Photo from press conference following last EU Environment Council Meeting in June 2018

Four environmental issues European leaders need to focus on in the coming months

Environmentalists have set out a number of areas that European Environment Minister need to work on the coming months.

In a letter to the European Environment Council, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) have highlighted transport, climate change, global biodiversity talks and plastics as areas they believe the council can have an impact on.

1. Create better incentives for zero emission vehicles

The EEB and NGO Transport & Environment are calling on ministers to increase the emissions targets for car makers which in turn will prompt a switch to cleaner vehicles.

The specfic asks are:

  • Set a goal of 20% reduction in fleet average new car CO2 for each car maker from 2021 to 2025, to apply to both cars and vans;
  • Agree a CO2 reduction target of at least 40% for new cars and vans in 2030, while introducing a tar-get review in 2022 adjusting the goal to 50-60% reduction to stay in line with the Paris objectives;
  • Strengthen the sales benchmark for zero and low emission vehicles with a malus, while ensuring that plug-in hybrids are rewarded no more than in the Commission proposal;
  • Complement the regulation with real-world compliance checks using fuel consumption meters.

2.  Show leadership on climate change

Ahead of the UN Climate Conference environment ministers need to work hard to embrace more concrete measures which will see Europe meet the Paris Agreement. Right now feet dragging from a number of member states is seeing Europe fall back from its commitment to lead on climate action.

The specific asks are:

  • Enable and support the negotiators to complete the Paris Agreement Work Programme;
  • Fully recognise the IPCC conclusions that further emission reductions in all sectors are needed to limit climate change.
  • Acknowledge that the 2030 climate and energy policy framework results in domestic greenhouse gas reductions by at least 45%;
  •  Encourage the Commission to present pathways towards net zero GHG emissions in the EU by 2040 followed by negative emissions thereafter;
  • Stress the importance of reaching an agreement at COP 24 on common time frames for all Parties’ NDCs after 2030 compatible with the five-year ambition cycle in the Paris Agreement.
  •  Decide that the EU will commit during COP 24 to increase the climate ambition of its NDC before 2020, to continue to demonstrate leadership to create a positive momentum amongst all Parties to enhance global climate ambition.

3. Mainstream protection of biodiversity and lead on a new Global Deal for Nature

The crisis of biodiversity loss needs strong action. Environmentalists argue that action to stop biodiversity loss cannot be separated from the main causes of that loss. Because of that they are calling on the environment ministers to mainstream the protection of biodiversity in the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU Budget – the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF). The environment council also have an opportunity to help set the agenda at the upcoming UN Conference of the Parties (COP 14) under the Convention on the Biological Diversity (CBD). This meeting will lay the groundwork for a New Global Deal for Nature to be agreed in 2020, environmentalists want Europe to play a leadership role in its development.

The specific asks are:

  • Play a leadership role both in COP 14 and in developing a New Global Deal for Nature to be agreed at the CBD COP 15 in 2020, including establishing a mechanism to ensure that the voluntary national commitments add up and are sufficient to reach the overall targets and address the pressures on biodiversity;
  • Mainstream biodiversity into the current proposal for a reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU budget proposal – the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) – phasing out incentives harmful to biodiversity and developing positive incentives for its conservation and sustainable use, in particular to tackle the dramatic decline in pollinators, restoration needs of degraded ecosystems, and management needs for protected areas;
  • Lead by example in mobilising resources for biodiversity in the EU budget post 2020 by increasing the LIFE funding instrument to at least 1% of the overall EU Budget and securing 15 billion Euro annually for biodiversity and ecosystems in the Common Agricultural Policy. In addition, 10% of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework should be earmarked for biodiversity; this would be in addition to climate change earmarking already proposed by the European Commission.

4. Act to reduce pollution from single-use plastics and fishing gear

The EEB and the Rethink Plastic Alliance are calling on the environment ministers to support strong measures by the European Commission to cut plastic waste in particular food containers, cups and bottles and composite plastic-lined products.

The specific asks are:

  • Ensure that the reduction and reuse of products and packaging comes first, including by setting reduction targets for food containers, cups and bottles, and that composite and plastic-lined prod-ucts are not exempted;
  • Include the extension of items subject to market restrictions – to include polystyrene food and beverage containers, very lightweight plastic carrier bags and oxodegradable plastics;
  • Support strong Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for single-use plastics that include coverage of clean-up and waste management costs;
  • Support measures that will ensure higher separate collection of plastic waste such as collection tar-gets, reuse and recycling targets, deposit-refund schemes and minimum recycled content for beverage containers, and improved marking and product requirements.

These points were contained in a letter to Environment Ministers of EU Member States as well as the European Commissioners who sit on the EU Environment Council. The council will meet next Tuesday October 9.