Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Resource Management, the Local Environment and Environmental Science and I represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 25 October.
The Council held an orientation debate on ship recycling. The UK together with other Member States said that close alignment with the Hong Kong Convention was vital to ensure proportionality and enforceability. The majority of Member States believed the issues of penalties and access to justice should be decided by Member States in line with the subsidiarity principle.
Next, ministers adopted conclusions on Rio+20: the outcome and follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012. A majority of Member States, including the UK, backed the Presidency text as drafted and following negotiations, a compromise was tabled. The European Commission tabled a declaration underlining its view that there is no need to review the Sustainable Development Strategy as work is being taken forward under the Europe 2020 Strategy but that it is open to plugging sectoral gaps in the 2020 Strategy.
Following the morning session I attended a Ministerial lunch hosted by the Presidency. This lunch focused on climate change. Discussion included the outcome of the Pre-COP 18/CMP 8 Ministerial Meeting on climate change held in Korea, which I also attended, and climate finance.
In the afternoon session Council conclusions were also adopted on the preparations for the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I, and my Ministerial colleagues, focussed our discussions on paragraphs 14 (on the EU QELRO - quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives); 16 (AAUs - assigned amount units); and 29 (climate finance).
Under paragraph 14 (EU QELRO), consistent with the Coalition’s commitment to work for an increase in the EU’s CO2 emissions reduction target, I suggested amending text to reflect the possibility of a QELRO that corresponds to an EU -30% target as well as the current one (which corresponds to an EU target of -20%). This would have sent a more positive signal on EU ambition ahead of COP18. However there was not a great deal of appetite for this inclusion among other Member States, so I ceded the point, mindful that the EU’s offer to move to a 30% target is stated clearly in paragraph 10 of the Conclusions.
There was a great deal of discussion on how AAUs should be treated as the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end and the EU prepares to move into the second commitment period from 1 January 2013. I emphasised the need to ensure environmental integrity and, therefore, was not willing to cede that strict limits need to be applied in some manner across the carry-over of AAUs to, and the domestic use and trading of these carried-over AAUs in, the second commitment period. The Presidency repeatedly proposed compromise texts aimed at bridging differences but these were rejected. As there was no consensus on any new text on AAUs the Presidency reverted to the text we agreed at the March Council, which emphasises the need for environmental integrity.
Several Member States emphasised the importance of the EU having a strong position on climate finance before Doha. The UK supported inclusion of references to previous Ecofin Conclusions but clarified that we should not intrude on Ecofin territory in these Doha Conclusions. The Presidency presented compromise text on this paragraph, which signalled our ongoing consideration of climate finance and the need for continuation of finance provision post 2012. The paragraph was adopted.
In other business, updates were provided on access to genetic resources and the benefits arising from their use; hazardous substances in textiles; the mutual acceptance of low emission zones vignettes and the exchange of best practices. On EU legislation for meeting environmental objectives - the example of air quality, the UK highlighted that new legislation was not necessarily the answer, a greater focus was needed on ensuring that current legislation was delivered.