Opening remarks by Commissioners Sinkevičius and Hoekstra at the Environment Council press conference

Commissioner Sinkevičius in charge of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries

Good evening everybody,

So summarising a long speech – that was a good day. That was a good day and this was definitely a good mandate.

And I am very thankful, first of all, to the Belgian presidency for running a very productive Council today, and for their constructive attitude to these extremely important matters.

More than anything, we saw today how the Green Deal is still very much alive. When we adopted the Deal back in 2019, it was the most ambitious environmental package Europe had ever seen. Many people have doubted the ability to deliver. I actually remember my last press conference back in Brussels. After the Council, many doubted if we will come across the finish line on the Nature Restoration Law.

And I am truly proud that on the huge majority of files we have proved the critics wrong, and as we saw today, the work continues to deliver the rest.

Of course, let me start by expressing my strong satisfaction for the final adoption of the Nature Restoration Law. As you know, this has been a long journey. As we are in the Euros now, we played some extra times even so if we did not want to. But I think that at the end of the day we have managed to win. And I hope that political, ideological battles are over now. And we will move on into the implementation of this landmark agreement by working closely together with the Member States.

This is a landmark law, the first law on nature after over 30 years, a law that we very much need to reverse the dramatic biodiversity crisis which is accelerating at an unprecedented pace and which is also slowing down and hindering our efforts to address the climate crisis. So, healthy nature is our best ally in the fight against climate change and in our efforts towards adaptation. 

This is a law strongly supported by citizens, scientists, NGOs, industry, the financial sector, and many other stakeholders, which have mobilised and stressed how much this is important for their future.

This is a law that will also confirm to our international partners our very clear signal that the EU is serious about its international commitments on biodiversity, and will hopefully inspire others to follow.


I am truly proud that we are going to Colombia not empty handed.

The Commission is now very much looking forward to start implementation with the Member States, and all the communities and stakeholders involved. 

We also made very good progress on three outstanding files, where the Council adopted its mandate for trilogues, opening the path for their swift finalization together with the new Parliament.

The first of these was the targeted revision of the Waste Framework Directive, with the focus on food waste and textiles. The Presidency text is well balanced, and very much preserves the spirit of the Commission proposal. On the textiles part, I reminded ministers of the importance of avoiding an unfair administrative burden on small enterprises, or accidentally penalizing the reuse sector. The Commission fully agrees with the need to tackle fast fashion, but we still need a bit more data on how to do that most effectively.

The Commission reserves its position at this stage, but I remain very optimistic about a swift finalisation of the text.

The second major point on the agenda was the Commission's Green Claims proposal, another deliverable under the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Roadmap. It is an important element in that plan, because it empowers consumers, it gives them the confidence they need to buy green products.

The presidency text contains many improvements, clarifying the scope and simplifying enforcement for the competent authorities. But here too I reminded the ministers of the need to avoid unnecessary complications, and to avoid penalizing micro-enterprises with excessive paperwork.  I also recalled the need for effective sanctions if we want the end result to bring noticeable improvements. And the Commission will of course support the Council and the Parliament by any means as we move towards finalization.

The third major environmental file this morning was the Commission proposal on Soil Monitoring, which we presented last July. Soil is currently the one big gap in our nature protection legislation, so it is reassuring to see the broad support to the proposal.

I recalled the role of soil that plays in mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change, safeguarding human health and improving food security. I welcomed the text presented by the Presidency, although I have regretted that the sustainable soil management principles were made voluntary, and the deletion of the soil health certification – that could incentivise and reward landowners for taking good care of their soil.

We really have a lot to gain from this Directive, so the Commission will be happy to keep working with the Council and the Parliament towards to a positive outcome as early as possible.

Those were the very positive points of today's discussion – I should add the Council conclusions on the 8th Environmental Action Programme to that, which are timely and very welcome.

So, summarising – it was truly a good day.


Commissioner Hoekstra, in charge of Climate Action

Good evening to all,

First of all, I would like to warmly thank Alain and the Belgian Presidency for all the work done in the last six months.

At the last press conference in March, I already commended your efforts and work, with great work on my part of the portfolio.

Let me focus on two important parts of the discussion that will continue to stay with us for the years to come: the 2040 recommended target and how to manage climate risks.

Let me first say a couple of things on 2040. My understanding listening to the Ministers is that there is broad support for an ambitious 2040 target. There is also a broad support for continuing the discussion on the prerequisites that come up with the target, particularly on the angles of competitiveness and just transition, on making sure there is predictability for our citizens and our businesses. This is also to be linked, as many ministers have said, to the financial angle that comes with it.

We need to ensure the best use of public funds to attract the private capital that is necessary to achieve our climate goals. We need to invest in a decarbonised power sector, in clean industrial processes and technologies and in a just transition.

There are many different, innovative possibilities that build on the certainty that comes from setting a clear target and providing a clear price incentive, including the use of the revenues from our emissions trading systems. The social dimension will be borne in mind throughout.

It is up to the next Commission to continue this discussion, but I do feel we had an important and very good conversation today.

This discussion will also help us in shaping the discussion for our new EU Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) ahead of COP30. Up to the next Commission, but I hope we can embark on a general approach before that COP.   

The second discussion during lunch was on climate risk management. I appreciate that many of you would have heard from many Member States that increasingly, this is on their agenda as well, next to mitigation.

The reality simply is that climate change has already been part of our life and will only continue to be part of our life. We simply cannot do just with mitigation.  

We will need to do more on adaptation, on risk management and on making sure we see what is coming. That is clearly something that will be with us going forward.  

I am grateful to the Belgian Presidency for putting this issue on the agenda. This has been the half year where we have done more on this than in the past. One of the clear elements many Member States mentioned is how to deal with the governance, knowing that many of the actions are local and many Member States have knowledge on how to deal with this.

Yet, at the same time, there is clear appetite for sharing best practices and streamlining our approach.

My read was that the exchange reflected a broad recognition of the urgency to step up work on climate resilience. It indicates that there are benefits to working more closely together.

Finally, we also touched upon the Innovation Fund. One of the key objectives of the Innovation Fund auction is to support the creation of a renewable hydrogen market at European level in a cost-efficient manner. This was fully achieved with the awarded bids thanks to competition we managed to generate at EU-level.

Frequent and deep discussions with Member States like we had today are essential to further implement climate action policies in a coordinated manner.

Let me close there. I tremendously appreciated the close collaboration with the Belgian Presidency. I also look forward to work together with the Hungarian Presidency all the way to COP 29, which is just around the corner.

Thank you.