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European Commission Daily News 11th October

Zero pollution: Commission report shows more needs to be done against water pollution from nitrates

The latest Commission Report on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive (based on data for 2016-2019) warns that nitrates are still causing harmful pollution to water in the EU. Excessive nitrates in water are harmful to both human health and ecosystems, causing oxygen depletion and eutrophication. Where national authorities and farmers have cleaned up waters, it has had a positive impact on drinking water supply and biodiversity, and on the sectors such as fisheries and tourism that depend on them. Nevertheless, excessive fertilisation remains a problem in many parts of the EU. Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, said: “The implementation of the Nitrates Directive over the last 30 years has undoubtedly increased water quality overall in the EU. We also see that real efforts to switch to sustainable methods are paying off. However, the pace of change is not enough to prevent damage to human health and preserve fragile ecosystems. In line with the European Green Deal, more urgent action is now needed to achieve a sustainable agriculture and protect our precious water supply.” Nitrate concentrations have fallen in both surface and groundwater in the EU compared to the situation prior to the adoption of the Nitrates Directive in 1991. However, the new report reveals that little progress has been made over the last decade and nutrient pollution from agriculture is still a serious concern for many Member States. The Commission will act to improve compliance with the Nitrates Directive, which is a prerequisite for reaching the European Green Deal objective of reducing nutrient losses by at least 50% by 2030. More information is in the press release and this Q&A.

Climate Action: EU-China joint press communiqué on the fight against climate change ahead of COP26

Following their second high-level environment and climate dialogue on 27 September 2021, Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China Han Zheng on Sunday reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and a successful outcome of the COP26 in Glasgow. In a joint press release, they stressed the urgency to act immediately, notably in the light of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They also confirmed that that the high-level environment and climate dialogue will continue to be a key platform between the EU and China to enhance actions and bilateral cooperation on environment and in the fight against climate change. During their last meeting, they discussed various aspects of the global climate and biodiversity crises, with a focus on the forthcoming UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow and on COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. More details on the discussion are available here.

State aid: Commission approves €150 million German scheme to support organisers of trade fairs and exhibitions in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has approved a €150 million German scheme to support organisers of fair trades and exhibitions in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The aim of the scheme is to compensate them for the costs of organising such events, scheduled to take place between 1 October 2021 and 30 September 2022, should they be cancelled as a result of restrictive measures in place to limit the spread of the virus. The measure is open to organisers of all sizes active in Germany. The compensation is limited to actual net costs of the cancelled fair or exhibition, that is the costs minus any amount obtained from insurance, or any other source, including subsidies. The aid will take the form of direct grants for up to 80% of the eligible costs. The Commission found that the scheme is in line with Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In particular, (i) the scheme will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak and to the restrictive measures implemented by the German authorities, and (ii) the envisaged compensation will not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is in line with EU State aid rules. More information on the actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64720 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. 

EU leading the ambition for a new agreement for nature and people at UN Biodiversity Summit COP15

The 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) kicks off today. Hosted by China, the first phase takes place virtually from 11 to 15 October 2021 in Kunming, followed by the second phase in spring 2022. The first virtual segment brings together ministers from around the world, to demonstrate their commitment to achieving the 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature and putting it on a path to recovery by 2030. The EU is represented at the virtual conference by Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius. Commissioner Sinkevičius said: “Nature is under unprecedented pressure by the biodiversity and climate crises. At COP15, the EU will highlight this urgency and lead international efforts in halting biodiversity loss. The international community will seek to agree on an ambitious global biodiversity framework with strong monitoring to measure progress on the ground. This is a generational task – we must succeed in offering a liveable and thriving planet to future generations.” To achieve an ambitious global agreement as set out in the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the EU will negotiate for a framework with: ambitious, measurable and time-bound goals, milestones, and targets for all of the world’s ecosystems to be restored, resilient, and adequately protected by 2050; a target to protect at least 30% of world’s land and oceans by 2030; stronger implementation, monitoring and review processes; and operational provisions to mobilise finance. In this context, in September, President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU will double its international biodiversity financing, in particular for the most vulnerable countries. With the European Green Deal, Europe is leading by example, creating pathways for a nature-positive, climate neutral and equitable world. More information is in the news item.

Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis in Italy for G20 Trade Ministers’ meeting

Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis will be in Sorrento, Italy, tomorrow to attend the G20 Trade Ministers’ meeting. This ministerial meeting, organised as part of the G20 Leaders Summit, will be an opportunity for ministers to discuss key issues to ensure a successful and productive 12th WTO Ministerial Conference later this year. The morning session will focus on trade and health, and trade and environmental sustainability. The second session, a working lunch, will focus on services and investment, and micro, small and medium companies’ participation in world trade. The third session will close with an exchange of views on government support and WTO reform. The 2021 G20, under the Italian Presidency, will focus on three broad, interconnected pillars of action: People, Planet, Prosperity

Read the European Commission Daily News in full here.

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