Franco-German tandem under pressure to lead climate action

The Franco-German tandem has often led EU policy. But on climate action it would be a first. [Julien de Rosa/EPA]

French and German NGOs have asked Brune Poirson and Jochen Flasbarth – state secretaries for the environment in France and Germany, respectively – to make the tandem “the engine of an ambitious European climate policy.”

The letter, jointly drafted by the French umbrella organisation Reseau Action Climat and its German counterpart Deutscher Naturschutzring, and signed by 18 NGOs including WWF and Oxfam, will be presented to the officials during an event held at the annual UN climate conference, COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

Upping ambitions

The EU’s climate and energy framework currently aims to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 (compared with 1990 levels).

However independent assessments judge this insufficient: “The EU’s present 2030 target represents only a slight increase in the rate of climate action compared to the preceding quarter-century at exactly the time when there needs to be a significant acceleration in order to achieve the necessary decarbonisation by mid-century”, writes Climate Action Tracker.

NGOs are asking France and Germany to “push and support the European Commission to come up with its first draft an EU long-term climate strategy within the next 13 months, in time for the 2018 Talanoa dialogue at COP24.”

At COP24 – to be held in Warsaw in December 2018 – signatories to the Paris Agreement will start reviewing their climate commitments before the agreement enters into force in 2020.

Streamlining climate policy

NGOs also criticised the EU’s lack of ambition on its emission trading scheme (ETS).

On 9 November, the EU produced a proposal for the future of the ETS, a cap-and-trade system where countries can buy and sell emission permits, which Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete saluted as “robust”.

But environment advocates criticised the proposal as weak because the abundance of permits has brought down their price, making the scheme ineffective, and condemn the EU for giving in to pressure from coal-burning member states.

Emissions trading deal fails to impress

EU negotiators from member states and the institutions reached a compromise on an Emissions Trading System (ETS) reform early on Thursday (9 November). But green groups have criticised the deal for ditching flagship climate policy status for a fossil fuel subsidy.

This is why NGOs are asking for regional carbon-price floors, hoping to raise the price of carbon emissions.

Climate action, the letter’s signatories insisted, should be streamlined throughout the EU’s policy areas – including the future common agricultural policy, transport policy, and in the EU budget.

They demanded that all EU investments are checked against climate targets and called on European institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

Waiting for Berlin

Paris and Berlin are natural allies but whereas French President Emmanuel Macron has shown interest in leading climate action at a global level – by hosting a climate summit in Paris in December – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is currently in talks with the German Green Party to form a new government.

A climate summit in Paris to compensate for the lack of European ambition

The French summit aimed at regrouping and bolstering climate ambition, two years to the day after the finale of the COP21, is gradually taking shape. EURACTIV France reports.

Last week media reports suggested the Greens are willing to drop a coal phase-out and a ban on combustion engines, two key elements of their programme, to enter the cabinet. A decision that attracted criticism from their base supporters.

Climate and energy policy could decide next German government

Climate and energy policy could emerge as a make-or-break topic in Germany’s coalition negotiations, after Sunday’s election result put Angela Merkel’s Conservatives on a path to forming a government with the Liberal and Green parties.

Kai Niebert, president of German environmental umbrella organisation Deutscher Naturschutzring (German League for Nature and Environment) told EURACTIV.com:

“A newly formed German government needs to join France and the Netherlands in their support for increasing ambition – and it needs to do it soon. But climate policy is not only about targets. We need to ensure that after 2020 no European money is spent on funding fossil energies but rather used to support communities and rural areas in a just transition.”

German MEP Rebecca Harms (Greens) also spoke to EURACTIV and said: “The EU is not on track and stronger leadership of Germany and France would be crucial to improve the EU’s climate effort and to reinstall European climate leadership. ”

“We need to increase our climate ambition for 2030 when it comes to emissions reductions, increase of renewable energy production and efficiency gains. But also the proposal for CO2 reductions in the car fleet needs to be improved considerably. The transport sector needs to contribute to our climate effort if we are to limit warming to well below 2 degrees”, the MEP said.

French Green MEP Yannick Jadot, speaking to EURACTIV, hoped that Emmanuel Macron’s presidency could be an opportunity to strengthen climate fight in Europe: “We have to fill the gap that still exists between climate diplomacy, which is apparently efficient, and climate actual action, which is widely insufficient. Europe has to take its leadership back on fight against climate change, with clear, strong targets at a European and a national scale, and the willingness to inspire other stakeholders.”

Germany struggles with coal phase-out as COP23 kicks off in Bonn

Germany’s Neurath coal power plant ranks second in the EU in terms of both installed capacity and CO2 emissions. The newest units of the lignite-powered facility are expected to operate until 2055, illustrating the difficulty of phasing out coal power entirely. EURACTIV Slovakia reports.