At its session held in Brussels on 14 March 2011, the Environment Council reached a political agreement on the amendment of Directive 2002/96/EC, which regulates the re-use and recycling of waste electrical, and electronic equipment.
Also, the Council discussed the amendment of Directive 2001/18/EC on genetically modified plants, the review of the Union’s mercury strategy, the so-called de-carbonisation pathways, the “greening of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)”, and the EU’s tasks related to world climate conferences.
Under the 2002 directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment, EU countries must annually collect at least 4kg of electric and electronic waste per inhabitant. In its current form, the directive does not duly serve the environmental protection, because it prescribes fix collection quotas, while the sales of such products are on the increase yearly. The amended directive sets quotas in proportion to the volume of EEE placed on the market rather than fixed quantities.
The Commission’s 2008 proposal called on each Member State, to collect WEEE amounting to 65% of the total volume of WEEE in the market, in the preceding year. Member States could not agree on the 65% quota and the way to regulate possible exceptions.
The Hungarian Presidency came up with a compromise of allowing a transition period before the 65% quota becomes obligatory. Four years after the amendment comes into force, the collection target will be 45% by the expected deadline of 2016. The 65% target will have to be achieved after a further 4 years.
European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik told a press conference at halftime of the Council’s session that “we consider it as a test case” which shows “how serious we are in engaging in the resource efficiency path.” He noted that electrical and electronic waste “is the fastest growing waste stream globally and in Europe”.
“Hungary is doing tremendous efforts since this file has been on the agenda for five presidencies. I sincerely hope they will be successful and continue to bring this file to a successful end” - the Commissioner said.
Review of the EU’s mercury strategy
The Environment Council adopted conclusions on the review of the Union’s mercury strategy. In December 2010, the Commission submitted a review on the application of the mercury strategy adopted in 2005.
As Minister for Rural Development, Sándor Fazekas, pointed out at the press conference held during the session, the final aim is to terminate the manufacturing and trade of all products containing mercury and to prevent the release of left over mercury into the environment.
The mercury strategy prescribed 20 Unions and international level measures for reducing mercury emission, including the ban on mercury containing thermometers; and a mercury export ban with effect from 15 March 2011.
The Environment Council called on the Commission to hasten the examination on the health risks of mercury containing dental amalgam and battery cells. Dental amalgam is the second largest source of mercury emission.
Low-carbon economy: the Commission’s pathways
The Commission presented the de-carbonisation pathway, a schedule for the changeover for a low-carbon economy by 2050. This document makes-up part of the Energy Efficiency Plan, one of the Europe 2020 Strategy’s flagship programmes. The Pathway sets out ways to achieve cost-efficient carbon-dioxide emission. It aims to serve as a long-term action plan for the economic sectors that participate in the de-carbonisation process.
The Commission adopted the De-carbonisation Pathway on 8 March 2011. The document will be discussed in detail at the informal meeting of Ministers for Environmental Protection in Gödöllő, on 25-26 March.
The grounds for prohibiting GMO-s
Ministers shared their views on the amendment of Directive 2001/18/EC, on genetically modified organisms. Previously, the Presidency asked Member States about the possible grounds for restricting or prohibiting GMO cultivation.
After the discussion, Mr Fazekas stated that progress is possible in the matter. “A directive that restricts or prohibits the cultivation of GMOs, is a delicate matter, but Member States’ contributions, convinced us that we can make progress in regulation by restricting or prohibiting GMO cultivation in Member States, or some parts of them only for well-grounded reasons,”, said Mr Fazekas.
“Greening” the Common Agricultural Policy
During the Environment Council’s session, Ministers discussed the reform of the CAP, envisaged until 2020. The focus was centred on the “greening” of the CAP, namely, the ways the CAP could enhance environmental protection (for example, through direct assistance schemes).
This was the third debate on the CAP reform. Ministers for Agriculture are planning to adopt conclusions at their next meeting on 17 March 2011.
Climate protection tasks after Cancún
The Environment Council adopted a final communication (conclusions), on the tasks related to climate change, after the UN’s conference in Cancún, at the end of 2010. Hungary wants the EU to make major progress at the world climate conferences, during its term of Presidency; and to soon, reach an agreement on the post-2012 global climate regime. The Presidency has to coordinate the development of the EU’s position by the next conference round, in South Africa. The meeting on 14 March was one of the stages in this process.
The main issues of the meeting of the Council are Proposal for a Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment, the assessment of the situation after UNFCCC COP 16, the Mercury Strategy, the Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative concerning the Contribution to the EU Semester and the Policy debate on the CAP reform.
Location: Justus Lipsius
Address: Belgium Brussels, Wetstraat, 175
The main issues of the meeting of the Environment Council are:
- Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
- Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory - Information by the Presidency on the work of the Ad-Hoc Working Party on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
- Climate Change: Assessment of the situation after UNFCCC COP 16
- Commission communication on low-carbon economy roadmap 2050
- Mercury Strategy
- Contribution to the EU Semester - Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative