The agenda of the talks included issues such as circular economy, the greening of the European Semester and the UN COP24 Summit.
One of the topics discussed by the ENVI was the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, published on the 16th of January 2018, which lays the foundations for a new way of managing plastics. In line with this policy, plastics and plastic products are to be made in a more environmentally friendly way, which means that they should be fully adapted to the needs regarding their reuse, repair and recycling.
During the discussion on this item of the ENVI Council agenda, Minister Henryk Kowalczyk pointed out that:
“In a circular economy, it is necessary to make better use of waste as raw materials. This is also required by EU commitments, particularly the waste package, which sets out the requirement to achieve high recycling rate of 55% for plastics.”
Minister Kowalczyk added that the activities of producers in this area should focus on designing products in a way that allows for their recycling. On the other hand, promoting the use of waste as a recycled raw material among buyers can be achieved by means such as appropriate information campaigns.
Greening of the European Semester
The greening of the European Semester was another issue raised during the discussion by Environment Ministers at the ENVI Council meeting. It is an element of EU governance that aims to promote more sustainable economic policies, combining economic, social and environmental aspects. Greening is of key importance for the realisation of the idea of sustainable development of the EU as a whole, as well as of individual Member States.
During the ENVI Council meeting, Minister Henryk Kowalczyk pointed out that the European Semester greening initiative should have long-term objectives, which should be put forth in a document that will replace the current Europe 2020 strategy.
“Environmental investments should be treated as factors contributing to the improvement of the conditions and quality of life of society, as well as having a positive impact on economic development and the labour market. In Poland's opinion, the area of environmental protection has untapped potential to create new jobs, and in particular to develop innovative technologies.”
“Effective implementation of greening, however, requires adequate financial resources. Therefore, it is necessary to continue financial support for this area from European funds in the future financial perspective,” Minister Kowalczyk added.
UN COP24 Summit
During the ENVI Council meeting, Minister Henryk Kowalczyk and Vice-Minister Paweł Sałek also raised the issue of Poland's preparations for the UN COP24 Summit. This 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) will take place in Katowice, Poland from the 3rd to the 14th of December 2018.
During the meeting, Minister Henryk Kowalczyk pointed out:
“For many years, we have been talking about the need to combat climate change. The increasing gravity of the situation calls for a shift from debates and analyses to decisive action. The Paris Agreement, which set the framework for international cooperation on climate protection beyond 2020, will be ineffective without proper implementing legislation. Therefore, the main objective of COP24 is to adopt the full package implementing this agreement.”
On the other hand, Vice-Minister Paweł Sałek stressed that Poland counts on active involvement of all the parties to the Paris Agreement, and in particular the Member States of the European Union, in the negotiation process.
“We support all informal initiatives, including meetings, workshops and consultations, which will serve a constructive dialogue and building trust between the parties. It is also necessary to balance the efforts of rich and poor countries. The parties must continue the climate negotiations in the spirit of the adopted Paris Agreement, that is, above all, to ensure the universal participation of all countries and the voluntary choice of how to reduce emissions and use natural resources,” said Vice-Minister Sałek.
The ENVI Council meeting took place in Brussels on the 5th of March 2018. During the meeting, the participants raised other environmental issues such as ivory trade, efforts to combat global deforestation and the management of invasive alien species.
On the Council's sidelines, Minister Henryk Kowalczyk also spoke to the European Commission's Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete on the current issues regarding environmental and climate policy, as well as to the heads of EU Member States' delegations, including Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom.