Note: The following press release was issued by the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. To access the original article, click here. 

26.04.2017

Dr Jose’ Herrera chairs Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers in Valletta

The Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers was held between the 25th and 26th of April under the Maltese Presidency and chaired by the Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, Dr Jose’ Herrera.

Over the course of two days, Environment and Climate Ministers from the EU28 as well as Environment Ministers from EFTA and EU Candidate Countries discussed some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing Europe in the 21st Century namely climate change adaptation, the interface between climate and environment policy, marine litter and our transition towards a circular economy.

The first day of the Informal Meeting saw Ministers discussing how to move forward with climate change adaptation plans in the post Paris Agreement era. Ministers exchanged views on climate change adaptation reinforcing the view that adaptation and mitigation are intrinsically linked and that they are different sides of the same coin. The Ministers also discussed how taking action to adapt to climate change can also serve as an economic opportunity, whilst recognising as a pressing concern the here and now if we are to meet our political and legal obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Minister Herrera stated that Paris had elevated climate change adaptation to the same level of importance as mitigation, hence a priority which should not be downplayed but to be given equal focus as they move forward with implementing the Paris Agreement. The cost of doing nothing is higher than the investment costs required to adapt to climate change, therefore climate adaptation action is expected and inevitable.

The second session of the morning transitioned to examine the interface between climate and environment policy in the context of our marine environment. The impact of climate and environmental policies on our marine environment is of upmost importance given the socio- economic realities of the marine environment. Policies to protect, enhance and conserve our marine environment are crucial to ensure its continuing delivery of ecosystem services for current and future generations.

The final session of the Informal Meeting was held on the morning of 26th April. During this Session, Minister Herrera invited Ministers to exchange views on how, as European Environment Ministers, they could help drive forward the circular economy. The focus of the exchange centred on the challenge of marine litter as a most visible sign of a resource inefficient economy. Ministers discussed how the EU Commission’s upcoming Plastics Strategy, due to be published later in 2017, can help address marine litter through examining how we use, manage and treat plastic. Plastic is the major component of marine litter and as such addressing the issue at source, particularly land based sources which contribute to the majority of such litter, is critical to addressing the challenge of tackling marine litter in the environment.

“I trust that the Malta discussion can act as another catalyst to move forward and integrate climate adaptation action into the workings of our governments so as to climate-proof our actions to contribute to a more resilient and a sustainable future both for today’s generation and the future” stated Dr Herrera.