Informal Environment Council
Ministers to discuss water and adaptation to climate change
By Anne Eckstein | Thursday 05 July 2012
Water and climate change are the two subjects on the agenda of the informal meeting of the member states’ environment ministers, who will gather in Nicosia, Cyprus, on 7-8 July. They will answer a set of questions submitted by the Presidency with a view to providing guidance for the European Commission, which is slated to present next autumn a ‘blueprint’ (communication) to safeguard Europe’s water resources and a communication proposing an EU strategy to finance adaptation to climate change.
The first working session, on 7 July, will focus on water, with the goal of contributing to drafting of the ‘blueprint’. To launch the debate, the Presidency has presented a document that gives an overview of the situation. The ‘fitness check’ on implementation of water policy and the assessment of river basin management plans carried out by the Commission in 2010-2012 brought to light that, while the directive’s objectives (achieving sound environmental status for water by 2015) will probably not be achieved, neither the adequacy of existing legislation, based on the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC, nor its consistency with the rest of environment policy is called into question. The weaknesses stem from its implementation and conflicts of interest between water policy and the objectives of certain other EU policies.
Are additional measures needed as a result, and if so, what measures? The ‘blueprint’ will have to answer these questions by proposing options, an agenda and a calendar for the EU’s water policy to 2020 (in the framework of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy) and a longer-term approach (to 2050). The Commission, taking national differences on board, admits that there cannot be a single solution: the ‘blueprint’ should therefore be designed as a ‘toolbox’ from which member states can take the instruments they find best suited to attaining their objectives.
The Presidency has submitted three questions to member states: 1. What action should the EU take as a priority to improve implementation of water policy and reduce the potential for conflicts with the objectives of other policies? 2. How can the uptake of water efficiency and resilience measures be improved? 3. How can the EU further support the use of economic instruments for better water management?
The debate on adaptation to climate change (8 July) will focus on the issue of financing. The discussion is meant to contribute to development of the EU strategy for adaptation to climate change. Its conclusions will be presented to the bodies in charge of other EU policies – cohesion, water, energy, transport, agriculture, research and innovation - in which adaptation could be mainstreamed. As a basis for discussion, the Presidency proposes a document that identifies possible sources of finance: public funds (multiannual financial framework and Life+ at EU level), intervention by financial institutions, such as the European Investment Bank, role of the private sector and capacity of the EU and member states to mobilise private investors, public-private partnerships (PPP) and the role of insurance, which could pool resources with public funds to cover very high risks.
The member states will be answering three questions: 1. How could the mainstreaming of adaptation into all EU funds, Life+ and other instruments be used to trigger adaptation actions from a member state perspective? 2. How could governments mobilise and facilitate private sector involvement in financing adaptation actions, in particular financial institutions, PPPs and insurers? 3. Which framework would member states consider most appropriate for sharing information on their adaptation strategies, including the financing of adaptation?