Environment Ministers approved text of the updated 'EU Nationally Determined Contribution', concerning the commitment of the Union and Member States to reduce gas emissions
Mr. Xenophon supported wording that expresses the EU's ability to exceed its legally binding target of 55% by 2030
We must not forget the dimension of the just transition and the need to create the necessary conditions in all member states for the green transition, said the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment Petros Xenophontos during the work of the EU Environment Council, held on Monday in Luxembourg.
According to an official announcement, the Environment Ministers approved the text of the updated “EU Nationally Determined Contribution”, which concerns the commitment of the Union and the Member States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, under the framework of the Paris Agreement. Mr Xenophon supported wording expressing the EU's ability to exceed its legally binding target of 55% by 2030, achieving a potential 57% reduction in emissions, as a result of the implementation of the 'Fit for 55' Legislative Package.
The “27” also adopted Conclusions setting out the EU's position ahead of the global Climate Summit, COP28, to be held from 30 November to 12 December 2023 in Dubai. Mr. Xenophontos characterized the text of the Presidency as balanced, supporting the retention of reference to compensated emissions from the use of fossil fuels, with the argument that mitigation technologies are a necessary component in the effort to achieve climate neutrality.
The position of the Council was adopted, after finding compromises, also on the Regulation on the standards of carbon dioxide emissions from heavy goods vehicles. In his intervention, Mr. Xenophontos expressed satisfaction, among other things, with regard to the general goals of reducing emissions, the expansion of the scope of the Regulation and the provisions for public contracts concerning city buses.
Regarding the 2030 target for 100% zero-emission city buses, the Minister supported the adoption of an intermediate target such as 80% on the way to 100% in 2035 so that municipalities and regions are able to cope with the rapid and costly transition.
Mr. Xenophon also expressed understanding for the concerns of a group of member states, which are expected to have an impact on areas of their national interest, underlining that we must not forget the dimension of the just transition and the need to create the necessary conditions in all member states for green transition.
The Environment Ministers also adopted a General Approach on the Directive on the treatment of urban waste water. Mr. Xenophontos supported the general approach, characterizing the granting of additional flexibility to member states as positive. He also welcomed the inclusion of provision that contributes to the accessibility of medicines at affordable prices, depending on national specificities. However, he expressed concerns about the increased administrative burden and the significant financial costs required to comply with the provisions of the new Directive.
He stated, among other things, that Cyprus would prefer the adoption of a methodology based on the real environmental risk on a case-by-case basis, while he requested more flexibility regarding the limit of settlements for which sewage systems should be constructed, the timetables and the possibility of purchasing energy for the sewage treatment plants, from sources beyond the plants. He also emphasized the importance of ensuring sufficient EU funding to support member states' compliance, due to the increased requirements of this Directive. It is also noted that on this specific legislation, Cyprus filed a written statement for the minutes of the Council.
Under Other Items on the Agenda, Mr. Xenophon supported a joint Italy-Portugal-Greece request to closely monitor any impacts on European transshipment ports that may arise from the implementation of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) in the shipping sector. He also expressed solidarity with Greece's request regarding the updating of the European flood directive, so that the frequent phenomena of natural disasters are better taken into account.
Finally, the Ministers had the opportunity during a working lunch, to exchange views on international negotiations on plastic pollution. Mr. Xenophontos supported the efforts to develop a legally binding instrument, to limit the consumption of plastics and waste, at a global level. He also stated that in order to achieve this, it is necessary to ensure that the entire life cycle of plastic products is considered, the statement concluded.