An assessment of the environmental performance of the Estonian Presidency of the EU has been published by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
Following a systematic assessment based on the ‘Ten Green Tests’ laid out at the start of its Presidency, Estonia has performed well in relation to chemicals and environmental democracy, but badly when it comes to measures to tackle climate change and ensure sustainable fisheries.
The EEB is the largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations in Europe with more than 140 members in over 30 countries.
Every six months at the rotation of the EU Presidency, the EEB publishes an assessment of the outgoing presidency and Ten Green Tests for the incoming presidency, prepared in cooperation with BirdLife Europe and Seas at Risk. The assessment distinguishes between effort and outcome, and also takes account of what is within the power of a Presidency to achieve.
The key findings of the assessment are:
The Estonian Presidency pushed hard and more or less managed to complete negotiations on waste, climate and energy though with the content of the deals reached leaving much to be desired.
On climate change: Agreements failed to live up to the requirements of the Paris Agreement, especially those concerning the future of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) and Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)
On waste: weak provisions on prevention, recycling and extended producer responsibility were only marginally offset by stronger provisions on mandatory separation of materials.
On chemicals and pollution: Externally, competent preparations made for the first Conference of the Parties to the Minimata Convention on Mercury and the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) were a success. Within the EU, Estonia’s efforts to highlight the interface between products, waste and chemicals policy and to promote transparency on hazardous substances in products were also welcome.
On fisheries: The gulf between current policies and what is required for sustainability remains disappointingly large.
Commenting on the assessment, EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates said:
“Despite the Estonian Presidency’s efforts to give priority to sustainable development and eco-innovation, these objectives remain largely neglected in the high-level political discourse on the future of Europe. The Presidency worked hard to complete the negotiations on the crucial waste and climate/energy files and mainly succeeded but at the expense of content, as several of the outcomes were disappointing.”
The EEB also released today its Ten Green Tests for the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency. The Tests include seeking to ensure that the plans for the EU budget post-2020 take account of the Paris Agreement on Climate and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that as Phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations gets under way. The document states:
“The Brexit process should not be allowed to undermine the EU’s environmental acquis and principles and that access to the EU market must be linked with UK’s adherence to the principles and regulatory alignment with the environmental acquis”.