In Estonia, EU environment ministers discussed eco-innovation, circular economy and climate protection

In Estonia, EU environment ministers discussed eco-innovation, circular economy and climate protection

At an informal meeting in Tallinn, EU-28 environment ministers discussed, for example, eco-innovation as a key enabler of the transition to a circular economy, or climate protection. The Czech Republic was represented by Vladislav Smrž, Deputy Minister of the Environment.

In the first part of the agenda, the ministers discussed eco-innovation which should enable a gradual transition of the European Union to the circular economy, and the important role to be played in this process by the nongovernmental sector, particularly as regards the implementation of specific measures and exchange of good - and bad - experience. There was also consensus on the need to strengthen the role of state administration at the regional and local level and its support by governments that should make it possible to harmonise the steps taken by EU Member States.

"Introducing innovation should go hand in hand with increasing consumer awareness, so that consumer behaviour and attitude towards the environment improves. However, it must be also economically rational and comfortable for the consumers," Deputy Smrž emphasised the conditions necessary for the viability of eco-innovation in relation to the transition to the circular economy. He also stressed the reduction of landfilling as a long-term priority of the Czech Republic.

"Landfilling in the 21st century is immoral and landfills are environmental time bombs which will, over time, release hazardous substances. Moreover, it is in direct conflict with the basic principles of the circular economy and under no circumstances can we tolerate it in parallel with the development of innovative technologies and approaches to waste management," Deputy Smrž added.

Regarding plastics that are a frequently used material, the Czech Republic appreciates that they are marked as a priority material flow in the Circular Economy Action Plan. Also the new EU strategy for the management of plastics, which the European Commission is preparing to issue in the autumn of this year, is important for the Czech Republic. "Following the previous informal meeting in Valletta, I would like to emphasize that the strategy for plastics should also represent the EU contribution to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal No 14, because plastics in the oceans and the environment in general are becoming a major global problem,” Deputy Smrž pointed out the global importance of the issue. The Czech Republic also welcomes the European Commission's initiative to harmonize waste and chemicals policies. "Ensuring the recycling cycle of materials and products without the release of toxic substances is necessary, not only environmentally, but also in terms of the health of end consumers," said Vladislav Smrž. Regarding the tools and programmes supporting the introduction of eco-innovations and circular economy, according to him it is necessary to ensure an easy and simple access to them for SMEs. It is especially important that these instruments are not too demanding in terms of administration.

The ministers focused on eco-innovation even when discussing the issue of smart cities. "A comprehensive and long-term approach should be applied in developing and planning smart cities. Innovation is important and drives us forward, but the mere introduction of a single innovative technology does not make the whole city smart. Anyway, it's great that in the Czech Republic we already have cities and even regions that apply this approach," said Deputy Smrž. He believes that the development of smart cities should have a strong environmental dimension and bring benefit to all their citizens, not just those who use the latest technology.

Another important topic of the informal meeting of the environment ministers was the efficient implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate protection. In the current difficult geopolitical situation, the Czech Republic considers it important to focus on the preparation and subsequent implementation of the rules of the Paris Agreement, which should be adopted in 2018 in Katowice. The EU must also focus on cooperation with other partners, including, next to the major world economies, also small island states directly affected by climate change. The ministers focused on actions at national level and in the EU. "It is necessary to make progress in the negotiations and especially in the subsequent implementation of European regulations implementing the framework for climate and energy up to 2030, including the revision of the EU directive on the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS)," Deputy Smrž summed up the most important currently discussed elements of the European law. The agenda also included discussion on the US intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement [1]. "It's an unfortunate decision," Deputy Smrž commented the situation, adding that "the EU should fully support the American companies, cities and local communities that are active in global efforts to protect the climate," Deputy Smrž also informed the EU Member States on the progress in ratifying the Paris Agreement by the Czech Republic. The completion of the ratification process will allow the Czech Republic to follow other EU Member States and become a full party to the Agreement.

Notes:

[1] The US President Donald Trump announced on 1 June 2017 that the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement as he promised in his election campaign in 2016.

For more information
Jana Taušová
Deputy Spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment
Tel.: +420 267 122 944 nebo +420 739 242 379
E-mail: tiskove@mzp.cz