Spanish EU Presidency must drive key environmental files, Sweden disappoints. Spain is taking on the rotating 6-month Council Presidency of the EU from July, amidst the illegal Russian war in Ukraine and energy and inflation crises creating social hardships across the EU. At the steering wheel, Spain must advance the European Green Deal as a key tool to support the EU’s energy independence, accelerating towards a 100% renewables, zero pollution future and putting in place energy and resource saving measures, while committing to restore nature.
Patrick ten Brink, EEB Secretary General said: “Spain inherits significant legislative and policy responsibilities, carrying on the leadership on files launched by its Presidency predecessors. It forms the penultimate presidency of the Council before the 2024 European Elections at a time where crucial environmental debates are escalating, with regressive voices growing louder and louder. Amidst this pressure, Spain must drive the European Green Deal and ensure files like the REACH Revision, the Nature Restoration Law and the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation sit firmly on the agenda and commit Europe to progressive change that gives hope to the youth and voters as we head towards the European Parliament elections.”
Spain inherits a legislative portfolio that represents a major opportunity to promote transformative change and secure the EU’s resilience, while also investing in a just transition and social justice.
Swedish Presidency fell short of expectations
In the context of the triple biodiversity, pollution and climate crises, the advances under the outgoing Swedish presidency were disappointing. The EEB assessed poor progress across most environmental files, with disappointing performance for health and environment, but with some progress on climate and energy files.
The Nature Restoration Law
The first positive agenda on biodiversity and essential for climate mitigation and adaptation and future agricultural, forestry and fisheries productivity – barely made it through the Council and only after it was weakened. The Swedish Presidency also did not provide leadership in the Council to advance negotiations on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation (SUR) proposal, which had been stalled for much of 2023.
On the Swedish Presidency, ten Brink said: “We recognise that the Swedish Presidency, contrary to expectations, largely upheld the tradition of neutral broker on most files, advancing negotiations without pushing its national agenda in the European position with the exception of forests. Especially when it came to final agreements on the crucial Nature Restoration Law, we noticed an unfortunate push from the Swedish Presidency to delay the agreement at the last hour, which in the end required an additional effort of supportive Member States.”
Little was done on air, water and chemicals pollution, beyond a helpful declaration that the presidency was ready to give time within the Council to the critically important REACH revision on chemicals, whose launch by the Commission has been delayed.
There were missed opportunities to advance on air pollution through the Gothenburg Protocol and the now updated Swedish National Air Pollution Control Programme, required under the National Emissions Ceilings, was delivered.
On climate, several important climate and energy files advanced, with agreements reached on:
– Emission Trading Scheme (ETS and ETS2)
– Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM)
– Social Climate Fund (SCF)
– Renewable Energy Directive (RED)
– Energy Efficiency Directive (EED)
However, agreements often came at the cost of weakened provisions
Combined with the insufficient progress on Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the F-Gas regulation and Energy Taxation Directive (ETD), the weaker measures give scant hope that EU commitments to keeping warming to within 1.5 C will be met. Spain must commit to more ambition.
The EEB also recognises the high level of engagement and commitment of the Minister for Climate and the Environment, Romina Pourmokhtari, which enabled more progress than feared, though unfortunately at the cost of less ambition.
Sweden’s reputation as a country committed to progressive environmental legislation and practice has, unfortunately, suffered.
Every six months at the rotation of the two EU presidencies, the EEB publishes an assessment of the outgoing Presidency and Ten Green Tests for the incoming presidency.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our experts work on climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, air, water, soil, chemical pollution, as well as policies on industry, energy, agriculture, product design and waste prevention. We are also active on overarching issues such as sustainable development, good governance, participatory democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.
We have over 180 members in over 38 countries.