Outcome of the environment council meeting, Brussels, 4 March 2016

Reported below, the main results of the environment council meeting held in Brussels, on 4 March 2016.

2030 framework for climate and energy

Member states agreed with the aim of the future framework, namely to achieve a balance between three key components: environmental sustainability, competitiveness and security of energy supply. This requires an integrated approach and consistency between policies, and also relates to the need to keep energy prices down and guarantee the EU's competitiveness.

Regarding the overall approach of the proposed framework, there seems to be a shared view that greenhouse gas reduction is the centre piece of the framework. Many delegations welcomed the approach of giving member states more flexibility to decide on the most cost-effective measures to achieve the overall target. However, questions remain as to how this flexibility would work in practice, in particular in the context of renewables and the new governance framework. Ministers expressed divergent views on the level of ambition, the number and nature of targets, and the timing of decisions on future targets.

Paris Agreement on climate change

Ministers discussed the follow-up to the Paris Agreement on climate change and its implications for EU climate policy.  They highlighted the need to keep alive the Paris momentum and to focus now on the implementation of commitments, including those laid down in national pledges.  A timely implementation of the EU 2030 climate and energy framework was seen as an important sign of the EU's commitment to the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Ministers also emphasised the relevance of swift ratification of the agreement.

Circular economy

The Council held a debate on the EU action plan for the circular economy, part of a package which also includes four legislative proposals on waste.

Ministers expressed their support for the action plan and identified priority actions from an environmental point of view. They also discussed complementary measures to be taken at the national level and stressed the need to make the most of the action plan and to monitor progress. Their debate and the one held earlier this week at the Competitiveness Council will feed into a set of conclusions planned to be adopted in June.

“The EU and governments must work closely together with business and NGOs to make the circular economy work. Today the EU ministers successfully discussed how we can foster demand for recycled materials and the need of coherent legislation to promote innovation”, said Minister Dijksma.

Energy transition – Promoting environmentally friendly forms of energy in the EU

The Council took note of the information provided by the Austrian delegation on the promotion of a long-term system change towards safe, environmentally friendly and sustainable energy production, leading to a future EU protocol.

Information note from the Austrian delegation:http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6125-2016-INIT/en/pdf

Implementation of the 7th Environment Action Programme

At the request of the Belgian delegation, the Commission briefed the ministers on the implementation of the 7th Environment Action Programme. The Council took note of the information.

Note from the Belgian delegation:http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6252-2016-INIT/en/pdf

Best available techniques reference document for large combustion plants

The Czech delegation supported by other delegations, raised some concerns on certain aspects of the current Commission review of the best available techniques reference document for large combustion plants. This review is based on the requirements of directive 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions and may have an impact on EU policies on the economy, energy security and the environment.

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