Combining “green deal”, climate and environment issues: feasible options

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Two European Commissioners commented on the recent Council’s outcomes and acknowledged its conclusions on some vital issues, such as green deal, climate mitigation and the new EU-wide environmental action program. General opinion is that the conclusions have been timely and satisfactory efforts in the right direction.  

The EU-wide “green deal” was adopted in 2019 as the most ambitious ever set of actions at European environmental, climate, nature restoration and recovery package; due to its complexity, many people have doubted the ability to deliver. However, Commissioner Sinkevičius in charge of the EU environment, oceans and fisheries underlined that “the Green Deal is still very much alive”.
As to the Nature Restoration Law, NRL Commissioner stressed that “the NRL has been “a landmark law, the first law on nature after over 30 years, a law that the EU very much need to reverse the dramatic biodiversity crisis which is accelerating at an unprecedented pace and which is also slowing down and hindering the EU efforts to address the climate crisis”. Therefore, a “healthy nature” is regarded as the “best ally” in the EU-wide efforts to combat climate change and in the member states’ efforts towards adaptation.
It is underlined that this law, which has been strongly supported by citizens, scientists, NGOs, industry, the financial sector and many other stakeholders, has potentials to mobilize political economy’s spheres and underlined its importance for European future. The NRL would also confirm to the EU’s international partners that Europe is serious about its international commitments on biodiversity, which would hopefully inspire other states and regions to follow.

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Triple approach to perspective actions
The Council has adopted three outstanding files, the so-called trilogies, opening the path for their swift finalization together with the newly elected Parliament.
The first of the trilogy is the targeted revision of the Waste Framework Directive, with the focus on food waste and textiles: the work of the Belgian Presidency in the Council provides a balanced approach coped with “the spirit of Commission’s general proposal”.
For example, on the textiles part, the Commission reminded the member states’ ministers of the importance of avoiding an unfair administrative burden on small enterprises, and/or accidentally penalizing the reuse sector. The Commission fully agrees with the need to tackle fast fashion; however, some more data is needed on the most efficient ways for implementation; hence, the Commission reserves its position at this stage, but remains “very optimistic about a swift finalization of the text”.
The second major point on the agenda was the Commission’s “green claims” proposal, another deliverable under the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Roadmap. It is an important element in that plan, because it empowers consumers and gives them the needed confidence to buy green products.
The presidency text contains many improvements, clarifying the scope and simplifying enforcement for the competent authorities. But here too the Commission reminded the states’ ministers of the need to avoid unnecessary complications, and/or to avoid penalizing micro-enterprises with excessive paperwork. The Commission has also recalled the need for effective sanctions in order to bring noticeable improvements; and the Commission will also support the Council and the Parliament in moving towards these efforts’ finalization.
The third major aspect in the trilogy is the “environmental file”: for example, with the Commission proposal on the process of soil monitoring (which was presented in July 2023), soil is currently the one big gap in the EU-wide nature protection legislation; it is reassuring for the public to see the broad support to the proposal.
The Commission has recalled the role of soil that plays in mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change, safeguarding human health and improving food security; by welcoming the text presented by the Belgian Presidency, although it noted some “regrets” concerning the “voluntary principles” in the sustainable soil management, as well as the deletion of the soil health certification; both could incentivize and reward landowners for taking good care of their soil. The soil monitoring directive is expected make “a lot of gains”, and the Commission will be happy to keep working with the Council and the Parliament towards to a positive outcome as early as possible.

Meeting climate goals: finances and innovation
Commissioner Hoekstra, in charge of the EU climate actions, touched recently upon some important issues “for the years to come (i.e. by 2040) and the recommended targets to manage climate risks.
The Commissioner underlined that these recommendations are most vital for ensuring the best use of public funds to attract the private capital in achieving both the European and global climate goals. However, the states leaders and the EU’s governance have to actively invest in a decarbonised power sector, in clean industrial processes and technologies, as well as in a just transition.
There are many different, innovative possibilities that build on the certainty that comes from setting a clear target and providing a clear price incentive, including the use of the revenues from the EU emissions trading systems; however, the social dimension has to be considered too.
The next Commission College to be formed by the end of 2024 is expected to continue the paths that lead to shaping the competences of the recently created EU-wide Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs ahead of COP30, as well as finding some general approaches even before COP30.

Climate risk management and mitigation
The second issue under discussion in the Commission was that of climate risk management and mitigation efforts. As soon as the climate change has already become a part of social and business life (and will continue to be part of national political economies), the states shall be more active in “climate risk measures”; they cannot restrict their efforts just to climate mitigation issues; the member states need to do more on adaptation, on risk management and on making appropriate prediction solutions.
Several member states ministers mentioned an important issue of dealing with the governance, knowing that many of the actions are local and many member states have already acquired some knowledge on how to deal with this issue; at the same time, there is clear necessity for sharing best practices and streamlining both the EU and the states’ approaches.
Finally, the Council also touched upon the Innovation Fund’s perspectives: one of the key objectives of the Innovation Fund auction is to support the creation of a renewable hydrogen market at European level in a cost-efficient manner. This was fully achieved with the awarded bids thanks to competition that was managed by the generated efforts at the EU-wide level.
In this sense, frequent and deep discussions with the member states are essential to further implement climate action policies in a coordinated manner.
The Commission expressed appreciation on the close collaboration with the Belgian Presidency during first half of 2024; the Commission is looking forward to work together with the Hungarian Presidency all the way to COP29, which will take place at the end of 2024.

More in opening remarks (17.06.2024) at:

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