Energy Taxes (EU)

On the 5th December, the relevant Council of the EU (government ministers of the EU) adopted conclusions of the European Commission on the EU energy taxation framework. The Council Conclusions on energy taxation are here.

The Conclusions are a response to the European Council’s call to advance work on the conditions, incentives and enabling framework to ensure a transition to a climate-neutral EU, in line with the Paris Agreement. The aim is to contribute to the policy objectives and measures to achieve the environmental, energy and climate targets for 2030, while preserving European competitiveness, and respecting member states’ rights to decide on their own energy mix.  

The energy taxation directive adopted in 2003 identifies energy products subject to harmonised rules for excise duties, sets minimum levels of taxation and lays down conditions for applying tax exemptions and reductions, ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market.

The EU now has a new regulatory framework and policy objectives in the area of climate and energy.

The Council Conclusions call on the Commission to analyse and evaluate possible options for a possible revision of the energy taxation directive. The Commission is invited to give particular consideration to the scope of the directive, minimum rates and specific tax reductions and exemptions.

In addition the Conclusions call on the Commission to update provisions, as appropriate, in order to ensure that they are practicable and provide greater certainty and clarity in its implementation, taking notably into consideration:

• the treatment of biofuels and other alternative fuels,

• the applicability of control and movement provisions to certain products, such as treatment of lubricants and designer fuels,

• new energy products and technologies,

• relevant sectors, such as aviation, taking into account their specificities and existing exemptions and international dimension,

• impacts on government revenues,

• state aid processes and rules.

The Council highlights the importance of fully assessing its proposals in terms of their economic, social and environmental costs and benefits and their implications for competitiveness, connectivity, employment and sustainable economic growth, particularly for sectors most exposed to international competition.

Pesticides (EU)

Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 is the governing EU Law on the placing of plant protection products (pesticides and herbicides) on the European market – the PPP Regulation.

This is a useful Q&A document (2015) about the PPP Regulation – here.

A zonal system of authorisation operates in the EU to enable a harmonised and efficient system to operate.

The EU is divided into 3 zones; North, Central and South. EU countries assess applications on behalf of other countries in their zone and sometimes on behalf of all zones.

The PPP Regulation sets out the requirements, procedure and timeframes for authorisation of Plant Protection Products (PPPs).

Applicants, EU countries, the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) can be involved in the process of authorisation.

There are different types of application that can be submitted depending on the intended use of the PPP, the Member State(s) for which the PPP is required and the regulatory status of any existing authorisations.

Authorisations usually are time-limited and therefore come up again for review. The relevant EU body for the whole EU is the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF).

In March 2019, the non-renewal of the fungicide active substance chlorothalonil came up for review at SCoPAFF, and the decision was not to renew.

In December 2019, the non-renewal of two organophosphate active substances chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl came up for review at SCoPAFF, and the decision is not to renew (this decision is not yet published).

This means products containing the above active substances may not circulate in the European market, stocks may be used up for a short time, determined by the EU authorisation document that is issued for the active substance.

Brexit : as an EU Regulation, the PPP Regulation is adopted in the UK as Retained EU Law. Enacted Brexit Law (in force from Exit day) makes changes to the PPP Regulation to enable it to stand alone within the UK statute base.

DEFRA has made no announcements re reversing EU bans.

Carcinogens (EU)

2019 saw the second and third revisions of the European Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive Annex III (the list of substances for which exposure limits apply) agreed. I blog posted about the changes a while back, check the category Chemicals.

Member states have until dates in 2021 to implement the revisions in national law.

Ireland has now updated its local law, and Email Alerts to subscribers with Ireland (ROI) systems will see details in their November & December Email Alert dispatching tomorrow. Law Checklists are also being updated.

Subscribers with other EU26 countries in their systems will see details in their next 6-month Email Alerts. Law Checklists are being updated now.

Subscribers with UK nations in their systems will see advisory details in their January 2020 Email Alerts dispatching at the end of January 2020. UK Law Checklists will be updated ONLY if UK national law is updated. Note : UK includes Northern Ireland.

Brexit : since these revisions were agreed before the Exit day, it is expected (but not confirmed) that they will be applied in UK national law. But as a Directive, the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive is not a Retained EU Law, and there are no Brexit Laws applicable.

European Green Deal (EU)

11 December will see the incoming Commissioner (European Commission) for the Green Deal present a draft of a new environmental law (a new climate EU Law, part of the European Green Deal) to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) ahead of the 12/13 December Council summit.

European watchers have seen a draft version of the European Green Deal (also known as “Green New Deal”) – it comprises a summary of an early draft proposal – marked “for internal use only” – that was circulated to EU countries’ national representations in Brussels in order to get some feedback. European watchers describe the draft document as more like a shopping list, filled with numerous bullet points stacked under a series of headlines.

First in the list (in the draft European Green Deal document) is Europe’s objective of reaching climate neutrality, to be achieved by a European ‘Climate Law’ enshrining the 2050 climate neutrality objective, to be submitted by March 2020.

The European Commission 2050 long-term strategy is here.

And by October 2020, the draft says, the European Commission “will present a comprehensive plan on how to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030 to at least 50% and towards 55%”.

The European Commission 2030 climate & energy framework is here.

Credit Euractiv for the text below in italics that gives other details –

Further down, the Commission promises “mainstreaming sustainability” into all policies, by adopting “a green oath: ‘do no harm’”. In practice, Brussels will seek to eliminate “incoherent legislation that reduces the effectiveness in delivering the Green Deal”.

This includes financial aspects with a proposal to “screen and benchmark green budgeting practices” both at EU and national level. An “action plan on green financing” will be submitted in June 2020 in this regard. A review of “state aid guidelines for environment and energy” is also on the agenda.

Other widely-anticipated initiatives include a proposal to revise the Energy Taxation Directive with a view to “align it” with Europe’s climate ambitions. And while the Commission wants to “pursue efforts” to scrap the unanimity rule on taxation, there is no mention of the announced carbon border tax meant to protect industries like steelmaking from dumped Chinese imports.

Under the “zero-emission nobility” heading, the Commission plans to extend the EU’ cap-and-trade scheme for carbon emissions, to the maritime sector and reduce the amount of free pollution credits allocated to airlines.

Brussels will also “assess the possibility of including road transport emissions” in the scheme, a proposal which has long been resisted by environmental groups. And it plans to “withdraw and resubmit” proposals on the Eurovignette directive to charge heavy-duty trucks on European roads, a proposal which is currently stuck with EU member states in the Council of Ministers.

Under the ecosystem and biodiversity preservation heading, the Commission proposes to “review all existing legislation affecting agriculture and forestry to ensure it is in line with renewed climate and biodiversity ambition”.

And under the “farm to fork” strategy, the EU executive intends to adopt “a toolbox for alternatives to pesticides” and reform food information rules “to improve consumers’ information”.

Finally, the Commission aims to review air, water and chemicals legislation with a view to “eliminating all sources of pollution.”

Further Blog posts will be issued in due course on the various matters. Please look out for them.