambitious enough. The Austrian Presidency finally kept the 15% emission reduction target in 2025, while proposed a mandatory 30% target for 2030. A further element in the agreement that the Commission should assess the possible role of alternative and synthetic fuels in emissions reductions during the 2022 revision. Finally, ministers reached a political agreement on CO2 emissions reduction standards for heavy-duty vehicles, which will be the base for negotiations with the European Parliament starting early January under the Romanian Presidency.

The environment ministers adopted a “partial general approach” on LIFE Program. The delegations expressed their gratitude for the Presidency finding a proper balance between the principle of excellency, and of geographical equality. The new regulation will maintain the main provisions of co-financing rate, the LIFE Committee and of technical assistance. The increased budget involves the aspect of clean energy and climate change as well.

Dr. István Nagy, Minister of Agriculture pointed out the necessity to take into account the development in other fields of budgetary planning, such as Cohesion Funds and CAP during the negotiations.

Between the AOB points, Presidency gave information on the on-going legislative issues, such as taxonomy and the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.

The Lithuanian delegation gave information on the need of adoption of common position at EU level on the permitting process of a nuclear power plant in Belarus close to the border.

The Presidency provided information on recent international meeting on Biological Diversity in Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt, and the delegation of UK on Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London. The Presidency also delivered information on the outcome of the Informal Meeting of Environment and Transport Ministers in Graz on the future of environment policy.