What to watch for this autumn

One of the main highlights of the second half of 2007 will be December’s international climate talks in Bali, Indonesia.
In the EU, the Portuguese presidency will try to broker a second-reading agreement between governments and MEPs on the proposed air quality and marine environment directives. It will also push for deals on plans to include aviation in Europe’s emission trading scheme, to revise the road transport fuels directive, and on the proposed soil protection framework directive.
Otherwise the European commission is expected to issue several plans including draft national greenhouse gas targets to meet the EU’s 2020 emission goals adopted in March.
On 30 October, EU environment ministers will agree the bloc’s negotiating strategy for upcoming global talks in Bali on a successor regime to the Kyoto protocol. This will be the third meeting of Kyoto protocol parties. It will be held between 3-14 December. At the G8 meeting in June, industrialised countries agreed to negotiate a common post-Kyoto framework. But major emerging countries are still opposed.
Later, on 17 December, the ministers are expected to reach a deal on a proposed directive to include aviation in the EU’s emission trading scheme.
This is one of Portugal’s top environmental priorities for its EU presidency, along with climate change and biodiversity. Water scarcity will be one of the main topics of EU environment ministers’ informal meeting in Lisbon on 1 September. In July the commission issued a policy paper proposing to put improved water efficiency and the “user pays” principle at the heart of Europe’s efforts to address water shortages. Environment ministers will discuss the paper on 30 October.
The commission is expected to issue draft differentiated greenhouse gas targets for each EU member state under a new burden-sharing agreement that will implement Europe’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emission by 20 per cent to 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
In December Portugal will push for a deal on a plan to revise the EU road transport fuels directive that would require suppliers to cut life-cycle carbon emissions from the fuels they market by 10 per cent to 2020. Governments have raised doubts about how the commission proposes to achieve this objective.
At their December meeting, energy ministers will discuss a proposed directive on renewable energy and two communications on a European strategic technology plan and on support for sustainable fossil fuel and coal technologies.
Also expected in December is a deal between governments on a proposed soil protection framework directive. The plan was put forward by the commission last year. A draft text published in July by the council of ministers suggests EU governments are set to weaken key elements of the proposal, including a requirement for member states to identify risk areas.
In September the commission will issue a green paper on urban transport. The paper will explore what actions can be taken at EU level to enhance mobility while reducing congestion, accidents and pollution in European cities. It will be presented to transport ministers on 2 October.
The commission will also publish an action plan on freight transport logistics. Some MEPs are concerned this plan would allow so-called ‘gigaliner’ trucks of up to 60 tonnes on EU roads. The European parliament’s transport committee said they could be allowed under certain conditions in a resolution adopted in June. But the full parliament rejected the idea by a large majority on environmental and safety grounds.
In November transport ministers are expected to adopt first-reading positions on two of seven proposals in a package, known as Erika III, intended to prevent shipping accidents and pollution incidents. These concern standards for ship inspections and civil liability accidents involving passenger ships. Three other proposals were adopted in June.
A communication on EU maritime policy is due in October. It will announce a first set of actions which the European commission intends to launch immediately. It will follow a year-long consultation that ended in June.
The EU’s future maritime policy is intended to maximise the economic use of oceans and seas while protecting the environment. Other goals include ensuring a high quality of life in coastal areas.

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