HL Deb 11 March 1997 vol 579 cc20-1WA
Lord Swinfen

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 3 March 1997.

Earl Ferrers

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council on 3 March.

The Council agreed Conclusions to establish the Community's negotiating position for the preparatory meetings for the Third Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, in December of this year. They agreed that the EU should propose that developed countries should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent. below 1990 levels by the year 2010. They identified current commitments from member states, including a commitment from the United Kingdom for a reduction of 10 per cent., that would enable EU countries as a whole to reduce their emissions by 10 per cent. by the year 2010. They also agreed to identify further policies and measures to enable EU countries to deliver an overall reduction of 15 per cent. by 2010, should developed countries agree to that target at the Kyoto Conference.

The Council discussed the draft Council Resolution on the Implementation and Enforcement of Community Environmental law but agreed to defer a final decision until the views of the European Parliament become available; a common position was agreed on the funding of European Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) subject to a UK parliamentary scrutiny reserve.

In the Council discussion on the two directives on proposed fuel quality and car emission standards by 2000 (Auto-Oil Stage 1) we welcomed the progress being made on these important proposals and emphasised the need for agreement to be reached as soon as possible. We also supported the majority view that it was important for the Commission to bring forward by the end of 1998 their proposals for mandatory fuel and car emissions standards for 2005.

Over lunch the Council discussed the position of the negotiations on the proposed framework agreement on Leghold Traps. We reiterated our concerns that the existing proposals were inadequate and emphasised the need for a much stronger agreement. Further negotiations with the third countries are expected to begin shortly.

There was a presentation by the Commission on its recently adopted proposals for the reduction of emissions of volatile organic compounds; the Dutch Presidency hope to secure political agreement on this at the June Environment Council. The Water Framework Directive was also presented. In the discussion on the use of Environmental Agreements, we welcomed the Commission's recent Communication and highlighted the importance of these measures as an alternative or complement to a regulatory approach.

The Council also adopted a Directive amending the Directive 85/337 on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This is to be implemented by March 1999 and the Government will be consulting on its implementation later this year.

My right honourable friend also took part in the Structured Dialogue meeting with Environment Ministers from the countries from Central and Eastern Europe, in which we had a useful exchange of views on climate change and energy efficiency issues.