What to look out for this month
The European commission released an annual policy strategy for 2009 in mid-February.
Alongside the top priority of driving through the January climate and energy package, the commission plans proposals to reduce greenhouse gases from freight transport, including shipping emissions.
It will also work on a tyre energy label, green standards for domestic lighting and incandescent light bulbs, an action plan on the use of market-based instruments for environmental objectives and a strategy for the Baltic sea region.
Climate and energy: council
This month climate and energy will once again dominate the environmental policy agenda.
EU environment ministers will hold their first debate on the European commission’s climate and energy package at an environment council meeting in Brussels on 3 March. EU governments first exchanged views on the package at a meeting of energy ministers on 28 February.
Environment ministers will also hold their first debate on a controversial proposal to reduce car CO2 emissions. Germany and France have been at odds over how to treat cars of different sizes, although the two pledged to work together on the issue at a bilateral annual meeting in February.
Ministers will also prepare for the European spring council, to be held on 13-14 March. Climate and energy is one of three main topics up for discussion, alongside the Lisbon agenda and stability of financial markets.
At the spring council, heads of government will debate the commission’s January package with a view to agreeing “key principles and guidelines” for future work. They will also discuss external aspects of the EU’s climate policy, notably following up on the UN Bali conference of December and the impact of climate change on security. The latter will also be discussed at a general affairs and external relations council meeting on 10-11 March.
The spring council will be invited to adopt a strategic energy technology plan proposed by the commission in November to boost low-carbon technologies in Europe.
Energy ministers backed the plan on 28 February. A compromise was reached after governments agreed to remove from the text a reference to nuclear fission research, as demanded by Austria.
Climate and energy: PARLIAMENT
The European parliament is also gearing up to discuss the commission’s climate and energy package. It is now clear which political group will lead on which proposal: the centre-right EPP on the emission trading review, the socialists on car CO2, the Liberals on carbon capture and storage, and the Greens on renewable energy and the overall burden-sharing proposal.
European parliament president Hans-Gert Pöttering marked this year’s Kyoto protocol anniversary by asking MEPs to speed up their work on the climate package to ensure its adoption before elections in June 2009.
French prime minister François Fillon reiterated to MEPs at the end of February that brokering a deal on the climate and energy package will be one of his country’s main priorities when it assumes the EU presidency in July. Carbon leakage will receive special attention – France is a strong supporter of a carbon import tax.
EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas will attend a high-level dialogue on climate change with the US on 4-7 March. There will be a meeting of the Gleneagles dialogue in Japan on 14-16 March.
At a first session of negotiations to implement the Bali roadmap starting on 31 March, parties to the Kyoto protocol will begin analysing ways to meet future emission reduction targets, including through emission trading, land use policies and sectoral approaches.
Slovenia’s environment minister, Janez Podobnik, told MEPs that he hoped to finalise draft EU legislation on waste, water pollutants, mercury exports and heavy vehicle emissions before his country’s presidency of the EU ends in July.
Mr Podobnik also said Slovenia may try to reopen stalled council negotiations on a proposed EU directive on soil protection.
There are no legislative actions on the environment council’s agenda for March. But ministers are due to adopt conclusions in preparation for two international meetings in May: the convention on biological diversity and the Cartagena protocol on biosafety.
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