What to look out for this month

This month the European commission will continue preparations for major environmental legislative proposals expected later this year.
Among the proposals are revisions of the EU eco-management scheme Emas and a 2001 directive on national emission ceilings. EU governments will being scrutinising the commission’s climate and energy package. Discussions will continue throughout the year.
Governments will discuss the commission’s package of energy and climate change measures for the first time at a meeting of energy ministers on 28 February.
Further discussions will be held by EU environment ministers in March and June, and under the French presidency in the second half of 2008. A deal is expected to be struck in 2009 at the latest.
The commission is expected to begin internal consultation on plans to revise its Emas eco-management scheme. The proposals were initially due to be published late last year but were delayed following a decision to include them in a package of measures to strengthen Europe’s policy on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) (see pp 16-17). The policy is seen as a cornerstone of the EU’s renewed strategy on sustainable development.
Other key elements of the package are a revision of the European eco-labelling scheme, EU-wide targets for green public procurement and two action plans on sustainable industrial policy and SCP.
A stakeholder consultation last year showed strong support for measures such as tax breaks for greener products, eco-labelling and public procurement.
Work on plans to revise the 2001 national emission ceilings directive are expected to begin after the commission’s climate package published new energy baselines in January.
The directive caps emissions of four major pollutants: ammonia, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. A revision was initially due last year but was delayed to take into account the new baselines.
The revision aims to set targets for 2020. The law could also be extended to include first-ever national caps on emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
A recent European environment agency report has shown that many EU member states are likely to miss existing targets unless they take extra measures to reduce pollution.
On 28 February, energy ministers will adopt a resolution on an EU plan to boost low-carbon technologies. The plan was announced by the commission last year.
It aims to maintain Europe’s lead in the global environmental technology market by closing the gap between research spending across the bloc and countries such as Japan and the US. Council discussions held in January showed support for the plan.
Meanwhile, EU-backed consortium Fundetec will publish final recommendations for increasing investments in environmental technologies through public and private funds.
Also in February research ministers are expected to discuss an EU initiative to drive research in hydrogen power. The initiative was launched by the commission in October.
On 25-26 January, EU competition ministers will discuss a review of efforts achieved as part of the commission’s ‘better regulation’ drive to simplify legislation and reduce administrative burdens on industry.
The review analyses the commission’s impact assessment procedure for EU legislative and non-legislative proposals. Assessments are intended to determine the most cost-effective policy for each proposal and to strike a balance between economic, social and environmental impacts.
The commission is also expected to issue a policy paper recommending measures in response to disasters caused by climate change and other natural events. It will also advocate a strengthening of the EU’s support scheme for civil protection.
Meanwhile, the commission will announce measures to boost information sharing among member states to improve the quality of their environmental reports and reduce red tape.

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