The last formal Environment Council under the French Presidency will be held on 4-5 December in Brussels. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will represent the European Commission. The Presidency will update the Council on the progress of the climate and energy package and the proposal on CO2 emissions from new cars. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on deforestation, mercury, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and will hold policy debates on industrial emissions and sustainable consumption and production.
Climate and energy package
The Presidency will inform the Council on the progress of the climate change and energy proposals presented by the Commission on 23 January. It will present a progress report on the state of play of the Commission's proposals (see IP/08/80, MEMO/08/34, MEMO/08/35, MEMO/08/36, MEMO/08/33) in the Council and European Parliament. The report will cover the Commission proposals on the revision of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), effort sharing, the scope of carbon capture and storage (CCS), and renewable energy targets.
CO2 emissions from cars
The Presidency will also present a progress report on the Commission's proposal for a regulation to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars (see IP/07/1965) presented by the Commission in December 2007. The report will focus on parameters for encouraging manufacturers to reduce the weight of cars, sharing the burden of reducing CO2 emissions between manufacturers, the penalties to be imposed on manufacturers for exceeding emission objectives, how the revenue from the penalties will be allocated, the starting year of the legislation and the setting of long-term objectives.
The Council will adopt conclusions on the Communication to tackle global deforestation and forest degradation presented by the Commission in October (see IP/08/1543). In the context of the international negotiations on the post-2012 climate change agreement, the Commission is proposing the objective of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50% by 2020.
The Communication proposes the development of a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism through which developing countries would be rewarded for emissions reductions achieved by taking action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. It also proposes a pilot phase to test the inclusion of 'deforestation credits' in carbon markets.
The council will also adopt conclusions laying down the European Union's negotiating position on addressing the global challenges of mercury at the 25th session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 16-20 February 2009.
Council conclusions in June 2005 regarded as essential continuing and intensifying international efforts to reduce mercury emissions on a global scale with a view to achieving a global phase-out of primary production, preventing surpluses from re-entering the market, and phasing out its use and trade, and exploring available alternatives.
Much progress has been made in implementing the EU's mercury strategy, including the final adoption in September of legislation banning all exports of mercury from the European Union (see IP/08/1399). The export ban requires mercury that is no longer used in the chlor-alkali industry or that is produced in other industrial operations, to be put into safe storage once the export ban takes effect in March 2011.
Genetically Modified Organisms
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The conclusions follow the policy debate in October and discussions in October and March 2007 and June 2008. The conclusions will focus on the three issues debated in Council in October, environmental assessments and monitoring agreements, socio-economic benefits and risks, the growing of GMOs in sensitive and protected areas, and two other issues discussed previously, namely the use of expertise in assessing GMOs and the thresholds for labelling seeds.
Ministers will hold a policy debate on the Commission's proposal for a directive on industrial emissions (see IP/07/1985 and MEMO/07/623) presented in December 2007. The proposal seeks to tackle the shortcomings of current legislation on industrial emissions, especially the issuing of permits under the directive. It merges seven directives into one and streamlines certain provisions. It tightens minimum emission limits in certain industrial sectors, introduces standards for environmental inspections, and renders the review of permits more effective.
The Commission's proposal extends the scope of current legislation on industrial emissions to other polluting sectors such as medium-sized combustion plants. Its provisions are expected to bring significant environmental and health benefits and to create a level playing field across the EU. It will also reduce competition distortions between companies and lessen the administrative burden to business.
Sustainable consumption and production
The Council will hold a policy debate and then adopt conclusions on the action plan on sustainable consumption and production presented by the Commission in July (see IP/08/1154).
The action plan creates a framework for improving the energy and environmental performance of products (in particular through a revised EU eco-design directive) and stimulating private and public sector demand for environmentally sounder products through labelling (mandatory European energy efficiency label, voluntary EU Ecolabel), public procurement practices and the involvement of retailers. At the Competitiveness Council meeting on 25 September, there was strong support for the action plan and for the approach of turning environmental challenges into competitive advantages.
Any other business
Any other business points include the following: presentations by the Commission on the Communication on the dismantling of ships (see IP/08/733), the Green Paper on biowaste management in the European Union, and Commission briefings on the Communication on the Arctic Region, the Communication on implementing EU environmental law, and a request for information from Ireland on the fall in demand for recyclable materials.