Environment Council (October)
I attended the EU Environment Council in Luxembourg on 13 October. Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, also attended.
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 effort sharing regulation (ESR) and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) regulation, alongside the EU emissions trading system, will implement the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction target under the Paris agreement.
The Estonian presidency and the Commission called for a swift and ambitious deal so that the EU could demonstrate progress in implementing the Paris agreement ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP23) in November. On the ESR, member states remained split on the proposed size of the safety reserve of 100 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent put forward by the presidency to address concerns from some member states on the starting point for the 2021-2030 emissions trajectory. The UK and other like-minded member states expressed their desire to keep the size of the reserve as small as possible. After a full table round, the presidency concluded that there was support for the text. However, it put forward a new proposal including an increase to the safety reserve to 115 Mt and a small targeted adjustment to the 2021 emission allocation for two member states (Latvia and Malta).
On the LULUCF regulation the majority of delegations were in a position to support the text as drafted, with a number of delegations sympathetic to the presidency and Commission’s desire to find a solution that would take into account the special circumstances of forest-rich member states. The high ambition group of member states including the UK reinforced the need for caution and reiterated the need to protect the overarching environmental integrity of the regulation. This included pushing to limit the size of managed forest land flexibility. The group also opposed a request for deforestation emissions to be compensated. The presidency proposed a compromise text removing any suggestion that there should be compensation for deforestation. There was a limited increase of 10 Mt in the compensation available to Finland under certain conditions, to recognise the challenges facing the most heavily forested member state.
A general agreement was reached on both pieces of legislation with most member states voting in favour. The presidency announced that the first trilogue with the European Parliament would take place on 19 October.
Adoption of Council conclusions on the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-3)
The Council adopted conclusions on the European Union priorities for the third meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) in Nairobi on 4 to 6 December 2017, on the theme of pollution. The conclusions emphasise the links between pollution and health; underline the need for changes in the way our societies produce and consume goods and services; call for integrated action and co-operation between nations, the business sector and civil society; and look forward to the adoption of an “ambitious, concise and action-oriented ministerial declaration”.
Adoption of Council conclusions on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP23)
The Council adopted conclusions on the Paris agreement and preparations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings in Bonn on 6 to 17 November 2017 (COP23). The conclusions set out the continued momentum of climate action; a clear desire to make progress on technical negotiations on the Paris agreement rulebook; an expectation for an inclusive facilitative dialogue that will lead to a raising of ambition in 2019-20, and the need for progress on climate action in other international fora.
The following items were discussed under Any Other Business.
Reports on recent international meetings
The presidency and Commission updated Council on several recent international meetings:
Sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP 6) to the convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention), (Budva, Montenegro, 11-13 September 2017);
Joint high-level segment under the Meetings of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention and its protocol on PRTRs, (Budva, Montenegro, 14 September 2017);
Third session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOPP 3) to the protocol on pollutant release and transfer registers, (Budva, Montenegro, 15 September 2017);
First meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata convention on Mercury (COP 1), (Geneva, 24-29 September 2017); and the
13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 13), (Ordos, China, 6-16 September 2017).
A more transparent, more effective and safer assessment of chemical substances
The French, Italian and Luxembourg delegations presented information to Council on a more transparent, more effective and safer assessment of chemical substances. They also called for a strategy for a general reduction of exposure to chemicals to ensure a high level of environmental and human health protection.
China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) High Level Conference
The Commission updated Council on the China-Europe Water Platform High-Level Conference (Turku, Finland, 21-22 September 2017).
The importance of good co-ordination and coherence of integrated national energy and climate plans for the implementation of the Paris agreement
The Luxembourg delegation presented information to Council on the importance, for the implementation of the Paris agreement, of good co-ordination and coherence between the integrated national energy and climate plans for 2030 and the long-term emission reduction strategies, as well as of minimum quality, comparability and transparency standards.
Fiftieth session of the international seminar “Science for Peace the World Over”
The Polish delegation updated Council on the 50th session of the international seminar “Science for Peace the World Over” (Erice, Italy, 18-24 August 2017).
Ratification of the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol
The United Kingdom delegation, supported by the Luxembourg delegation, encouraged member states who are in a position to do so to ratify the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol by the 30th anniversary Meeting of the Parties to the protocol in Montreal this November, in order to demonstrate leadership on this issue. This was supported by another member state and the Commission. The amendment will come into force in 2019 as long as at least 20 countries have ratified by then.
On 23 June 2016, the EU referendum took place and the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. During this period the Government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.