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1st January 2015: Latvian Presidency of EU

Reducing climate change and preserving the environment, are the primary concern for the Latvian EU council presidency according the Kaspars Gerhards, Minister for Environmental protection and regional development.  The Presidency will focus on two main areas of action. 1. Finding new, workable solutions for the EU's emissions trading system and 2. Making progress ahead of the 2015 international climate negotiations. Other priorities include improvement of environmental quality and resource efficiency. One the Latvian Presidency’s in the field of climate change is developing the legislative proposal to establish a market stability reserve, which aims at tackling the large surplus of emission allowances in the EU emissions trading system (ETS). The main objective of this proposal is to make this system more efficient and to steer market forces towards investment in low carbon technologies. The presidency will also lead the preparations of the EU's contribution to international climate negotiations, so that we can reach a new legally binding agreement on a global climate change regime in Paris at the end of 2015. At the European council in October, the heads of EU states and governments endorsed a binding target of a 40 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, allowing the EU to once again be a leader in this area. The 7th Environmental Action Programme, along with flagship initiatives, form a solid basis for prioritising actions. The Latvian EU council presidency will strengthen incentives that lead to a better environment within the EU as well as address global challenges. In the first quarter of 2015, the European environmental agency will publish its state of the environment report 2015, highlighting the major trends in environmental quality and providing an overview on the progress that has been made in specific environmental sectors. During the environmental council in March, the EU council presidency will organise a debate on the likely environmental aspects to be included in the larger context of the EU's economic governance - the European semester process and the Europe 2020 strategy review. Negotiations on the commission's proposals for the review of legislation on waste, aimed to ensure that we attain our targets of resource efficiency and waste reduction. The same goes for air quality legislation. The Latvian Presidency will continue the work on the dossiers outlined in the clean air programme for Europe, in particular, the proposal for the directive for medium sized combustion plants. In April, ministers responsible for environment will attend the informal environmental council in Riga. At this event, the focus will be on biodiversity in connection to other EU policy targets, in particular, we will discuss the promotion of sustainable use of renewable energy sources while avoiding negative side effects on the environment. At the times when we emphasise the need for increased use of renewable energies, it is worthwhile to consider how our climate and energy policies are being balanced against the needs of biodiversity preservation. ENEP members maybe interest to know that the Latvia Presidency will host conference for experts and stakeholders titled “EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 - implementation” on May 26th and 27th.  The conference will focus on biodiversity issues, notably to assess the implementation of the EU's biodiversity policy and outline trends related to the targets in this area. The findings from these discussions will serve as input into the mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy. Finally, we aim to provide input for various international environmental processes, including sound management of chemicals, waste, biodiversity, species protection and biosafety. There are also issues that need to be addressed by the global community jointly, acting together at international forums. All in all, our challenge during the next half of the year is to help Europe find a balanced and sustainable approach to the overall objectives of the EU. The economic and technological achievements of today must be seen in perspective - that is, we must not act at the expense of future generations by neglecting our environment. Those in charge of environment and climate in the EU must keep these realities in mind in all aspects of the policymaking process. READ MORE

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Issue 38