EU climate plans near top of Germany’s "coronavirus presidency"

EU climate plans near top of Germany’s "coronavirus presidency"

Tough talks on how to make the European Union climate neutral by 2050 are a major challenge for Germany’s 6-month EU Council presidency in the second half of 2020. The negotiations for a European economic recovery programme will be a first test of its role as moderator. Chancellor Angela Merkel says the package should largely be oriented towards climate action and digitalisation. In addition, talks about increasing the bloc’s 2030 climate target face hurdles, but have to be finalised before the year is out. Germany supports the European Commission’s proposal to increase the target to -50 to -55%and the focus of talks will be on “if” rather than “how” to raise ambitions. This means the much-needed debate on concrete climate policy instruments will take a back seat, say researchers, Renewables Now reports.

The agenda for the German EU Council presidency starting on July 1 was filled to the brim even before the global pandemic upended years of planning by the federal government. Chancellor Angela Merkel has made clear that tackling this “biggest challenge in the history of Europe” will be the focus over the coming six months. Researchers and politicians alike have called Germany’s tenure the “coronavirus presidency”.

While climate and energy may play second fiddle, they are set to play a strong role in the pandemic recovery efforts. Merkel has called for a recovery plan that speeds up the transformation to “a new way of working and economic activity” – a transformation she said is driven by climate change and digitalisation. And EU leaders have to agree on a 2030 climate target before the year is out.

“There were already high expectations for the German Council presidency even before the COVID-19 crisis and now they are even higher,” says Sophie Pornschlegel, senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre (EPC). Germany is one of the biggest and economically most powerful countries in Europe, which already sets the bar high, she told Clean Energy Wire (full interview here: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/recovery-package-first-test-german-eu-council-presidency-policy-analyst). In addition, there are many important deadlines in the second half of 2020, such as the negotiations on the long-term budget (MFF) and Brexit. “Now, the ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery package comes on top.”

Pornschlegel says the recovery plan and the long-term budget are “where one can really push for a good sustainability agenda” and Germany should use this opportunity early in the presidency. If, however, the climate and energy agenda is pushed to the end of the presidency’s term, “that means not much will happen,” she warns.

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