Climate neutral and green Europe has no alternative

By Tomislav Ćorić, Minister of Environment and Energy, Republic of Croatia

As reports and scientific studies show, we are getting critically closer to a tipping point. Response to climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation and its health risks requires urgent action.

This response implies a radical transformation of the EU economy, with a just and prosperous society, representing a completely new paradigm.

Although the first Croatian presidency of the Council comes in the period of the global uncertainty, we see this as an opportunity for further connectedness and unity of the European Union.

Considering the developments in today’s world and in line with the New Strategic Agenda, the Croatian presidency has defined four main priorities:

A Europe that develops, A Europe that connects, A Europe that protects and An influential Europe.

Our plan is to keep climate and environmental objectives high on the EU agenda. During the Croatian Presidency, we have initiated discussions to ensure a Council contribution or concrete response.

This refers especially to Climate Law, Biodiversity strategy and Action plan for circular economy. The Presidency will continue the work on implementing the Paris agreement objectives and promoting a global role of the EU as the leader in low-carbon transition.

The year 2020 should be a turning point for biodiversity. Our objective is to give a momentum for the EU’s global leadership aimed at halting biodiversity loss.

Therefore, we will work on Council Conclusions on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, in order to facilitate discussions in the EU and at international fora and contribute to the preparation of the EU mandate for the biodiversity COP15 in China.

In addition, we will continue discussions on reinforced protection of the marine environment from pollution in the context of the transition to a circular economy.

Our focus will be on a future revision of the Packaging waste directive, further modalities for marine litter prevention as well as the post-2020 implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Moreover, our intention is to ensure policy guidelines of the Council to emphasize the importance of synergies and coherence of air quality policy with other sectoral policies, while avoiding trade-offs, and the need to ensure that new sectoral initiatives under the Green Deal reflect the air quality objectives.

The Croatian Presidency will support a balanced, sustainable and inclusive development of the Union that takes into account the specifics and needs of all Member States.

We will encourage policies that strengthen infrastructural connectivity of the Union and bring its citizens together.

Our priority is the credible and effective EU neighbourhood policy, therefore, we will engage with the Western Balkan countries in discussions to improve the implementation of EU environmental acquis in line with the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, as envisaged in the European Green Deal.

Moreover, the Croatian Presidency will strive for keeping the EU’s leading role on a global scale by promoting European values and interests. This concerns primarily the EU’s ambition to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and set an example for the rest of the world.

In this respect, we will put all our efforts to advance work on Climate Law and will do our best to ensure that the Council submits the EU long-term strategy on greenhouse gas emission reductions to the UNFCCC.

As achieving climate neutrality entails significant financial resources, we will facilitate discussions on financial challenges of the low carbon transition.

The ambition on building a climate neutral and green Europe requires a genuine transition in all sectors, including the energy sector. Through the priority A Europe that connects, we will encourage the further integration of the energy market.

We plan to focus on strengthening the process of energy security through infrastructure and diversification, including renewable and low-carbon energy sources.

The promotion of the role that islands have in the clean energy transition will also be emphasized during Croatian Presidency. We intend to focus on the future Framework, Memorandum of Understanding, based on the Valletta Declaration of Clean Energy for EU Islands.

As Presidency we support the vision of the European Green Deal.

However, we need to carefully evaluate the proposed objectives and measures, taking into account the different circumstances and varying starting points of Member States.

It is absolutely crucial that the EU reaches its ambitious energy and climate targets for 2030, in order to progress on decarbonisation and to make the EU less dependent on energy imports.

Progress can be also achieved through sector integration by looking at our energy system holistically, while creating the stronger links between the electricity, gas, buildings, transport and industry.

In Croatia, we see decarbonisation as an opportunity for our economy and its growth through advanced technologies and innovative policies and a chance to catch up with stronger economies, so we intend to use it.

We especially welcome the path set by the Green Deal for mobilizing the EU industry towards achieving a fully circular and climate neutral economy.

Indeed, this is a great challenge that will require significant investments and additional financing, but climate neutral and green Europe has no alternative.