What does the EU Climate Law mean for Germany?

Two initial reports presented on Thursday (5 March) conclude that the prescribed reduction in CO2 emissions will be missed by three to four percentage points, and particularly in the transport sector, for which the planned measures would not even achieve half of the necessary savings. [S-F/ Shutterstock]

While the European Commission is working on a new climate target for 2030, initial reports on Germany’s climate package show that the current targets are already being missed. Although it is undeniable that these climate targets will be increased, how will it be possible to reach them? EURACTIV Germany reports.

The figures are not too bad, but ultimately, it will not suffice: the German climate package, which came into force in mid-December, will not be enough to meet the climate targets for 2030.

Two initial reports presented on Thursday (5 March) conclude that the prescribed reduction in CO2 emissions will be missed by three to four percentage points, and particularly in the transport sector, for which the planned measures would not even achieve half of the necessary savings.

“The new figures give us clear warning signals and show the need for action by the climate cabinet,” commented Environment Minister Svenja Schulze of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

It is not only the climate law that is lacking, but it is also the expansion of renewable energies that is faltering massively, as the Agora energy transition think tank demonstrated last week. For Germany to meet the national and European climate targets by 2030, ‘mountains would have to be moved’.

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Shortly after Germany announced plans to shut down its lignite-fired power plants, eight members of the country’s Coal Commission voiced criticism that their work has been discredited and that these plans would result in an additional 40 million tons of CO2 emissions. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Brussels negotiates higher climate targets

Meanwhile, Brussels is working on the next increase in climate targets, as provided for in the Paris agreement. With the presentation of the first EU climate law, the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 is now a done deal.

However, there remains the question of which carbon reduction targets will be agreed for 2030. In September, the European Commission is set to present an analysis of this issue, which will assess if the measures presented by the EU member states are sufficient for a target of 50% or 55%.

The current target, on which the German climate package is also based, still stipulates reductions of up to 40%. Yet, it is considered that the current measures will ensure that reductions as high as 45.6% will be achieved.

In the best-case scenario, the heads of state and government could agree on a binding commitment before the COP26, set to take place in November, and register the newly defined target with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The question will be whether an agreement will be reached on time.

In a letter written this week, twelve EU member states urged the Commission’s Executive Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, to present the analysis by June at the latest.

Otherwise, it is feared that the EU heads of state will not be able to agree on a new 2030 target at the only summit meeting before the climate conference in Glasgow in October this year.

The EU would then appear at the climate conference with a patchy plan for climate neutrality.

LEAK: EU's draft climate law leaves 2030 target up in the air

The European Commission’s Climate Law will confirm on Wednesday (4 March) that EU countries will need to become climate neutral by 2050. But plans for 2030 leaves Europe little time to get ready for the UN climate summit in November, with twelve EU member states pushing for an accelerated timeline.

Germany under time pressure

Germany takes over the EU Council presidency on 1 July and will be responsible for the climate negotiations within the EU.

However, although it would be in Germany’s interest to have an agreement as soon as possible, the country is among the signatories of the letter to Timmermans.

“There is simply not yet a common position between the ministries,” a staff member of the environment ministry told EURACTIV on Friday, adding that there were “still too many uncertainties to plan” a timetable for the negotiations.

Among these uncertainties are the national climate and energy plans for 2030, which the member states should submit to Brussels by the end of 2020 and which are to be included in the EU Commission’s analysis this year.

But five countries, including Germany and France, are behind schedule.

Germany missed EU deadline to submit national climate plan

All EU member states should have submitted their climate protection plans for the coming decade to the European Commission by 31 December 2019. But some missed the deadline, including Germany. EURACTIV.de reports.

Binding targets not before 2023

So when will the EU climate targets be raised in a legally binding manner?

This process will take time. First, the Commission will have to review its existing legislation by June 2021 to ensure that it meets the newly defined climate targets. In doing so, it will examine whether the guidelines for renewable energies and energy efficiency, as well as for exhaust gas values in the transport sector, are sufficient.

The Commission should also tighten the CO2 certificate trading system (ETS) and determine to what extent the transport, building and agricultural sectors, which are excluded from this system, will have to contribute by 2030.

Only then would this lead to new targets for the individual member states.

The Commission’s study would form the basis for new legislative proposals, which would be drawn up from autumn 2021 and then submitted to the European Parliament and Council.

This could mean that an EU climate law which includes a new CO2 target for 2030 and new burden-sharing for the member states may come into force in 2023 at the earliest.

Germany will also have to raise its climate targets further and make much greater efforts – especially in transport and construction – in addition to what is provided for in the current climate package.

“We have to do more, we have to do more”, Environment Minister Schulze made clear last week when referring to the two reports.

But this problem is likely to be a matter for the next federal government, which will be elected in October 2021. And this time around, the Greens may even be part of the ruling coalition.

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[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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