• As of this Thursday morning, the European Ministers for the Environment and Energy will work for three days in Amiens on the dossiers which come up during the French presidency of the EU.

  • Eight working sessions are planned during these three days.

    At least that is needed, if only to sound out the positions of the 27 on “Fit for 55”, the largest package of energy/climate measures in the history of the EU, currently under negotiation.

  • But at the Ministry of Ecological Transition, we assure you that we do not want to forget the other priorities to come.

    In particular on imported deforestation, the subject of a bill which, too, could be completed within six months, or even earlier if France pushes it.

A guided tour of the cathedral of Amiens, another at the Picardy museum, without forgetting the hook by the factory of the company Ynsect​, under construction in the outskirts of Amiens and which will raise insects to produce proteins for the 'food.

If we add the family photo, it is about the only breaths on the agenda of the three days of informal meetings of the ministers of the environment and energy which begin this Thursday morning, in Amiens.

It is Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition and former deputy for the Somme, who invites.

Eight working sessions are planned during these three days, with the aim of sounding out the positions of the 27 EU Member States on a wide range of environmental issues.

This, while just started, on January 1, the French presidency of the European Union (PFUE).

Arrive at the first compromises on the "Fit for 55" measures

For six months, after Slovenia and before the Czech Republic, France takes over the rotating presidency of the European Council. The function confers on the country which assures it the not insignificant power to influence the European political agenda. In short: it can accelerate the political conclusion of a negotiation on a file, by accelerating the rhythm of meetings for example. Precisely, the opportunities to play this role will not be lacking between now and July, on environmental issues, while the EU is currently negotiating the largest package of energy/climate measures in its history. This is the "fit for 55", put on the table by the European Commission on July 14th. It includes fourteen measures that should make it possible to achieve the new European climate objective:reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 (compared to the 1990s). "This" Fit for 55 "is to do more in ten years than what we have done in thirty years in terms of decarbonization of the economy", invites to have in mind an adviser to Barbara Pompili.

Implementation of a carbon border tax, upward revision of energy efficiency and renewable energy (ENR) use targets in Europe, introduction of a tax on kerosene (aviation fuel), creation new carbon markets​ for transport and building heating from 2026… This “Fit for 55” is broad, and its societal and political impacts potentially heavy, which complicates negotiations.

“Under the Slovenian presidency, there was already a first round table, at the Council of Europe, on these fourteen legislative texts, recalls an adviser to Barbara Pompili.

It is up to the French presidency to continue this work, and to arrive at the first compromises as much as possible.

»

Testing the waters in Amiens

These three days of meetings in Amiens must be part of this journey. They will aim to identify the balance of power and the possible sticking points of negotiation to make them evolve towards compromises, we explain to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. The format is not new. “Countries taking over the EU presidency traditionally organize informal meetings between European ministers, including environment ministers, at the start of their mandate,” explains Neil Makaroff, head of “Europe” at the Climate Action Network (RAC ), French federation of climate NGOs.

The particularity all the same, in Amiens, is that Barbara Pompili invites both the Ministers of the Environment and Energy.

They will arrive and depart offbeat from Picardy, but their schedules will still overlap on Friday, with two joint work sessions.

"If Energy and the Environment are dealt with in the same ministry in France, this is not always the case elsewhere in Europe, although the two themes are increasingly linked", we justify in the team of Barbara Pompili, who hopes that these joint sessions will enrich the debates and facilitate compromises.

“Opening up debates on new carbon markets”

Neil Makaroff, too, expects a lot from these three days in Amiens. In any case, he notes several interesting subjects on the program. "The just transition which will be the subject of a joint working lunch, but also energy prices for European consumers and energy efficiency, which will each be the subject of a working session", list he. The opportunity then to deviate a little from the carbon tax at the borders, a much commented legislative proposal from the "Fit for 55", to deal with others that the "Europe" manager of the RAC considers just as crucial, if not is more, for the daily lives of Europeans. "It is to be hoped that the working lunch on the 'just transition' will be an opportunity to look into the question of these new carbon markets on fuels and heating, he illustrates.And especially on the social consequences of such a measure, since it would be a question of applying a CO2 price to these two sectors, at European level, and therefore, potentially, to increase the cost for individuals. »

Until now, these new markets, which the RAC opposes, have been little discussed between the 27, believes Neil Makaroff, who even admits to being a little lost on the French position.

"Very reluctant, it is now much more measured on this subject, in particular because part of the revenue from these carbon markets would be used to repay the Covid-19 debt", he says.

"France has been clear in the past by expressing its deep concerns about the social acceptability [of these new carbon markets]", answers an adviser to Barbara Pompili.

Do not forget biodiversity?

For the rest, the Ministry of Ecological Transition confirms this concern to take advantage of these three days in Amiens to review the widest possible spectrum of files. Not only, moreover, those related to “Fit for 55”, which is only one of the four priorities of these informal meetings cited in the entourage of the minister. The other three? "Biodiversity, phytopharmaceuticals and chemicals, and the circular economy", we list at the Roquelaure hotel. While there are fewer legislative texts under discussion on these three themes, there is still a significant one on the European agenda during the French presidency. It is that of the fight against imported deforestation, for which the EU is one of the first responsible. The working session on Thursday afternoon will be devoted to this subject,while on November 17, Brussels presented a bill aimed at prohibiting the placing on the European market of products and raw materials linked to deforestation.

The European Parliament and the Council of Europe still have to look into this bill, which WWF France regrets in a report published on January 18 that it targets, to date, only forests, thus putting aside the other natural ecosystems (mangroves, grasslands, savannahs) which can however be just as affected, indirectly, by our imports.

The WWF thus calls on the EU to raise the ambition of the text, which France could choose to do within the framework of the PFUE.

And why not start in Amiens…

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