Environmental ministers adopt EU mandate for Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November
Environment ministers adopted the Council Conclusions as a mandate of the EU and its member states at the meeting for the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Glasgow in November.
The session was held for the first time with the Slovenian Minister for the Environment and Spatial Planning, Andrej Vizjak, as chair. Minister Vizjak stressed that that the EU must send a strong, clear and politically balanced message. “My firm belief is that the EU must go to the COP with a united position,” said the minister. The most divisive issue was how the EU should position itself in international negotiations on the issue of a common timeframe. A good compromise was reached with a united position for a five-year timeframe.
The ministers agreed we need to be significantly more ambitious on a global level, in particular with regard to those responsible for the bulk of emissions, to ensure that the 1.5°C target set out in the Paris Agreement remains within reach. Mitigation and adaptation measures can provide economic and social benefits. Both sets of measures must be balanced. Adaptation efforts must be significantly strengthened collectively. It is essential that all parties to the Paris Agreement strengthen their resilience and reduce their vulnerability to climate change. They called on the parties to the Convention that are responsible for the bulk of emissions to increase their ambitions and step up their actions. Developing countries see the strengthening of climate financing as a matter of trust between all parties, and implementation of the commitment of USD 100 billion per year by 2025 for climate action in developing countries is crucial. The ministers adopted the EU position on a common 5-year timeframe, which is an important part of the EU's negotiating mandate for the upcoming climate conference in Glasgow (COP26). It was vital that the EU reached a consensus on this issue. The common timeframe is one of the fundamental pillars of the Paris Agreement, which has yet to be agreed on. The Paris Agreement can be fully implemented only once the entire Katowice Rulebook is agreed. The EU will do its utmost to contribute to the adoption of the rulebook, which is also a key aspiration of this COP.
In addition, ministers endorsed the EU Communication on climate change adaptation, which the EU will submit to the UNFCCC Secretariat. The purpose of the document is to present progress and recent actions on climate change adaptation at EU level in line with the Paris Agreement, and to show examples of good practice in this area across the EU and its member states.
Ministers also held the first formal debate on the "Fit for 55" legislative package aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The debate focused on five legislative acts falling under the remit of the Environment Council, namely the EU Emissions Trading System, the Effort Sharing Regulation, the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation and the Regulation setting CO2 Emissions Performance Standards for Cars and Vans, and creating a new Social Fund for Climate. The exchange of views focused on the overall balance and relationship between the different proposals and on their contribution to the EU’s more ambitious climate goals. Member states paid particular attention to the extension of emissions trading to buildings and road transport. As discussions on the various proposals are still at an early stage, member states need to examine the proposals in greater detail before drawing up their final positions. In this respect, understanding the relationships between dossiers plays a key role in assessing whether and in what way each part of the package contributes to the balance between sectors and countries.
The Slovenian Presidency plans to continue the intense discussions that are already taking place at the technical level. On this basis, we intend to present a progress report at the December meeting of the Environment Council, which will provide a solid basis for future discussions.
Ministers also exchanged views on the new EU Forest Strategy for 2030. This 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 biodiversity targets, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The dossier is led by agriculture ministers, who discussed the new forest strategy on 11 October. Council conclusions on this subject will be adopted at the Council meeting scheduled for 15 November.
The ministers also exchanged views on rising energy prices. The Presidency encourages the exchange of best practice on how to mitigate the negative impact of energy price increases at national level, but also encourages the consideration of possible collective action at EU level. The Slovenian Presidency awaits with interest the European Commission’s communication on the issues raised, which will also serve as a basis for a further response from the Presidency. The topic of high energy prices will also be part of the discussion of EU leaders at the EUCO in October.
During the working lunch, the ministers discussed the continuation of work and preparations for the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15). The first part of the conference will mainly take place virtually next week, while the negotiations on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework are expected to end in May 2022 in China. A number of ministers and the EU Commissioner stressed the need to address the urgency of negotiating an ambitious global framework as early as next week, and therefore to set clear, ambitious and measurable targets by May 2022, to mobilise sufficient resources, both financial and human, to implement the actions involving all sectors and segments of society. There is also a need for nature-based measures to be implemented more comprehesively, since these support the fight against climate change and adaptation to it and preserve biodiversity. Until the end of the Council Presidency, Slovenia will continue to undertake activities that will help EU achieve these ambitions.