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EU environment and climate ministers: climate crisis and biodiversity loss caused by overconsumption require joint solutions

Publication date 11.7.2019 16.09
Press release
Minister Mikkonen and Commissioner Cañete. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen / Finnish Government

EU environment and climate ministers discussed stepping up global climate action in their informal meeting. The first day of the meeting focused on the EU’s long-term climate strategy and messages to the UN Climate Action Summit to be held in September 2019. The ministers also discussed the EU’s objectives for halting the loss of biodiversity.

The Informal Meeting of Environment/Climate Ministers is being held on 11 and 12 July in Helsinki. In addition to the ministers, Miguel Arias Cañete, 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.

Making Europe’s economy and prosperity sustainable

The ministers noted that climate change and the loss of biodiversity are part of the same sustainability crisis, and therefore call for coherent solutions. Over the next two decades, Europe’s economy and prosperity need to be built on a new, sustainable foundation, which will require significant changes in the production and consumption habits of both people and businesses.

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen, who is chairing the two-day meeting, said: “Europe’s future depends on our ability to find solutions to these challenges. The EU needs to set ambitious climate targets and concrete objectives to halt biodiversity loss. We must have a clear vision of the future to be able to take key decisions on economic reform in the next few years”.

Aiming for ambitious 2050 climate strategy

One of the main objectives of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU is to reach a common understanding within the EU on a long-term climate strategy. Based on the European Council conclusions from June 2019, Finland will take the discussion forward in various Council configurations. The ministers took up the issue in an informal setting at today’s meeting.

“For EU climate policy to be in line with the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, our aim should be net zero emissions, in other words a balance between carbon emissions and sinks by 2050 at the very latest. We had a very open discussion today that will help identify the key obstacles to be cleared to reach agreement by the end of the year. Many countries already support this objective, but a few details still need to be finalised. The transition to a zero-emissions society must be fair, and we must address citizens’ concerns,” minister Mikkonen said.

The ministers stressed that the EU now needs to show global climate leadership more urgently than ever before. The EU is leading by example and has passed its emissions reduction targets into law. It has also embedded climate issues into all policy sectors and its budget.

“What is crucial is that the EU has translated words into action. But we, too, need to do more to stop climate change. During Finland’s Presidency, we intend to hold discussions that will prepare for updating the EU’s emissions reduction targets for 2030. Many member states also hoped that the Commission would prepare an analysis to support this work,” Mikkonen said.

2020 key date for halting loss of biodiversity

Finland’s Presidency will work on preparing the EU’s positions for the 2020 UN climate conference, which is due to set new targets for halting biodiversity loss. During the informal ENVI meeting, the ministers emphasised the EU’s role in leading the way to promote biodiversity. The EU aims to agree ambitious, measurable targets with clear timelines for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

“What we’re doing now simply isn’t enough. To avoid irreversible impacts, we need a swift change of direction. Our discussions strongly highlighted the need to speed up and improve our work to stop the loss of biodiversity. The EU needs to be prepared to review all its actions from the perspective of reinforcing biodiversity. It’s a matter of preserving the foundations of human life,” Mikkonen said.

Cristiana Pașca Palmer, United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, delivered a keynote speech on biodiversity. The ministers will resume their discussion of the EU’s efforts to halt biodiversity loss at next autumn’s Environment Council. The goal is to prepare Council conclusions on the topic before the end of the year.

Finland holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union between 1 July and 31 December 2019. In this capacity, Finland will chair both the formal Council meetings in Brussels or Luxembourg and the informal meetings of ministers held in Finland. The Presidency will host six informal meetings of ministers and a large number of meetings of working groups and experts, all of them at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.


Riikka Yliluoma, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. +358 50 414 1682, [email protected]
Outi Honkatukia, Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, tel. +358 50 341 1758, [email protected] (climate)
Marjo Nummelin, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 40 523 3710, [email protected] (climate)
Marina von Weissenberg, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 250 321, [email protected] (biodiversity)
Riikka Lamminmäki, Head of Communications, tel. +358 50 576 2604, [email protected] (interview requests)