17 Oct

The meeting of the environment ministers took place on October 16, 2023 in Luxembourg. At the Council meeting, Hungary was represented by dr. Anikó Raisz, State Secretary for Environmental Protection and Circular Economy.

As the result of negotiations that lasted into the evening, the Environment Council adopted the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), in which the European Union summarizes its climate policy measures in order to submit it to the Secretariat of the UN Climate Change Conference.  The document serves as the commitment made by the European Union under the Paris Agreement. The Council also adopted the conclusions on the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which lays down the framework of the EU's position to be represented at the conference . Member States were divided on issues, related to the 2030 emission reduction and energy targets. In the end, the Spanish Presidency managed to present a compromise text that addressed the concerns of all member states.

The ministers of environmental protection managed to agree on the common position of the Council regarding the proposals on urban wastewater treatment and CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles (CO2 HDV), which will serve as the position of the Council during the trialogue negotiations with the European Parliament.

The proposal on Urban Wastewater Treatment extends the scope of the current directive to smaller agglomerations, expands the range of pollutants within the scope and aims to achieve climate neutrality in the wastewater treatment sector, thus protecting the environment and human health even more effectively. Hungary struggles with the implementation of the current directive which entails that an infringement procedure is going on against our country. Given the costs of the implementation of the more stringent provisions and the lack of available resources, Hungary could not support the Council's common position.

The CO2 HDV proposal strengthens the existing CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles in order to contribute to the achievement of the climate policy goals set out in the EU Climate Regulation from 2030 onwards. Within its context, the ministers also agreed that instead of the 2030 deadline originally proposed by the Commission, all new urban buses should be emission-free by 2035. Through this, Member States, including Hungary, could provide basis for a more realistic timeline to so that smaller towns could more easily fulfil the requirements for the transition. The compromise, on the other hand lays down that the European Commission in the 2027 review has to take into account the impacts on extra-EU trade, which for Hungary, being an EU-border Member State is a crucial aspect.