By Roger Aitken — The Environment Council agenda under the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) has been focusing on creating conditions for a “gradual transition towards a competitive, resource-efficient and low-carbon economy”, according to the programme of the Slovak’s six-month Presidency that runs until 31 December 2016.
Its 35-page programme outlines the Slovak’s priorities and themes, driven by “three interconnected principles” - 1. Achieving tangible results on joint European projects; 2. Overcoming fragmentation; and, 2. Bringing the EU closer to its citizens.
The focus in the climate change sector was on “implementing conclusions” of the October 2014 European Council. Here the political decision was taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990.
The Slovak Presidency has indicated that it would “continue discussions on the proposal for the revision of the emissions trading scheme”, with a view to agreeing a “general approach” within the Council.
Two related legislative proposals from the European Commission, namely the proposals on sectors not included in the emissions trading scheme and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to land use, land-use change and forestry, were to be discussed.
Following adoption of the Paris Agreement at the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), the Slovak Presidency also indicated that other issues related to the ratification of the agreement are being addressed by the Member States and the EU, including the ministerial debate on the ratification of the Paris Agreement.
A proposal for the ratification of the Paris Agreement on the EU’s behalf has already been submitted and the current Presidency seeks to conclude the proposal. In particular they “will pay attention to the preparation and co-ordination of EU positions and participation in international negotiations.”
The EU’s position for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco was approved in the form of Council conclusions.
As regards the environment, one of the current Presidency's main objectives is to “actively contribute” to the current European debate on the “transition towards a green and circular economy.”
An event titled ‘The Transition Towards A Green Economy’ that took place in Bratislava in September served as a platform for public discussions with the EU Member States and other stakeholders. The outcomes from it were revealed at the ministerial meeting of the OECD Environment Policy Committee in Paris and at the Environment Council meeting.
The Slovak Presidency built on the work of The Netherland’s Presidency in negotiations on legislative proposals, the amendments to six directives on waste management, the proposal for a regulation on mercury and the proposal for a Directive on emission ceilings.
Within the nature protection and biodiversity sector, the thrust is on the results of the effectiveness evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. And, with a view to adopting measures to ensure and protect sustainable water resources, a ministerial conference took place in Bratislava in July.
The draft Council conclusions setting out the EU’s position for the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols were approved during the October Council meeting.
The twelfth meeting to the Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea in October, with the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) taking place this month in Cancun, Mexico.
Preparation of an extraordinary meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer was also cited as of key importance. Together with the Commission, the current Presidency helped prepare these meetings with a view to “reaching agreement on reducing production and use of fluorinated greenhouse gases.” The 28th meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol was convened earlier this October in Kigali, Rwanda.