Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-First Report


SIXTH ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION PROGRAMME OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY


(23222)
6429/02
COM(02) 84

Amended draft Decision laying down the sixth Community Environmental Action Programme 2001-2010.


Legal base:Article 175(3) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:7 February 2002
Forwarded to the Council: 8 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 28 February 2002
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 4 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22132) 5771/01: HC 28-xi (2000-01), paragraph 5 (4 April 2001), HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 3 (18 July 2001) and HC 152-ii (2001-02) paragraph 2 (17 October 2001)
To be discussed:21 March 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared



Background

  14.1  Over the last thirty years, the Community has adopted a series of environmental action programmes, the most recent of which (Towards Sustainability) represented its main response to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. This set objectives in five main areas, namely strategies for seven priority issues (climate change, acidification, biodiversity, water, urban environment, coastal zones and waste) and for the management of risks and accidents; target sectors into which environmental concerns should be integrated (industry, energy, transport, agriculture and tourism); broadening the range of instruments; information, transparency of approach and the development of shared responsibility; and the international dimension needed to reflect global issues and the Rio Conference. As such, it set a strategic framework for Community environmental policy until 2000.

  14.2  In January 2001, the Commission put forward a Communication 'Europe 2010: Our future, Our choice' regarding the establishment of a Sixth Environmental Action Programme covering the period 2001-2010, accompanied by a draft Council Decision which would give formal effect to such a programme. According to the Commission, the aim of the new programme is to identify the issues which have to be addressed if sustainable development is to be achieved, to establish the environmental objectives and targets which need to be met over the next ten years and beyond, and to set out the actions which need to be taken to achieve those objectives, both at Community level and on a local or sectoral basis. It seeks to do this by means of a limited number of "thematic" strategies in areas where a package of co-ordinated measures is needed. These include the application, enforcement and implementation of existing legislation, the integration of environmental concerns into other policies, the use of market-based instruments, changing individual behaviour patterns, and land use planning and management. Within this overall framework, priority would be given to four main areas — climate change, biodiversity, environment and health, and the sustainable management of natural resources and wastes — where the Commission's thinking is set out at some length in paragraphs 5.10 - 5.18 of our predecessors' Report of 4 April 2001.

  14.3  We ourselves considered this document on 18 July 2001 on the basis of material provided by the Minister of State (Environment) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Michael Meacher) on 7 March and 4 May 2001, and we concluded by recommending that it should be debated in European Standing Committee A. That debate was held on 16 January 2002, but in the meantime we had also recorded in our Report of 17 October 2001 that the Environment Council on 7-8 June 2001 had reached political agreement on the proposals.

The current document

  14.4  The current document sets out the changes which the Commission is now proposing as a result of the amendments to the Council's Common Position proposed by the European Parliament at its second reading on 17 January 2002. As usual, many of these seek to clarify points of drafting, but a number would introduce more significant amendments. In particular, the Parliament would:

  • include within the measures needed to encourage more effective implementation of Community environmental legislation the need to combat environmental crime;

  • amend the existing reference to the promotion of sustainable development through environment-related taxes to express a preference for those at Community level;

  • establish by 31 December 2003 criteria which would enable proposals to be drawn up for the progressive elimination of environmentally negative subsidies;

  • commit the Community to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 by 1% per annum as compared with 1990 levels;

  • stabilise carbon dioxide emissions from transport by 2008-2012 as a first step towards meeting the Community's Kyoto target of an 8% reduction;

  • make the adoption of any thematic strategies under the new Programme subject to co-decision.

The Government's view

  14.5  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 4 March 2002, the Minister says that, although the Commission's views will carry some weight in the ensuing discussions between the Council and European Parliament, the main focus will be on finding a compromise between the Council's Common Position and the opinion issued by the Parliament at its second reading. He says that the Government will be aiming for a reasonable compromise which:

  • respects the provisions of the Treaties in respect of environmental crime (which falls under the Third (inter-Governmental) Pillar) and environmental taxes (where the Treaty provides for matters of this kind to be decided by unanimity);

  • avoids detailed targets, such as the 1% per annum reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the stabilisation of carbon dioxide emissions from transport, which have not been subject to a proper analysis of their cost-effectiveness or practicability, and which might also compromise the Community's future negotiating strategy for later Kyoto commitment periods or conflict with Member States' flexibility in delivering their Kyoto undertakings;

  • in recognising the desirability of reducing environmentally negative subsidies, also recognises Member States as well as Community competence in this area;

  • as far as possible retains a flexible procedure for the adoption of thematic strategies.

The Minister also says that the first conciliation session is scheduled for 21 March, and that agreement then is likely.

Conclusion

  14.6  We have noted the amendments proposed by the European Parliament to the Council's Common Position, and the reaction to these of both the Commission and the Government. We also note that the Minister considers it likely that the conciliation session on 21 March will result in agreement.

  14.7  Since the proposed Programme has already been debated, we do not believe any further consideration is needed, particularly at this stage. However, in clearing this document, we think the amendments proposed by the Parliament, and the Government's position on them, should be drawn to the attention of the House in this Report.


 
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Prepared 26 March 2002