Chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted that the European Green Deal must be the driving force behind Europe’s economic recovery plan. However, Germany has so far bailed out its fossil fuel industry like no other EU member state – and it’s still a long way away from presenting its national climate plan. EURACTIV Germany reports.
In her speech at the 11th session of the Petersberg Dialogue on Tuesday (28 April), Chancellor Merkel reaffirmed her support for raising the EU’s emissions reduction target for 2030 from 40% to 50% or even 55%.
The chancellor also said it was now time to “prove our steadfastness”, because the climate must not be excluded from the economic stimulus packages currently being put together.
Merkel described carbon pricing as an important instrument for achieving the EU’s climate goals, expressing hope that “as many countries as possible will go for it.”
The chancellor also called for the extension of the EU’s emissions trading system (EU ETS) to new sectors. Germany intends to do this for the heating and transport sectors.
Green Deal as a “compass”
A few hours before Merkel’s speech, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen found similar words in a video message, commenting that “if we use the European Green Deal as a ‘compass’, we can turn this crisis into an opportunity.”
Müssen klug investieren, wenn wir die Wirtschaft nach Corona wieder aufbauen. Unser Kompass bleibt der #EUGreenDeal. Er wird unsere Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft verändern und helfen, den Klimawandel anzugehen. Für die Zukunft unseres Planeten und unserer Kinder. #GreenRecovery🌍 pic.twitter.com/moy66PkpUt
— Ursula von der Leyen #UnitedAgainstCoronavirus (@vonderleyen) April 28, 2020
While the coronavirus crisis can perhaps be managed, according to von der Leyen, “climate change is far from being under control.”
Now, with billions of dollars of investment planned, we should not “fall back into old habits of environmental degradation”, but learn from the pandemic, she added.
The Commission chief also advocated investing in renewable energy, clean cars and climate-friendly homes to make the bloc’s Green Deal “the motor for economic recovery”.
Still no climate plan
Despite Merkel’s announcement, Germany did not present a national climate plan at the informal meeting of EU energy ministers on Tuesday, despite a 31 December 2019 deadline having long passed and the Commission warning Germany in February. At that time, the German government promised to submit the national climate plan as soon as possible.
The Paris Climate Agreement provides for revised and more ambitious national climate plans with higher CO2 reduction targets to be presented this year.
This prompted UN Secretary-General António Guterres to issue a video message calling on the EU to show “global leadership” and present tougher emission targets for the years up to 2030 by the end of the year. Any hesitation would only lead to more costs, both in terms of loss of life and economic losses, he said. “The highest cost is the cost of doing nothing,” Guterres warned.
Rescue packages for the fossil fuel industry
Meanwhile, a study published Tuesday by the strategy consulting firms Vivid Economics and Financing for Biodiversity (F4B) suggests that Germany is the EU member state with the most environmentally damaging rescue packages. The reason for this is the country’s heavy industry, which is rich in emissions and also benefits from liquidity support.
The study’s analysis of various COVID-19 economic stimulus packages across Europe and around the world also shows that the US and Chinese bailout packages are by far the most focused on fossil fuels.
Compared to France, Italy and Spain, however, Germany lacks clear measures to ensure that the impetus for sustainability and resilience is supported, the authors of the study argued.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]