Home ENVIRONMENT EU environment ministers discuss issues such as biodiversity and plastic pollution in the oceans

EU environment ministers discuss issues such as biodiversity and plastic pollution in the oceans

Spanish EU presidency promotes debate on reducing marine litter, microplastics and preserving biodiversity.

by gary cartwright
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The Vice-President of the Government and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge Teresa Ribera welcomed her European counterparts to the Patio Herreriano Museum.

The Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU has promoted an in-depth debate among the EU27 environment ministers to respond firmly to climate change, at the informal ministerial meeting held in Valladolid.

The meeting inaugurates the 27 meetings of the Spanish presidency of the EU and will continue tomorrow with a joint meeting of Environment and Energy Ministers.

The meeting ratified the framework for nature restoration proposed by the Commission, which is currently the subject of lively discussion in all the European institutions and EU countries.

For the Spanish presidency, the commitment to restore nature is the best European insurance to guarantee the production capacity of the primary sector over the coming decades.

Degraded soils, polluted waters and impaired biodiversity ultimately lead to the collapse of ecosystems that support the production capacity of the whole primary sector across the EU.

The Minister for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, together with the European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičiu

The Minister for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, together with the European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius, after the informal ministerial meeting on Environment. © EFE/Miguel Toña

Appeal to the European Parliament

The meeting was chaired by Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, who appealed to all members of the European Parliament, both progressive and conservative, in view of the vote on the Nature Restoration Law in the Strasbourg plenary session.

“I would like to appeal to all members of the European Parliament, both those who have a progressive vision and those who have a conservative vision, to consider it important to conserve, preserve and restore. We see that this is a debate that has generated more division in Parliament than ever before. We consider a Europe without ecosystems, without nature, with its dead ecosystems, to be a non-Europe”, stressed Ribera at a press conference where she was accompanied by Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginjus Sinkevicius.

Sinkevicius, for his part, hoped that responsibility for the future would triumph, and stressed that “60% of European soils are not in good condition. We cannot afford to fail; our economies must rebalance”.

Ribera and Sinkevicius stressed that the planet is set to repeatedly break records for the warmest days, and that the world cannot afford to fail in the fight against climate change.

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“We consider a Europe with dead ecosystems to be a non-Europe” – Teresa Ribera, Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge

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Pollution in the oceans

In the second working session – ‘From the source to the sea. Measures to reduce marine litter’ – the Council discussed this pressing problem, which affects 88% of the species living in the oceans. Plastic pollution in the oceans is another key issue for the Spanish presidency, given the role of marine waters as a reservoir in defending against climate change and an essential carbon sink.

The process of pollution that has been accumulating over decades, especially with the presence of plastics, means not only the deterioration of the waters themselves, but also a risk for the preservation of marine biodiversity and for a space that generates food for more than 2 billion people on the planet.

In this context, the informal ministerial meeting in Valladolid served to discuss progress with the international negotiations on ocean protection and the prevention of plastic waste.

The European Commissioner described the pollution situation in the seas as a total disaster and called for practical solutions to reduce this harm, with the priority of establishing binding obligations for EU countries throughout the life cycle of plastics.

The integration of renewable energies

At the third working session, the ministers also discussed the need to make the preservation of biodiversity compatible with the capacity to promote a higher level of penetration of renewable energies in the electricity generation system at a European level.

The Spanish presidency is aware that the development of these new energies must coexist with traditional activities in the environment and with the preservation of biodiversity, species and spaces in the EU as a whole.

Press conference by Teresa Ribera and Virginijus Sinkevičius.

Ribera stressed that Europe’s progress is based on reconciling prosperity with respect for environmental limits, while Sinkevicius supported the holistic approach proposed by the Spanish presidency, which considers nature as the main source of inspiration and knowledge to propose solutions based on the environment itself.

The environment meeting kicked off the programme of informal ministerial meetings of the Spanish presidency of the Council.

Tomorrow, the EU Environment and Energy ministers will share joint working sessions, focusing on the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), which will take place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023.

The informal meeting will continue until Wednesday, when energy ministers will discuss the challenges of achieving an integrated and digitised internal energy market, taking on interconnections, demand-side management and storage.

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