Portugal set to wrestle with energy, climate proposals

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With climate change high on the agenda, the Portuguese Presidency will take a first stab at the Commission’s package of legislative proposals on energy, scheduled for release in September.

  • Germany’s mixed green credentials 

German Chancellor Angel Merkel is widely credited for facilitating a concensus among EU leaders at the March 2007 European Council, which led to commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. Mrs Merkel is also given credit for creating wider international consensus on climate change during the G8 Summit in June (EURACTIV 08/06/07).

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s minister for environment, was also highly visible and outspoken during the presidency, using the occasion as an opportunity to push for an EU “eco-industrial” policy that favours, among other things, the market development of renewable energy technologies.

But despite achievements at international level, Germany’s performance in more technical environment issues has been criticised by NGOs and the Greens in the Parliament (please see the “positions” section below). 

  • Portugal changes tone

Official statements made by Portugues Prime Minister Jose Socrates emphasise Portugal’s interest in finalising negotiations on the reform treaty, on improving relations with Africa in particular, and on reviving the Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs. 

But Portugal will need to play a key role at the UN Climate Convention in December in Bali, when world leaders will discuss an international post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. 

The provisional Council agenda for the next 6 months also features a number of important environment related points, including soils, water scarcity, pesticides and the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Finally, the Commission’s forthcoming “energy package” proposals are the main agenda point of a 30 December Energy Council.

Describing the German presidency as "good on climate, bad on waste", the European Environment Bureau (EEB) applauded German leadership on climate change during the March 2007 European Council negotiations. 

But the EEB, as well as the Greens in Parliament and Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), did not regard as positive the Council's agreement on waste, brokered under the German presidency at the 28 June Environment Council, arguing that the compromise opens the door for more incineration and less recycling (EURACTIV 29/06/07). 

EEB also gave the presidency poor "marks" on soil and vehicle CO2 emissions, charging that the German government had "a strong responsibility for the decision of the Commission not to stick with the 120 g/km average CO2 emissions limit for new cars from 2012". 

Looking ahead to the Portuguese Presidency, the EEB "seeks a breakthrough at international level" at the Bali conference, and "EEB is also keen to see progress on pending environmental legislation, such as Directives on air quality and soil protection, and pesticides legislation, on which some countries have expressed strong doubts about their willingness to proceed".

Portugal's turn at chairing the 6-month rotating EU Presidency began on 1 July and will last until the end of 2007, followed by the Slovenian and French Presidencies in 2008.

  • Sept 2007: Commission's energy package (may be delayed) 
  • 30 Oct 2007 Environment Council: water scarcity and drought, preparation for UN negotiations in Bali, EU Sustainable Development Strategy 
  • 26-27 Nov 2007 Agriculture Council: sustainable use of pesticides
  • 03 Dec 2007 Energy Council: package of Commission proposals on energy 
  • 17 Dec 2007 Environment Council: soils directive, aviation in EU Emissions Trading Scheme, fuels quality directive

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