Adaptation to climate risks, a just transition and the circular economy are at the heart of discussions between Environment Ministers in Brussels

Autorius: © Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU

Family photo

European Environment and Climate Ministers met in Brussels on Monday 15 and Tuesday 16 January for an informal ministerial meeting to launch the work of the EU Council's Environment configuration under the Belgian presidency. Monday's discussions focused on the question of preparing for the risks associated with climate change and the challenges of a just transition. The ministers also exchanged views on the conditions needed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. On Tuesday, the agenda centred on the circular economy and the issue of resource management.

Simonas Gentvilas, Minister for the Environment, highlighted that climate change adaptation issues are also relevant for Lithuania.

"Last year, early frosts, severe droughts, and other extreme events caused damage. Summer hailstorms in five municipalities destroyed crops, residential and farm buildings, and grain storage facilities. Although climate change adaptation solutions are costly, we still have to implement them: eight Lithuanian cities have already joined the EC Adaptation Mission, and we will assist six of them in developing adaptation plans," the Minister stated during the meeting.

According to Mr. Gentvilas, the EU must ensure attention is paid to adaptation in the most vulnerable sectors - agriculture, infrastructure, and buildings. Knowledge of individual risks alone will not help countries adapt properly to climate change.

Regarding Lithuania's circular economy and sustainability, the Minister emphasized that EU policy must promote innovative business models, such as a shift from selling goods to providing services. This approach ensures the sustainability of the product and its renewal.

"The deposit return system, in place in Lithuania since 2016, contributes to recycling and the development of the circular economy: 90% of beverage cans and plastic bottles are collected and recycled. Food waste has also been sorted in Lithuania since the New Year and will be used to produce biogas," the Minister stated about the country's examples.

EU Environment Ministers also discussed the Just Transition Mechanism, designed to achieve a climate-neutral economy while mitigating social and economic impacts.

"Lithuania provides 100% support for the payment of credit for renovated housing and the interest on renovated housing for residents receiving a heating allowance. Additionally, vulnerable households are reimbursed for the costs of preparing and maintaining the renovation project, meaning low-income households bear no costs for the renovation," Gentvilas explained.

The Minister emphasized the need to convince people that the European Green Deal is beneficial for them. For instance, the €6 billion spent on imported electricity, oil, gas, and coal can remain in Lithuania by increasing energy efficiency, developing wind and solar energy, and creating new jobs. Furthermore, green projects will ensure energy security and independence.

Regarding the Just Transition Mechanism, Mr. Gentvilas stressed that sustainable investment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all economic sectors is crucial, and decarbonization should not be equated with deindustrialization.

"We should not be naive about the fact that this process will not cost businesses anything, but politicians must ensure that this support is targeted at both industry and individuals," the Minister concluded.

Information of Belgian presidency Council of the European Union and Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania