HC Deb 26 March 1993 vol 221 cc737-9W
Sir Anthony Durant

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Environment Council on 22 and 23 March.

Mr. Howard

I and my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside represented the United Kingdom at this Council.

The Council agreed a decision which establishes a monitoring mechanism for emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions within the Community as a whole. This will require all member states to prepare and regularly update national programmes to limit these emissions. The programmes are needed to contribute to fulfilment by the Community as a whole of the requirement, in the UN framework convention on climate change, to aim to return emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by the year 2000, and of related Community commitments. Secondly, the Council reached political agreement on a measure which will enable the Community to ratify the climate change convention. There was also a general discussion of progress on the Community's strategy during which we described the significant announcements that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in his Budget speech last week.

The Council reached full agreement on the Community eco-management and audit regulation. This proposal was a priority of the United Kingdom's presidency, but a few matters remained to be resolved following the broad political agreement reached last December. The regulation will establish a voluntary scheme to encourage the effective environmental management of industrial operations and public disclosure of information on environmental impacts.

The Council noted the good progress which had been made on the Commission's proposal for a revision of controls on the wildlife trade—the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Regulation"—and invited the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) to take the discussion forward.

Further to its agreement on the text of the relevant decision last December, the Council agreed that the Community and its member states would ratify no later than 6 February 1994 the United Nations Environment Programme Basel convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal. The Council also invited the Commission to examine the circumstances that have given rise to a call for a ban on exports of hazardous recoverable waste to developing countries and to submit appropriate proposals to the Council.

The Council noted the Commission's intention of making a proposal by the end of April for further Community measures to implement the updated provisions of the Montreal protocol on ozone-depleting substances, including in particular those which relate to hydrochlorofluorocarbons and methyl bromide.

The Council examined for the first time a proposal from the Commission for a directive on the control of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions resulting from the storage of petrol and its distribution from terminals to service stations—the so-called "Stage I" directive. This directive will control evaporative emissions of petrol and so help to reduce the formation of ozone at ground level. Due to the large number of remaining technical issues needing resolution, the proposal was remitted to COREPER for further discussion.

The Council held a brief discussion on the state of the Community's follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and invited COREPER to report to the next Council in June.

The Council also held an exchange of views on the state of preparations for the pan-European ministerial conference on the environment to be held in Lucerne from 28 to 30 April.

The Council welcomed the Commission's communication on "A Common Policy for Safe Seas", on measures to improve maritime safety and guard against marine pollution. It agreed on the need for early decisions after careful study of the Commission's proposals.

The Council took note of a progress report on a proposed directive on the incineration of hazardous waste, designed to prevent or minimise the negative effects of such incineration, and invited COREPER to pursue work on the proposal.

The Commission introduced its proposal for a directive on further measures on air pollution by emissions from motor vehicles, to take account of the best technology which will be available for relevant vehicles after 1996, and invited the Council to reach a decision on the proposal as soon as possible.

The Council took note of the adoption by the Commission of a Green Paper on civil liability for environmental damage and agreed to discuss it in due course.

The United Kingdom, with support from other delegations, urged the presidency to press ahead with negotiations on the draft directive on packaging and packaging waste.