In the morning, the ministers endeavoured to agree upon a full general approach on European climate law. This regulation includes EU targets for a 55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, which were approved by the European Council on 11 December.

Following this, the EU environment ministers strove to adopt the revised nationally determined contribution of EU member states (the EU-NDC) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This contribution will be based on the new emissions reduction targets for 2030 and, according to the Paris Agreement, should be submitted to the UNFCCC by the end of the year.

In the afternoon, the ministers discussed a general approach to the proposal to amend the Aarhus Regulation. This amendment, submitted by the European Commission on 14 October 2020, is meant to improve access to justice when it comes to environmental issues in the European Union.

The EU ministers also intended to adopt Council conclusions on the following matters:

  • The green and circular nature of the COVID-19 recovery package, as part of the action plan for a circular economy
  • Digitalisation for the benefit of the environment

An exchange of views on the European Commission’s chemicals strategy for sustainability, towards a toxic-free environment – presented on 14 October – was also on the agenda.

The European Commission also informed the EU environment ministers about new regulations on batteries and used batteries, as well as the ratification of multilateral environmental agreements.

Additionally, delegations from three different member states informed the Council about the European conference on climate change and water, the Commission’s annual meeting for the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources as well as strategies to end deforestation.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Portuguese delegation presented its planned work programme on the environment during its upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU, beginning 1 January, 2021.

A joint press release from Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and Portuguese Environment Minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes can be found here.