Environment ministers meet to set EU priorities for UN Climate Conference in Santiago and to agree on the next steps to promote the circular economy

Press release 2019-10-03 at 8:44

The Environment Council of the EU will meet in Luxembourg on Friday 4 October 2019 to agree on EU priorities for the UN climate negotiations, which will take place in Santiago de Chile in December. The Council also aims to adopt conclusions on the next steps in promoting the circular economy more vigorously within the EU. The meeting will be chaired by Finnish Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen.

The UN Secretary-General's Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September highlighted the significant gap between implementation of climate action and the long term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. One objective of the Climate Change Conference to be held in Chile in December is to accelerate ambitious climate action. Developing robust rules for market mechanisms — that is, how countries can cooperate to foster global ambition, ensure environmental integrity and avoid double counting — will be a central issue in the negotiations. While negotiations on the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement largely ended with the adoption of the Katowice Rulebook in 2018, rules for market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement were not agreed at that time.

“It is important that the rules support ambitious climate policy. The EU position is that when market mechanisms are used, they must be counted as benefits in only one country and the emissions reductions achieved must really be permanent. We must not allow loopholes,” says Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen.

The ministers will also discuss the EU’s long-term climate strategy. As the holder of the Presidency, Finland is working hard to enable agreement on the EU's net-zero emissions target for 2050 this autumn.

"I have met with numerous EU colleagues to discuss the strategy and mapped out factors that will enable us to reach an agreement. The Environment Council's stocktake will be essential in identifying the remaining challenges. A common EU vision for 2050 would also send an important signal to the international community at the Chile Climate Conference,” says Mikkonen.

The aim is to expand the circular economy into new sectors

The other main item on the Council’s agenda is how best to promote the circular economy in Europe. Finland has drafted conclusions for adoption by the Council on extending the circular economy from production to consumption and to cover new sectors, such as textiles, mobility, construction and food.

“EU competitiveness must be sustainable, which calls for mitigation of climate change and the sparing long-term use of renewable natural resources. This means the circular economy must also extend far beyond waste management policy. By implementing the circular economy, we can halve greenhouse gas emissions from industry in the EU by 2050,” says Minister Mikkonen.

Strengthening the circular economy is also important for safeguarding biodiversity. Our current use of natural resources is the cause of 90 per cent of the world’s biodiversity loss, and only nine per cent of used raw materials are reused or recycled.

Focusing on comprehensive planning of the environmental agenda

The ministers will also discuss the EU’s eighth Environment Action Programme (EAP), which will guide the action of the Union in this area from the beginning of 2021. In May 2019, the Commission presented an evaluation report of the seventh programme. According to the report, some of the key challenges in the implementation of the programme have been integrating environmental objectives into other policies and safeguarding natural capital. The Council invites the Commission to present early next year an ambitious and focused proposal for an eight Action Programme. In the conclusions the Council gives guidance to the Commission on the 8th EAP.

The ministers’ lunch discussion will also address plans for the next few years, as it will focus on the Council’s strategic agenda for the next five-year period. Finland has invited the Chair of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, Pascal Canfin, to participate in the discussion.

In Luxembourg, Minister Mikkonen will also participate in the Green Growth Summit on the EU's carbon neutral future, which will bring together representatives of Member States, EU institutions, businesses and research organisations.

Inquiries

Terhi Lehtonen, State Secretary to Minister Mikkonen, tel. +358 295 161 000

Leena Ylä-Mononen, Director-General, tel. +358 295 250 023 (EU long-term climate strategy)

Outi Honkatukia, Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, tel. +358 50 341 1758 (EU negotiating mandate for the Climate Conference in Chile)

Taina Nikula, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 50 305 6945 (circular economy)

Mervi Mattila, Senior Specialist, +358 295 250 178 (Eighth EU Environment Action Programme)

Riikka Lamminmäki, Head of Communications, tel. +358 50 576 2604 (interview requests)