German industry calls for greener EU policy after Bundestag elections

German industry wants to operate more sustainably. To this end, the new German government is to set the right framework conditions at EU level. [Evoque Arte | Shutterstock]

They had no time to lose: A good six months before the German parliamentary elections, the Federation of German Industries (BDI) published its demands to the new government. In the Europe chapter, the focus on climate stands out, EURACTIV Germany reports.

The BDI is positioning itself as strongly pro-European. Right at the beginning of its list of demands, it emphasises its own importance in European integration, writing “There will only be a strong Europe with a strong industry.”

Europe is “the home of German industry,” BDI continues, saying major global challenges require a European solution, and calling for a unified EU in order to stand up to the two major global economic powerhouses: the US and China.

Here, too, industry plays a decisive role, BDI argues. “A strong and innovative industry is a prerequisite for Europe to be able to shape global issues of the future, such as climate change or digitalisation, with its own technologies and concepts on an equal footing with the United States and China,” writes the business association.

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Climate protection only with economic considerations

The BDI breaks down its vision for Europe in 23 points. One of the key points is the call for an industrial strategy by 2030, parallel to the climate strategy, which envisions European climate neutrality by 2050. Climate protection must be reconciled with economic goals, such as competitiveness and employment, the BDI says. Only then will the “green transformation” not only succeed, but also “find imitators in other parts of the world.”

In concrete terms, this means enabling private investment in low-carbon technologies, reducing emissions in the mobility sector, and developing an export strategy for renewable energies. Hydrogen should also be promoted. Externally, Europe should pursue an “active European climate diplomacy.”

The CDU welcomes this push. “I support the BDI’s call for the updated EU industrial strategy announced for the end of April to be accompanied by a concrete plan of action,” said Katja Leikert, deputy chair of the CDU parliamentary group. The elements listed by the German industry association are “important core elements” for this, she said.

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Greens: Contention on trade policy

There is also praise from the Greens. “German industry has long recognised that there is a future only for those who face up to environmental, social and digital challenges. In this respect, I am not surprised by the association’s partly progressive demands,” Dieter Janecek, spokesman for industrial policy in the party’s parliamentary group, told EURACTIV.

However, “on the point of trade policy, there is perhaps a bone of contention between the BDI and us in one place or another,” said Janecek.

BDI agrees with the Greens in saying that trade agreements should “focus not only on economic but also on social and ecological sustainability and the enforcement of human rights.” However, it also underlines that trade deals must not be “overloaded” in this respect.

“By adopting a blockade attitude and making excessive demands” on Europe’s trading partners, “the ability to act and ultimately any influence will be lost,” the BDI warned.

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Janecek disputes this point, saying: “What is named there as ‘excessive demands’ is essential for us – such as real climate protection targets or the important precautionary principle.”

Both praise and blame also come from the SPD. “The strong commitment of German industry to the goal of climate neutrality is an important signal with which industry could provide decisive impetus for the socio-ecological transformation in Germany and in Europe,” said Timon Gremmels, SPD member on the Bundestag’s industry committee.

However, he also sees a need for improvement in the area of renewable energies. Here, “the BDI would have to speak out even more clearly in favor of an ambitious expansion,” he told EURACTIV. In its list of demands, the association calls for a “faster and more cost-efficient expansion.”

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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