EU Environment ministers meet Helsinki

Ministers start mending 24-4 split on climate policy

11 Jul 2019, 23:40

  DF-Xinhua Report

Photo Finnish government by Viivi Myllylä.

Efforts to restore the ruptured internal cohesion within the European Union on climate change got under way on Thursday as the environment ministers of the European Union (EU) member countries convened in Helsinki.

In June, the EU countries were unable to agree on setting carbon neutrality by 2050 as their goal, with four out of the 28 members disengaging.

Krista Mikkonen, Finnish minister of the environment and climate change, said at a press conference that "all countries understand that we need to do more." She acknowledged that there are "worries" and "we must ascertain that the transition is done in a correct way."   Mikkonen said some areas need more support.

One of the main objectives during Finland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union is to reach a common understanding within the EU on a long-term climate strategy.

Mikkonen described the talks on Thursday as "very open" and said they will help identify the key obstacles to be cleared to reach agreement. "The transition to a zero-emission society must be fair, and we must address citizens' concerns," she noted.

Miguel Arias Canete, European commissioner for climate action and energy, and Karmenu Vella, commissioner for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, also attended the first day of the meeting.


Elina Bardram, head of unit for international and inter-institutional relations in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action, said "we are searching for the conditions that would ensure full support."

According to her, it is only natural that some member states require further assurances in terms of the solidarity mechanisms. "It also involves upskilling the labor force."

She noted that the member states require reassurances about a just transition, appropriate social support structures and financing that will accelerate the transition.

The EU currently uses about two percent of its GDP to finance energy-related infrastructure projects. Bardram said that for the climate change-related transition, the current estimate is that the investment requirement would go up to 2.8 percent per annum. Investment in "brown" energy would have to be reoriented towards green, Bardram noted.

Cristiana Pasca Palmer, United Nations assistant secretary general and executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, delivered a keynote speech on biodiversity.

The press release on the meeting quoted the ministers noting that "climate change and the loss of biodiversity are part of the same sustainability crisis, and therefore call for coherent solutions."

The meeting of the EU member states' environment ministers continues on Friday with a focus on the circular economy.