I attended the EU Environment Council in Brussels on 5 March. Hannah Blythyn AM, Welsh Minister for Environment also attended.
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.
Communications on delivering on the Circular Economy Action Plan – exchange of views:
a) European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy;
b) Monitoring Framework for the Circular Economy;
c) Implementation of the Circular Economy package: options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation.
Ministers exchanged views on the Presidency’s questions regarding the Plastics Strategy and the interface between chemicals, product and waste legislation. The UK referenced the Industrial Strategy, Clean Growth Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan, highlighting UK actions including eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 in England; a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in Scotland and a reduction of around 80% of single-use carrier bags in Wales since a charge was introduced. Several member states called for the reopening of the Packing and Packaging Waste Directive, others highlighted the role of eco-design for plastics and the role of taxation on plastics.
On the EU’s proposed monitoring framework, the UK welcomed the recommendations but called for greater emphasis on the development of indicators earlier in the waste hierarchy to help design out waste. Some member states regretted the lack of concrete measures to address chemicals in the plastics strategy and wanted further references to a non-toxic environment. Others wanted to improve the traceability of chemicals in plastics.
The Presidency stated it plans to adopt Council Conclusions on the European Strategy for Plastics, and on the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation at the June Environment Council in Luxembourg.
Greening The European Semester – exchange of views
The Commission noted that there has been increased focus on greening the European Semester, with the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) providing better information in this regard. Ministers also responded to Presidency questions on compliance and sustainable finance. Several member states thought there was a role for the new Multi-Annual Financial Framework in supporting a transition to a sustainable, low carbon economy. The Commission noted the need for actions to be integrated strategically.
The following items were also discussed under Any Other Business.
1. 21st European Forum on Eco-innovation for Air Quality (Sofia, 5-6 February 2018)
The Commission noted that urgent action needed to be taken at national and EU level to tackle air quality. They stated that a coordinated approach together with strong regulation and enforcement were required to succeed.
2. Global Pact for the Environment
The Council took note of the AOB on the Global Pact for the Environment from the French, supported by Luxembourg. Many delegations supported its aims, and the Commission stated it would propose a draft negotiating mandate for the areas within its competence.
3. Amsterdam declarations – Combating imported deforestation
Delegations took note of the joint AOB from France, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany and the UK on eliminating deforestation from supply chains. The UK intervened to support the Declaration and to encourage other member States to join this initiative.
4. Implementation of the Regulation on invasive alien species
The Danish delegation, supported by the Lithuanian and Greek delegations provided information on the implementation of the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species.
6. Review of the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
The Commission provided information on the Review on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).
7. Current legislative proposal (Public deliberation in accordance with Article 16(8) of the Treaty on European Union) Regulation on CO2 standards for cars and vans
The Commission introduced its proposal for a regulation on emissions standards in cars and vans, with the intention of reaching a General Approach at the October Environment Council. The Presidency confirmed it will table a policy debate for the June Environment Council.
8. Developments regarding shipping and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
The Commission provided an update on progress ahead of the April IMO meeting in London.
9. 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24, Katowice, 3-14 December 2018)
Poland introduced an AOB on the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24). They noted the importance of adopting the implementing rules underpinning the Paris Agreement and acknowledged the Talanoa Dialogue as a fundamental step towards achieving the Paris temperature goals. Many delegations, including the UK, agreed on these two priorities with several member states calling for the publication of a Commission communication on the EU’s long-term strategy in early 2019.
10. Commercial trade in raw ivory within the EU
The UK introduced a joint AOB with France calling for a ban on the intra-EU trade in raw ivory. This received support from Germany and Luxembourg. The Commission noted it will release a progress report on the EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking in July, detailing its next steps.
Parliament voted to trigger article 50 and leave the European Union. Until we leave the EU, all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. The outcome of our negotiations with the EU on a future partnership will determine what arrangements apply in future.