The Petersberg Climate Dialogue opened on Monday (27 April) with an appeal to place climate protection at the centre of economic recovery. Yet, it remains to be seen how much ambition Germany will show in this respect. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) will give an eagerly awaited speech on this subject on Tuesday. EURACTIV Germany reports.
“The pandemic not only changes the way we communicate but also what we talk about. The question of how the international community organises restarting the economy is crucial for climate protection,” Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) said in her opening speech.
“Unlike the coronavirus, we already know the vaccines against the climate crisis. They are available, affordable and make our lives better.” Therefore, the coming economic stimulus packages should be designed with climate protection in mind, she stressed.
The Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which Germany has organised every spring since the failure of the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, is the first major international climate meeting of the year. According to the environment ministry, the main focus is on how the global community can emerge from the current pandemic in a more crisis-proof and climate-friendly manner.
This year’s event, co-chaired by UK Energy Minister Alok Sharma, brings together some thirty ministers, including from China, India and Japan, as well as representatives of small island states that are particularly hard hit by climate change.
For the first time, there will also be an exchange with non-state actors such as private companies, trade unions, NGOs, scientific experts and cities.
A decisive meeting for climate diplomacy
The Dialogue is of particular importance this year as COP26, originally scheduled for November, has been postponed to an unknown date in 2021 due to the coronavirus.
At the summit, the EU was set to announce its intention to raise its current climate target for 2030. Under the Paris Accord, governments promised to do so every five years, taking into account the latest scientific findings. However, current commitments are not enough to keep global warming below 2°C.
Schulze explicitly welcomed the European Commission’s decision to increase the EU’s climate target from the current 40% reduction in emissions to 50 or 55%. However, she said, the German government has not yet agreed on which of the two figures it would support.
The Commission is currently conducting a public consultation, looking to propose a new target in September. Schulze said that Germany would work to ensure that the timetable of the Paris Agreement was adhered to despite the pandemic.
Until further notice, the next key date for international commitments on climate change will remain the EU-China Summit, set to take place in Leipzig from 13 to 15 September. If the European Union announces a renewed climate target in time, it could use this opportunity to draw China, the world’s largest emitter, into its wake.
Germany in a home-grown crisis for renewables
But Germany has still not submitted its national climate plan, due at the end of 2019, and is holding up the Commission process to reach a new climate target
Only three other countries – Romania, Ireland and Luxembourg – have not submitted their plans yet.
This increases the pressure on the German EU Council Presidency, which will start in July, to conclude the decision on the new climate target with all 27 member states in time.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is already casting its shadow over the German Presidency, as German EU Ambassador Michael Clauß recently wrote to the Chancellery. Issues such as the Green Deal would probably “inevitably be overshadowed or completely pushed into the background.”
Even within Germany, there is currently little to be seen of climate ambition. The climate target for 2020 has only been reached thanks to the pandemic, and the expansion of renewable energies is also in deep crisis.
The solar industry fears the loss of tens of thousands of jobs if large solar plants lose their entitlement to state subsidies due to the solar cap of 52 GW that will soon be reached. Although the governing parties want to lift the cap, the centre-right CDU and CSU insist that this can only be done in conjunction with a decision on new distance rules for wind turbines.
Even on this issue, there is a stalemate in the government and the bill is stuck in a working group in the Bundestag.
Private sector appeal without concrete details
At the start of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, 68 German companies sent an appeal to the government as part of the Stiftung 2° initiative they initiated. In it, they call for the ambitious implementation of the Green Deal and “ambitious climate targets for all countries in accordance with the Paris Climate Protection Treaty.”
The participating companies represent all sectors, including the chemical industry, mechanical and vehicle engineering, the financial sector, construction and mobility. Together, they employ almost one million people in Germany, more than three million people worldwide and have a global turnover of about one trillion euros.
Like Schulze’s speech today, however, the appeal does not contain any concrete details of a necessary climate target for 2030.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]