The EU's Environment and Climate Ministers met in Luxembourg on Friday 4 October 2019 for the Environment Council meeting.
Discussions focused on climate change policies, with an emphasis on the mass mobilisations of citizens, particularly young people, the recent Climate Action Summit of the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres, preparations for the next COP25 to be held in December in Chile. After a long and difficult process of negotiations, the ministers were able to reach agreement on the mandate for COP25.
Luxembourg's Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Claire Dieschbourg, commented: "Never before has there been such a mobilisation of citizens around the world, especially among young people, who are worried about their future. [...] It is our responsibility to ensure that change is advanced and restored".
The Environment Ministers also had an exchange of views on the progress of the EU's "2050 Long-term strategy" for a climate-neutral economy (ie reaching the target of zero net emissions by 2050). Although most Member States supported the objective, the agreement was blocked at the European Summit in June by Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia. These countries declared their support on Thursday, just ahead of the Environment Council.
The Council went on to adopt conclusions inviting the European Commission to prepare an 8th Environmental Action Programme (EAP), which will include guidelines for EU policies in the areas of the environment and change climate change for the period 2021-2030. The conclusions list the main issues that need to be tackled: climate change, the decline of biodiversity, the scarcity of resources and pollution.
In addition, Minister Dieschbourg welcomed the European Commission's recent publication on deforestation. Referring to the recent fires in the Amazon rainforest, she stated: "If the lungs of the planet burn, we have a serious problem!" Carole Dieschbourg went on to cite the various measures taken recently to combat deforestation, such as the establishment of the Forestry and Climate Change Fund for sustainable forest management projects in America. Moreover, July saw the Green Climate Fund, of which Luxembourg is the leading contributor per capita, approve a USD $100 million reforestation project for the Amazon in Brazil. Luxembourg's Minister added that EU trade agreements should partly consider deforestation in the partner countries.
The Council also adopted conclusions on the circular economy highlighting the need for further ambitious efforts to stimulate a systemic transition towards a more sustainable society. Luxembourg stressed the importance of the dossier, which is fully in line with the fight against climate change and the loss of biodiversity, and highlighted a series of measures adopted in the meantime, such as the recent "Ecobox" project aimed at reducing food and packaging waste in the catering sector.
Furthermore, Luxembourg's Environment Minister emphasised the need to accelerate the green transition and, together with her German and Austrian counterparts, drew up a declaration explaining the term "green transition" (namely the transition towards a climate-neutral economy). Similarly, the German, Austrian and Luxembourg delegations had put a discussion on the regulation on a taxonomy for sustainable finance on the agenda. They wished to draw the attention of the Environment Ministers to the state of play of this dossier and to its potential implications for the environment.
Indeed, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria recently broke a procedure for adopting a common position in the Council, because of the compromise text allowing the subsequent classification as sustainable investments in the nuclear sector. On behalf of Luxembourg, Minister Dieschbourg explained: "This is a very important legislative proposal from the point of view of transparency to our citizens and investors who want to put their money into 'truly sustainable' projects". She added: "Nuclear energy and sustainable finance do not go together. Its inclusion would imply the discrediting of this taxonomy from the outset, could destroy the confidence of investors and, in general, would harm the viability of the financial markets ". She similarly made her thoughts on nuclear energy clear earlier in the Council: "I will oppose the waste of our common resources on nuclear projects. Nuclear power is extremely expensive, non-competitive and unreliable".