Chapter News

EU Environment Council, 6 October 2021

Main results

EU environment ministers met in Luxembourg to exchange views on the Fit for 55 package, prepare the COP26 climate summit and discuss the new EU forest strategy for 2030. The Council adopted its position at first reading on modifications to the Aarhus Regulation. Ministers also discussed the current surge in energy prices.

COP26 climate summit

Ministers started the meeting with a discussion on the preparations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting to be held from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow (COP26). The Council adopted conclusions setting the EU’s position at the meeting.

The world is currently not on course to keep global warming below 1,5 degrees. Many more collective efforts are needed to keep our planet’s temperature within safe limits. In COP26 the EU will call on all parties to the Paris Agreement to come forward with ambitious national emission reduction targets and for developed countries to step up international climate finance. With the conclusions adopted today, the EU not only has the willpower, but a strong mandate to lead the discussions in the right direction – the direction of protecting the planet for the benefit of all and standing on the side of those that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Andrej Vizjak, Slovenian Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning

The conclusions call upon all parties to come forward with ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and recognise the need to step up adaptation efforts collectively.

The Council recalls that the EU and its Member States are the world’s leading contributors of climate finance. The conclusions reconfirm their commitment to step up the mobilisation of international climate finance and invite other developed countries to scale up their contributions.

The Council also lays down the EU’s position as regards the finalisation of the Paris Rulebook, in particular the voluntary cooperation under Article 6 and a common timeframe for NDCs.

Fit for 55 package

EU environment ministers held a first formal debate on the Fit for 55 package, with a particular focus on initiatives that fall under the remit of the Environment Council. These proposals aim to amend the:

  • EU Emissions Trading System
  • Effort Sharing Regulation
  • Land use, land-use change and forestry Regulation
  • Regulation setting CO2 emission standards for cars and vans
  • and to establish a new Social Climate Fund

Due to the cross-cutting nature of the package, we can expect discussions to be complex and – realistically – to take some time. In general, Member States welcome the ‘Fit for 55%’ package as it aims to provide the concrete means for the EU to fulfil its increased climate ambition. Understanding the interlinkages between the files plays a vital role in assessing whether and how all parts of the package contribute to an overall balance.

Andrej Vizjak, Slovenian Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning

The Fit for 55 package aims to bring EU climate policies into line with the EU’s objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and its target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

The package consists of a series of closely interconnected proposals either amending existing pieces of legislation or establishing new initiatives across a range of policy areas and economic sectors.

The debate focussed on the balance and interlinkages between the various proposals, as well as on their contribution to the EU’s increased climate ambition. Ministers gave their views on the distribution of efforts between and within both Member States and different economic sectors involved, and on the impact of the proposals on citizens. The debate addressed in particular the extension of emissions trading to buildings and road transport.

EU Forest Strategy

Ministers held an exchange of views on the new EU forest strategy for 2030. The strategy is one of the flagship initiatives of the European Green Deal and builds on the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030. It aims to contribute to achieving the EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives.

The debate focussed mainly on whether the new EU forest strategy reflects the Council conclusions on the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and whether it provides a good basis for the EU to lead globally by positive example on sustainable forest management. The Council will adopt conclusions on the new forest strategy in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in November.

Access to Justice (Aarhus Regulation)

The Council adopted its position at first reading on an amendment to the Aarhus Regulation on access to justice in environmental affairs. The adoption of the Council’s position follows a provisional agreement reached with the European Parliament in July 2021 and is the final step of the adoption procedure.

Other matters

At the request of Greece, Spain and Poland, ministers discussed the current increase in energy prices.

The issue has been put on the agenda of the European Council on 21-22 October. The Commission will come forward with a Communication on the rising energy prices ahead of the discussions in the European Council.

The Commission informed ministers about a report on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 528/2012 concerning biocidal products. Belgium provided information on the need for a coordinated action against PFAS and Germany informed ministers about a ministerial conference on marine litter and plastic pollution in Geneva, co-convened by Ecuador, Germany, Ghana and Vietnam with support of the UNEP Secretariat.

Compliments of the Council of the EU.