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Environmental Agenda for Finland's EU Presidency

bridges vol. 11, September 2006 / EU News
by Saija Nurminen

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Finland has chosen "a new generation of environmental policy" as its main theme for the environmental program of the Finnish Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2006. Finland's other main priorities in the environmental sector are mitigating climate change, halting the decline in biodiversity, and the interim review of the EU's 6th Environment Action Program (6EAP).

A new generation of environmental policy for Europe
The informal meeting of European environmental ministers in Turku in July focused on the need for a new generation of environmental policy for Europe. The EU has achieved good results in tackling so-called bottom of the barrel environmental problems. However, issues such as sustainable consumption and production, as well as material and resource efficiency, call for improved and more efficient decision making and new policy approaches.

Global production chains create well-being, but at the same time give rise to new environmental problems. Major challenges include climate change, the rising demand for energy, continuing dependency on fossil fuels, and the steady destruction of vital natural resources.

We encourage the EU to adopt a more prominent role in the global community when it comes to critical environmental questions. The EU should envision how well-being, eco-efficiency, responsible industry, and active citizenship can coexist.

Climate change
Climate change is a high priority for us. On the international level the emphasis will be on processes aimed at exploring the development of a global climate regime after 2012. Such processes were launched as the Montreal Plan of Action adopted in Montreal in December 2005. Key tasks in this respect will be preparation for and participation in the international climate negotiations in Nairobi in November.

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Climate change will also be stressed in relations with third countries. During the Finnish Presidency there will be several summits that are important in this respect, such as the ASEM Summit (Helsinki, September 2006) and bilateral summits with China, India, Russia, and Canada.

In the transatlantic dialogue, this issue will be equally crucial. Climate change will continue to be a regular part of the EU's agenda in its transatlantic dialogue. At the EU-US summit in Vienna this summer, we agreed to establish an EU-US High Level Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy, and Sustainable Development. Preparations are underway and the dialogue will initially convene in fall 2006 in Helsinki.

At the EU level, the review of the Emission Trading Scheme will be initiated once the Commission has adopted its report. Some outputs of the new phase of the European Climate Change Program may also be on the agenda.

Biodiversity
The EU aims to halt the ongoing decline in biodiversity by 2010. Finland's priorities are to steer Community and global biodiversity policies, and to promote all efforts to reach agreed-upon objectives. The Commission Communication on biodiversity (adopted in May) sets out objectives and targets for achieving this goal. Based on this Communication, we shall prepare a set of conclusions for the October Council meeting

EU's 6th Environmental Action Program
An interim review of the EU's 6th Environmental Action Program will commence during Finland's EU Presidency. The Program prioritizes environmental actions for the period 2002-2012, and the review will examine how well the program has been implemented so far. We intend to prepare joint Council Conclusions on the Action Program and the strategy on sustainable use of natural resources.

As part of the Program, the Commission has defined specific strategies on issues including protection of the marine environment, air protection, and waste management. These strategies and the related legislative processes will also be addressed during Finland's EU Presidency:

• The Thematic Strategy for the Protection of the Marine Environment:
The debate has already been opened. We will strive to reach a political agreement on the framework directive. Protecting the marine environment is an important issue for Finland. Closeness to water and the seaside is a characteristic of Finns. We find it important to improve the state of marine environment in all of Europe and in each of the European marine regions, including our own Baltic Sea.

• The Thematic Strategy on Air Quality:

The Austrian Presidency did an excellent job on the Air Quality Directive, and now it is our turn to continue the hard work. We believe that by working together with all Member States and the European Parliament we will reach a balanced outcome during our Presidency. It is our responsibility to take efficient and timely actions for better air quality for all Europeans now.

• The Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste:
The strategy is very important. The proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on waste, which is a revision of the Waste Framework Directive, is a key legislative measure for the implementation of the strategy. The proposed directive simplifies existing legislation, specifies when waste ceases to be waste, and refers to common minimum standards for

 

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The author, Saija Nurminen, joined the economic sector at the Embassy of Finland in Washington DC, as second secretary for economic affairs in June 2006. In addition to environmental issues she works with energy, labor, transportation, and health questions.
 

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