Environment is main challenge for Luxembourgish Presidency

Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, took on the Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July. [European Council/Flickr]

Air quality, energy policy, the Circular Economy and the new Common Fisheries Policy are among the main challenges facing Luxembourg, which assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July. Journal de l’environnement reports

Luxembourg’s first priority will be to ensure that discussions over the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive lead to the adoption of a new set of air quality objectives for 2030. So far, the European Council is far from reaching an agreement on the issue, and some states, including Romania and Poland, altogether reject binding thresholds for certain emissions, like methane.

Climate objectives

Any climate objectives addressed by the EU Council during the coming semester will coincide with the European Union’s preparations for the COP 21, where the bloc hopes to play a leading role in limiting the global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The European Environment Bureau (EEB) has also indicated that the new presidency of the EU may be able to unblock the long-awaited reform of the Emissions Trading System (ETS).

A successful Luxembourgish Presidency could also see the entry into force of the new 2030 Climate and Energy Package by the end of the year. The priorities of this package are to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030, generate at least 27% of energy from renewable sources and improve energy efficiency by 27%.

>>Read: EU leaders adopt ‘flexible’ energy and climate targets for 2030

Circular Economy package and Ecodesign Directive

Another challenge for the Grand Duchy is to push for the adoption of the new Circular Economy package, due to be presented by the European Commission by December. The EEB has said that the EU should adopt binding objectives on organic waste, the re-use of certain products like furniture and textiles, and the recycling of solid municipal waste (70% by 2030) and packaging (80% by 2030).

The EU may turn to economic incentives in order to realise these objectives, including taxing landfill and waste incineration, and establishing new lines of accountability for producers. It may also prohibit the landfilling or incineration of any recyclable or compostable waste by 2020, as suggested by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee.

NGOs are calling for a target of improving resource efficiency by 40% by 2030, but the target currently under consideration by the European Parliament is 30%.

Luxembourg will also have to push forward the Ecodesign Directive, which will lead to new commitments in terms of product life-cycles, reparability and recyclability, as well as the elimination of toxic products.

New criteria for hormone disrupting chemicals, whose publication has already been delayed since the end of 2013, may not appear until late 2016 or even 2017,  as a result of pressure from industry lobbies.

Applying the Common Fisheries Policy

The Luxembourgish Presidency will be charged with putting in place the multi-annual fisheries plan in the Baltic Sea. This will be the first regional management plan to apply the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the 2015 Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) regulations, and as such, is a particularly important step.

Discussions over the future of deep sea trawler fishing in European waters will also be re-opened, according to the EEB, after MEPs rejected a ban in December 2013.

“After major changes to its content, the CFP reform is now at the implementation stage. We will be particularly vigilant over how it is interpreted,” said Stephan Beaucher, a fisheries specialist for the NGO Pew. The new quotas for the north-east Atlantic will be published in Autumn.

On top of this, Luxembourg will have to try and broker an agreement between the Council and the Parliament on the first reading of the new regulatory framework for organic farming, and work will begin on the authorisation procedure for genetically modified organisms by the end of the year.

This article was previously published by EURACTIV France.


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