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Press Statement by Commissioner Sinkevičius following the Environment Council on 17 December 2020

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 17 december 2020.

Good evening everybody, and thank you for tuning in.

I want to start by thanking the German Presidency not just for running a very productive Council today, but for their very strong support over the last months. My thanks and congratulations to them for all we have achieved together, during a very difficult moment for the Union.

The main business of the morning was climate. As you know, making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050 is the main objective of the European Green Deal, the EU growth strategy presented one year ago. So the Commission warmly welcomes the European Council agreement on the revised 2030 target.

On this occasion, Ministers discussed the implications for the European Climate Law, adopting a general approach, and a position for further negotiations on all elements with the European Parliament.

The Commission is working on the impact assessments for the June 2021 proposals, and we will share the information as soon as it becomes available.

Ministers also discussed the EU NDC submission, which now includes the updated EU target and the annex of information that facilitates clarity, transparency and understanding of our commitment. The Commission looks forward to its submission before the end of the year.

The new financial instruments developed by the Commission will play an important role on reaching climate targets. And there was therefore an exchange of views on the state of play regarding national Recovery and Resilience Plans. Ministers shared best practice examples on how to achieve the 37 % climate-spending target, and how to maximise the contribution of the recovery funds to the green transition.

On that note, Ministers adopted conclusions on making the recovery circular and green, with a central role for the Circular Economy. These conclusions come in response to the adoption of the new Circular Economy Action Plan in March this year. They also highlight the role of the circular economy in the recovery from COVID-19, and provide political guidance on the broad range of actions contained in the Action Plan.

I was particularly pleased by the focus on the coming Sustainable Product Policy, and the support for expanding the scope of the Ecodesign Directive, the right to repair, and the call for a proposal on digital passport. There was also an acknowledgement of the role of the environmental footprint methods, and endorsement of the seven key product value chains identified in the Circular Economy Action Plan.

Moreover, Ministers highlighted the links between digitalisation and the environment and adopted conclusions on Digitalisation for the Benefit of the Environment. These conclusions will feed into the debate on sustainable digital transformation, clarifying options for action at European level.

That was followed by an exchange of views on the new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, a first step towards the Zero Pollution Ambition for a toxic-free environment announced in the European Green Deal.

This Strategy has two main objectives - boosting innovation for safe and sustainable chemicals, and increasing protection of human health and the environment against hazardous chemicals. It also gives a major boost to innovation and safer alternatives from production to end-of-life, including by greening chemical production. This will help strengthen the competitiveness of EU industry, making it synonymous with safety.

And finally, among the numerous AOB points, I also presented the Commission proposal for a new Regulation on batteries and waste batteries, adopted last week. The proposal puts in place a new, forward-looking regulatory framework for batteries built around sustainability, addressing social, market and environmental issues, all at the same time. Ministers were very receptive, and I look forward to working closely with them on this file throughout the co-decision procedure.

Thank you.


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