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Zero pollution: Commission report shows more needs to be done against water pollution from nitrates

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The latest Commission Report on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive (based on data for 2016-2019) warns that nitrates are still causing harmful pollution to water in the EU. Excessive nitrates in water are harmful to both human health and ecosystems, causing oxygen depletion and eutrophication. Where national authorities and farmers have cleaned up waters, it has had a positive impact on drinking water supply and biodiversity, and on the sectors such as fisheries and tourism that depend on them. Nevertheless, excessive fertilisation remains a problem in many parts of the EU.

Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: "The implementation of the Nitrates Directive over the last 30 years has undoubtedly increased water quality overall in the EU. We also see that real efforts to switch to sustainable methods are paying off. However, the pace of change is not enough to prevent damage to human health and preserve fragile ecosystems. In line with the European Green Deal, more urgent action is now needed to achieve a sustainable agriculture and protect our precious water supply.” 

Nitrate concentrations have fallen in both surface and groundwater in the EU compared to the situation prior to the adoption of the Nitrates Directive in 1991. However, the new report reveals that little progress has been made over the last decade and nutrient pollution from agriculture is still a serious concern for many member states. The Commission will act to improve compliance with the Nitrates Directive, which is a prerequisite for reaching the European Green Deal objective of reducing nutrient losses by at least 50% by 2030. More information is in the press release and this Q&A.

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Defence

Essential infrastructure: New rules to boost co-operation and resilience

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Civil Liberties Committee MEPs endorse new rules to better protect essential services like energy, transport and drinking water.

With 57 votes in favour and six against (no abstentions), the Committee adopted its negotiation position on new rules on EU critical infrastructure entities. MEPs are aiming to better protect essential services (e.g. energy, transport, banking, drinking water and digital infrastructure) by improving member state resilience strategies and risk assessments.

Climate change is included as a potential source of disruption of essential infrastructure, and cyber-security is seen as an important aspect of resilience. As services are increasingly interdependent, the reformed directive requires local authorities to set up a single point of contact responsible for communicating with other jurisdictions. It also creates a new Critical Entities Resilience Group to facilitate communication between stakeholders, with Parliament participating as an observer.

MEPs push for broader scope, more transparency

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MEPs want to see more transparency when disruptions happen, requiring critical entities to inform the general public about incidents or serious risks. They also want to make sure that member states can provide financial support to critical entities, where this is in the public interest, without prejudice to state aid rules.

The Civil Liberties Committee proposes to widen the definition of essential services, so that protecting the environment, public health and safety, and the rule of law are also mentioned.

To make cross-border co-operation frictionless, MEPs finally want service providers to be considered “of European significance” if they offer similar services in at least three member states.

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After the vote, rapporteur Michal Šimečka (Renew, SK) said: "Critical entities provide essential services across the EU, while facing a growing number of both man-made and natural threats. Our ambition is to strengthen their ability to cope with risks to their operations while improving the functioning of the internal market in essential services. We are expected to deliver on a Europe that protects and that means also bolstering the collective resilience of the critical systems underpinning our way of life."

Background

The European Critical Infrastructure (ECI) directive currently covers only two sectors (transport and energy), whereas the reformed directive would expand this to ten (energy, transport, banking, financial market infrastructures, health, drinking water, waste water, digital infrastructure, public administration and space). At the same time, the new directive introduces an all-hazard risk approach, where the ECI was largely focused on terrorism.

Next steps

Before negotiations with the Council can start, the draft negotiating position will need to be endorsed by the whole house in a future session.

Further information 

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Climate change

Climate change: Raise global ambitions to achieve strong outcome at COP26

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The Environment Committee calls on all countries to implement a green recovery and increase their 2030 climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement.

Ahead of the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021, on Tuesday the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee has adopted its input to the COP26, with 60 votes for, 15 votes against and three abstentions.

In their resolution, MEPs express concern that the targets announced in Paris in 2015 would result in warming well above three degrees by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. They say that the EU must remain a world leader in the fight against climate change and that MEPs will work to ensure that the EU’s “Fit for 55 in 2030” climate package is fully in line with the Paris Agreement.

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To accelerate the pace of climate action, MEPs wants the EU to support a five-year timeframe for all countries instead of the current ten-year plan. They also say that all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies should be phased out in the EU by 2025 and call on all other countries to take similar measures.

MEPs recall that biodiversity plays a crucial role in enabling humans to combat and adapt to global warming and stress that nature-based solutions are win-win solutions, ones which involve protecting, restoring and sustainably managing ecosystems.

G20 must lead the way

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MEPs say that all G20 nations should show global leadership and commit to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. They also call on the Commission to create an international climate club with other major greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters with the aim of setting common standards and raising ambition across the globe through a common carbon border adjustment mechanism.

They welcome the return of the US to the Paris Agreement and President Biden’s commitment to cut US GHG emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005. MEPs expect concrete policy measures and financing to meet this goal.

While MEPs acknowledge China’s willingness to be a constructive partner in global climate negotiations, it is concerned with the country’s dependency on coal and underlines that China’s climate targets should cover all GHG emissions and not only carbon dioxide emissions.

More financial support to fight climate change

MEPs say that developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise at least $100bn in climate finance per year for developing countries, increasing that amount from 2025, when emerging economies should also start to contribute. A roadmap outlining each developed country’s fair contribution to this financing plan should be agreed. They also want to ensure that all developing countries can participate in COP26 in spite of COVID-19.

Next steps

The resolution will be voted by all MEPs during the plenary session 18-21 October.

A delegation from Parliament led by Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR) will be in Glasgow from 8-13 November.

Background

Parliament has been pushing for more ambitious EU climate and biodiversity legislation and declared a climate emergency on 28 November 2019. In June 2021, the European Climate Law was adopted by Parliament. It transforms the European Green Deal’s political commitment to EU climate neutrality by 2050 into a binding obligation for the EU and member states. It also increases the EU’s target for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 40% to at least 55%, compared to 1990 level. In July 2021, the Commission presented the “Fit for 55 in 2030” package in order to enable the EU to reach the more ambitious 2030-target.

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Biodiversity

Biodiversity: New report shows progress made on invasive alien species but challenges remain

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The European Commission has published the first Report on the application of the Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulation, which aims to minimize the threat posed by these species to native animals and plants. The report finds that the IAS Regulation is delivering on its objectives, as prevention and management measures, information-sharing and awareness of the problem have improved. Yet, implementation is a challenge in several respects. Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: "Invasive alien species are a major driver of biodiversity loss in Europe. Today's report shows that taking action at EU level has real added value. This Regulation will be an essential tool to continue to address this threat and put biodiversity on the path of recovery under the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.”

The projected increase in global trade and travel, together with climate change, are expected to increase the risk of the spread of invasive alien species for instance plants such as the water hyacinth, and animals like the Asian hornet or the raccoon. This may lead to increased adverse impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, human health and the economy. Based on the analysis of data from 2015 to 2019, the report shows that Member States have often taken effective measures to prevent the intentional or unintentional introduction of invasive alien species of concern into the EU. Nevertheless, the report also reveals that that there remain numerous challenges and areas for improvement. The Commission will take steps to improve compliance with the IAS Regulation. More information is in this news item.

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