Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment (Dr Thérèse Coffey MP)
My Noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity (Lord Gardiner of Kimble), attended EU Environment Council on 25 June in Luxembourg.
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.
Directive on Drinking Water (recast) – Policy debate:
The Council held a policy debate on the Drinking Water Directive (8924/18), focusing on materials in contact with water (Article 10) and access to water (Article 13). Most Member States, including the UK, did not agree with the Commission’s proposed approach to Article 10 – citing the need for EU level harmonised hygiene requirements and for the inclusion of all products from source to tap as a way to protect public health. Several Member States and the Commission, drew attention to the technical non-paper from the “4MS initiative” (France, UK, Germany, the Netherlands) as a basis for ongoing work.
On Article 13, several member states including the UK, supported the principle of access to water, but raised issues of subsidiarity. Most Member States called for greater flexibility, with some member states remarking that the Directive was not the right place to address this issue. Additionally, the UK drew attention to the importance of adhering to World Health Organisation guidance to underpin the proposal.
CO2 cars and vans regulation – policy debate
The Council held a policy debate on CO2 emissions from cars and vans (9728/18), with the Presidency seeking views on the level of ambition and incentives for low and zero emission vehicles.
Council was divided into four camps; some member states pushed for over 40% reductions in fleet emissions; others, including the UK did not go as far as this group, but pressed for more ambition than the Commission proposal of a 30% reduction. Another group of member states supported the Commission proposal, whilst others thought that even this was too ambitious, and called for technological neutrality to help incentivise low and zero emission vehicles.
Council Conclusions on the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy
The Council adopted Conclusions on the Circular Economy Action Plan (10221/18). Member states including the UK noted the importance of addressing single use plastics, with Lord Gardiner highlighting activities across the UK in this area.
The following items were also discussed under Any Other Business.
1. Current legislative proposals
The Commission introduced four new legislative proposals: LIFE programme (9651/18); water reuse (9498/18); single use plastics (9465/18); and environmental reporting (9617/18). The Commission pushed for speedy consideration of the single use plastics and environmental reporting proposals in particular. Several Member States welcomed the proposals, with particular focus on the plastics proposal.
2. EU Pollinators initiative
The Commission introduced the EU Pollinators initiative (9744/18). This received support from several member states including the UK.
3. Management of chemicals and waste post 2020
Council noted the Swedish paper on establishing a high ambition alliance on the management of chemicals and waste (10104/18). This gathered support from a number of member states.
4. Convention on Biological Diversity
France introduced their paper on COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, urging Member States to increase efforts to meet the targets on limiting biodiversity loss. This was welcomed by the UK among others.
5. Commission reports on recent international meetings
The Council noted the information provided by the Commission, Poland and Germany on several international meetings including EU for Talanoa, Ministerial on Climate Action (MoCA), and the Ninth Petersberg Climate Dialogue. A small number of Member States intervened to support EU climate leadership and ambition. The Commission welcomed their support, and noted that with the recently agreed Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency targets, the EU would de facto be in a position to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
6. CO2 from heavy duty vehicles
The Commission presented their proposal for CO2 emission standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles (8922/18), and called for agreement on the file before the end of the European Parliamentary term.
7. Paris Agreement as an essential clause in EU agreements
France presented a proposal in relation to the Paris Agreement and EU cooperation and political dialogue agreements, or in the absence of these, trade agreements. There was some discussion between Member States and the Commission, and it was noted that further careful consideration of the proposal would be needed.