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EU environment and climate ministers - EU must speed up ambitious policy on circular economy

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The second day of the informal meeting of EU environment and climate ministers focused on expanding the circular economy into new areas. The ministers discussed the solutions offered by the circular economy to mitigate climate change and halt the loss of biodiversity.

The informal meeting of environment/climate ministers was held on 11 and 12 July in Helsinki.  Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella also attended the meeting. Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Per Klevnäs, partner at Material Economics, delivered keynote speeches on the circular economy.

Materials recycling breeds new business opportunities

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“Climate change and biodiversity loss are the greatest challenges of our time. By moving from a single-use culture to a circular economy, the EU alone could halve industrial greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Improved recycling of materials would also reduce the pressure on nature caused by consumption. The EU’s competitiveness must be based on sustainability, on mitigation of climate change and sparing, long-term use of renewable natural resources,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Krista Mikkonen.

According to the ministers at the informal meeting, the goal must be a society that does not squander natural resources but creates new business opportunities from scarcity and problem solving. Manufacturing and consumption must be based on six Rs of sustainability: refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycle. 

Speeding up implementation of circular economy

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According to the ministers, the EU must continue its ambitious policy supporting the circular economy. Among other things, the ministers discussed the need to draw up a new circular economy action plan, a circular economy 2.0 that is, to speed up the implementation of the circular economy and expand circular actions into all priority sectors. New measures are needed especially in areas related to construction, textiles, mobility and food.

Finland’s aim is to prepare conclusions on the circular economy based on the ministerial discussions, which the Environment Council will then discuss in the autumn. The conclusions will set out how the new Commission should promote the circular economy over the next five years.

Sustainable solutions key goal for Finland’s Presidency

Finland will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 July to 31 December 2019. In this capacity, Finland will chair the formal Council meetings in Brussels and Luxembourg and the informal meetings of ministers held in Finland.

Sustainable development forms a common thread throughout the meeting arrangements for the Presidency. Meetings have been centralised in the capital, Helsinki, to minimise emissions from transport. Finland will produce very little physical material just for the Presidency and has decided on a no-gifts policy. The money earmarked for Presidency gifts will be used in full to offset carbon dioxide emissions from air travel by delegates.

“Finland holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU at a crucial moment. The time to solve the sustainability crisis is now. By working together, the EU can find solutions to both the climate crisis and to stopping the sixth mass extinction. Our window of time is closing. We must raise the EU’s profile as a global leader in climate action to the next level,” Mikkonen said.

Climate change

Co-operating with the world to achieve a net-zero future

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As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere keep setting record highs. The Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August 2021 strongly confirmed that human activity has furthered the warming of the atmosphere, oceans, and land. The atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, and biosphere have all undergone broad and rapid changes. The weather in 2021 has also been unstable, as can be seen by the winter storm in the US state of Texas that severely damaged the energy system and the record-setting temperatures of nearly 50 degrees Celsius on the North American west coast. By the same token, Western Europe and China have suffered from heavy rains. In addition, Taiwan experienced its worst drought in more than 50 years, which was followed by abnormally heavy rainfall. One can clearly see how climate change has profoundly affected the whole world, writes Minister Chang Tzi-chin, Environmental Protection Administration, Republic of China, Taiwan.

With extreme weather events challenging the entire globe today, the United Nations calls on all countries to implement the Paris Agreement and take more proactive steps. As a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan strives to integrate with global efforts to mitigate climate change. President Tsai Ing-wen declared on this year’s Earth Day (April 22) that realizing net-zero emissions by 2050 is the goal of the world, including Taiwan. She also unveiled clear greenhouse gas emission targets for Taiwan. At the 33rd meeting of the National Council for Sustainable Development, Premier Su Tseng-chang announced the inclusion of the 2050 net-zero emission target in the amendment bill for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, demonstrating Taiwan’s determination to actively reduce carbon emissions. More and stronger management mechanisms and incentive systems will be introduced with other vital amendments so as to enhance governance efficiency, introduce carbon pricing mechanisms, and adapt strategies for climate change. Such measures aim to encourage private investment in research and development, as well as public participation in the sustainable development of Taiwan.

Taiwan has established long-term reduction targets and is planning a practical path to attain 2050 net-zero emissions. The Executive Yuan has coordinated relevant ministries and agencies, convened a working group on paths to net-zero emissions, and sought professional consultation from Academia Sinica and the Industrial Technology Research Institute. Four working groups have been formed to focus on the areas of decarbonized energy, industry and energy efficiency, green transportation and vehicle electrification, and carbon-negative technology so as to carry out interministerial technical assessments. With respect to energy and industrial policies, short-, medium-, and long-term markers for 2030, 2040, and 2050 will be set on the path toward net-zero emissions. In addition, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and other relevant ministries and agencies have launched a public consultation on visions for 2050 to facilitate social dialogue on critical issues such as agricultural and forestry carbon sinks, net-zero buildings, green transportation, low-carbon industries, economic instruments, and just transformation. With diverse participation from all sectors and research and development investment in innovative technology, Taiwan will seek the most suitable climate governance path for its sustainable development.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Taiwan’s industries are an extremely reliable and significant partner in the global supply chain. Countries worldwide have successively proposed new goals on net-zero emissions to bring about a net-zero economy. The Taiwan government aims to formulate a clear and comprehensive carbon reduction path and green growth strategy. Cooperation with private enterprises plays a critical role in these efforts. The Taiwan Climate Alliance, formed by eight ICT companies, has set the goal of using renewable energy in 100 percent of their manufacturing processes by 2050 and will lead other manufacturers in the supply chain to jointly reach this target. In addition, the Taiwan Alliance for Net Zero Emission, formed by traditional manufacturing, technology, finance, and service industries, seeks to attain net-zero carbon emissions at office sites by 2030 and at production sites by 2050. To support the climate actions of enterprises and other actors in the private sector, the Taiwan government has implemented financial mechanisms such as green financing and green bonds, thus creating a virtuous circle in the investment and industrial pursuit of sustainable development.

Taiwan, situated in a region highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, has long been actively engaged in policy formulation, the establishment of related legal systems, energy transformation, technological research and development, industrial innovation, social transformation, and environmental sustainability in response to climate change. It hopes to actively construct a sustainable green homeland from the facets of supply, manufacturing, demand, and environmental protection. Furthermore, Taiwan will continue to share its experiences and capabilities with the international community to overcome this crisis.

The spirit of co-operating and working together remains key to accelerating and extending global efforts. Although Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, it will always seek to be a model citizen for the international community. We will continue to work with all other countries to foster a global net-zero emissions future and a more resilient living environment for coming generations and to realize intergenerational justice.

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

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Parliament pushes for accelerated climate action worldwide and for the EU to remain a world leader in fighting climate change.

Parliament has adopted its position on the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, taking place from 31 October to 12 November, with 527 votes for, 134 votes against and 35 abstentions.

In the resolution, MEPs express concern that the national 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 want the EU to replace the current 10-year plan with a five-year timeframe for all countries. 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 fragile ecosystems.

G20 must lead the way

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All G20 nations should show global leadership and commit to achieving climate neutrality at the latest by 2050, according to MEPs. 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, including 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, they are concerned with the country’s dependency on coal. They underline their position that China should increase its ambition and that its climate targets should cover all GHG emissions and not only carbon dioxide emissions.

More climate finance to developing countries

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 despite COVID-19 restrictions.

Next steps

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 to enable the EU to reach the more ambitious 2030-target.

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Russia says Putin won't fly to Glasgow, in blow for climate talks

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Russia delivered a blow to hopes of a breakthrough international deal on climate change when the Kremlin said on Wednesday (20 October) that President Vladimir Putin (pictured) would not fly to Scotland for talks starting at the end of this month, write Alexander Marrow, Mark Trevelyan and Dmitry Antonov.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he would take part remotely, but the no-show by the leader of the world's fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is the latest setback, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also uncertain to attend.

Britain, which hosts the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November, is seeking support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle global warming.

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The Kremlin had previously announced that Putin would not attend a Group of 20 summit in Rome in person this month due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

"He will also not fly to Glasgow, unfortunately," Peskov told reporters, saying other Russian representatives would go.

"We need to work out in what format it will be possible (for Putin) to speak via video conference, at what moment," Peskov said. "The issues that will be discussed in Glasgow right now form one of the priorities of our foreign policy."

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Russia is warming 2.8 times faster than the global average, with the melting of Siberia's permafrost, which covers 65% of Russian landmass, releasing significant amounts of greenhouse gases.

Putin said last week Russia would strive to be carbon neutral no later than 2060. He said hydrogen, ammonia and natural gas were likely to play a larger role in the energy mix in coming years and that Russia was ready for dialogue on ways to tackle climate change.

Before the Kremlin's announcement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told investors on Tuesday there would be a good attendance at COP26. "It looks like a lot of people are going to be able to come in person," he said.

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