11 Dec 2020, 14:14
Kerstine Appunn Julian Wettengel

EU leaders agree to raise 2030 climate target - German reactions


German politicians have welcomed the EU leaders’ decision to increase the bloc’s 2030 climate target as an important decision that puts the Union on a credible path towards climate neutrality by 2050 and means the bloc is once again one of the pioneers in international climate action. "The result makes it well worth skipping sleep for a night," said chancellor Angela Merkel. Researchers said together with pledges from other major emitters of the past weeks, the world now stands a chance to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement. After a night of negotiations in Brussels and just in time for the 5th anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, heads of state and government upped the greenhouse gas reduction target to at least 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The target has yet to be officially decided in talks with the European Parliament, which has voted for a reduction of 60 percent. NGOs warned that the agreed target is not enough to reach international goals. Clean Energy Wire collects reactions from German politicians, industry representatives, researchers and NGOs.

German government politicians have welcomed EU leaders’ decision to increase the bloc’s 2030 climate target. EU heads of state and government have agreed to significantly increase the Union’s greenhouse gas reduction target to at least 55 percent by 2030, from a prior official target of a 40 percent cut. The deal was sealed after a long night of negotiations which reportedly focussed on ensuring support for several fossil fuel-reliant member to manage the transition of their economies. The decisions comes just in time for the 5th anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as UN's and UK's global summit tomorrow (12 December). At that meeting, the EU can now present the new target – which has yet to be made official in negotiations with the European Parliament – as its updated and more ambitious contribution to keep the rise of global temperature below 2°C.  

For background on the EU 2030 climate target and its implications for member states’ policy, read the factsheets:

Who sets the targets? Expert Q&A on European energy and climate policy

What a higher EU 2030 climate target means for member states like Germany

Germany must push 2030 renewables target to 75 or even 80 percent – env min.

Also take a look at What’s next in Europe? – Timeline of European climate and energy policy to see how the process will unfold over the coming months.



German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the decision as “very important” one day ahead of the UN climate ambition summit. “The result makes it well worth skipping sleep for a night. I don't want to imagine what would have happened if we had not been able to achieve such a result.”

She put the decision into the context of the deal found for the long term budget and the coronavirus recovery funds. She said she was “very relieved” that leaders had managed to agree on this, as the second wave of the pandemic had Europe in its grip. On EU plans for future green growth, Merkel added: “The Green Deal is a core project to lead us into the future.”

Environment minister Svenja Schulze

With the decision, "Europe is embarking on a credible path towards climate neutrality 2050," said German environment minister Svenja Schulze. With the increase, the EU proves it takes the Paris Agreement serious and “now once again one of the pioneers in international climate action.”

Schulze alluded to the role of the German government in the negotiations as EU Council president. "This is a very important agreement for which we in the German government have worked hard."

Economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier

Economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier welcomed the decision to raise the 2030 reduction target. “This interim target is important on our way to making Europe a climate-neutral continent by 2050," the minister said. He emphasized that the EU now has ‘a unique opportunity’ to reconcile the goals of climate protection and rebuilding the economy. “We can secure jobs and create new ones by investing in innovations and new clean technologies."

Gerd Müller, minister for economic cooperation and development

As especially G20 countries have to do much more to protect the climate, German development cooperation minister Gerd Müller welcomes the proposed new target. “All countries must do more for climate action.” So far, the climate plans from countries across the planet are “far from sufficient” to limit global warming to below two degrees, said Müller, and called for additional global initiatives. “China, Africa, Brazil, India - the fight against climate change will be decided decisively there.” Müller called on the EU to upgrade the European Green Deal with an “Africa module”.

Anja Weisgerber, climate representative of the conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag:

As the raised target means “enormous efforts” by all countries, it is “disappointing to see the decision belittled by some,” said conservative MP Anja Weisgerber. Now it was about implementing the target. “In doing so, we must rely on efficient and market-based instruments across Europe, such as emissions trading, and share the burden fairly between the European member states.”

Michael Bloss, Green member of the European Parliament: 

Bloss said the target is far too low to achieve the 1.5 degree goal. “This is not the way to slow down the climate crisis. I am perplexed by how little we take science seriously in the climate crisis,” he said in an e-mailed statement. Bloss remarked that the last word had not been spoken, as negotiations with the Parliament were yet to come.


Energy industry and business

Utility association BDEW:

"The BDEW supports the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 and the new EU 2030 climate target," said BDEW head Kerstin Andreae. "The adjustment is ambitious and poses major challenges for the energy industry. It must be an incentive to consistently implement the energy transition in all sectors while keeping an eye on the security of the energy supply and affordability. In order to trigger the necessary investments, however, it is imperative that policymakers create the right framework conditions. There is an urgent need for action here. This includes, in particular, the removal of barriers to the expansion of renewable energies, including natural carbon sinks, as well as the expansion and restructuring of the energy infrastructure and a flexible European state aid framework. All potentials for CO2 savings must be exploited. In order to quickly ensure clarity and planning security, the European Council and the European Parliament should now adopt the European Climate Act as soon as possible and thus legally anchor the greenhouse gas reduction target of at least 55 percent by 2030. It is also important that the target path set out in the climate law for achieving climate neutrality is reliable. This avoids uncertainties that would be an obstacle to the necessary investments. The Commission should therefore also define an interim target for 2040 based on a further impact assessment."

Andreas Kuhlmann, head of the German Energy Agency (dena):

“At least 55 percent is exactly the target we need at the moment,” said Kuhlmann in a message on Twitter. “This is very good news.”

German Chemicals Industry Association VCI:

The VCI called the new target "very ambitious" and said it must be accompanied by measures to ensure that energy-intensive products can continue to be manufactured competitively in Europe. "Whether Europe can meet its high targets depends heavily on an efficient industry. After all, it is industries like chemistry that provide solutions for climate protection in almost all sectors. At the same time, production in the EU is becoming increasingly expensive for us. Brussels must therefore think carefully about how it secures the future of industry in Europe," said VCI director Wolfgang Große Entrup. He added that only competitive companies can afford the billions of euros in investments that are needed in the chemical industry for the development of new, low-emission production processes, and called for a strengthening of existing protection mechanisms. Große Entrup called for expanding instruments in EU emissions trading, and warned against the European Commission's plan to introduce border adjustment measures: "Setting up new trade barriers for climate protection is not expedient. Climate tariffs will make production in Europe more expensive and may also trigger sharp counter-reactions from our trading partners." He also called for "fair burden-sharing between sectors" and called for greater contributions from the transport and buildings sectors.

German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF)

German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF) managing director Martin Bornholdt said: “We welcome the tailwind from Brussels for more ambition in climate action.” Now it was up to the German government to align national policy with the new target, for example by pushing for a renovation wave and an ambitious reform of the EU energy efficiency and building directives.



Ottmar Edenhofer, director of The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and climate policy advisor of the German government:

Edenhofer put the decision in a global context. The European Union was not acting alone, but in line with what the US and China also recently announced. “If they all stay true to their pledges, and if others follow suit, we have a chance for the first time to actually reach the climate targets of the Paris Agreement. But that's a big 'if', he said.

Patrick Graichen, head of think tank Agora Energiewende:

Graichen called it “likely the best news of 2020”. He added: "The more ambitious EU target means that Germany will have to cut emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030. This target is achievable with a coal exit by 2030, and by tripling the speed of the renewables roll-out. The EU climate target comes just in time to be taken into account in the reform of the renewable energy act, which is in its final phase. We need at least 70 percent renewables by 2030, while power consumption rises. We will only reach 70 percent renewables by 2030 if significantly more wind and solar plants are built in 2021 than currently planned. The government coalition should raise auction volumes in the renewable energy law."

Brick Medak, head of Berlin office E3G:

The EU sends the strong signal to the international community that it aims to do justice to its reputation as a climate action pioneer, said Brick Medak, think tank E3G’s head of office Berlin. “The EU can thus significantly shape the momentum for the crucial year for climate action – 2021.” The deal is a “big step in the right direction”, even though science would dictate a more ambitious target, he said. The wording of the net target left enough room for the EU environment ministers to adopt two separate targets at their summit next week, one for actual CO2 reduction and one for CO2 sinks. “This is crucial to avoid possible accounting tricks. Such tricks could permanently damage the EU's credibility."


Environmental NGOs

Kai Niebert, president DNR

Kai Niebert, president of NGO umbrella organisation DNR said the decision “leaves a bitter aftertaste” due to the “trick calculations” by including sinks in the target. “I have high hopes for the European Parliament to lift the target up to a 1.5-degree-path in the negotiations for an EU climate law,” he said.

Olaf Bandt, head of BUND

Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) head Olaf Bandt said the “ambitious target” now has to be taken into account for the renewables law reform the German parliament is currently debating. “This must include a renewables expansion target of at least 75 percent by 2030.” Bandt said the target also means Germany must exit coal by 2030.

Sascha Müller-Kraenner, executive director at Environmental Action Germany (DUH):

Müller-Kraenner commented that even though the new EU emissions target was a step in the right direction, it wouldn’t suffice as Europe’s contribution to limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. This would have required a target of at least minus 65 percent, he said. The agreement means for Germany that it has to increase national efforts and adjust sector targets upwards, especially in the energy, buildings, transport and agriculture sectors, Müller-Kraenner said. “After the general election [in 2021], the new government must immediately set up a comprehensive climate protection programme that puts us on a 1.5 degree path.”

Christoph Bals, Policy Director at Germanwatch said the new climate target was a “big steps towards climate neutrality in the EU”. “Just two years ago, such an agreement between all EU states would have been almost inconceivable. We owe this success to all the people who have campaigned for more climate protection in recent years," he said. For Germany, the new target means that the coal phase-out must be completed by 2030 (instead of 2038). Bals criticised that the heads of state and government had left loop holes in their decision, which now had to be filled up by the European parliament, the commission and environment ministers. "The climate target will be watered down if the necessary emission reductions can simply be offset against the natural removal of by forests, peatlands and agriculture.” To strengthen these natural sinks, a separate target with a sub-target for agriculture and a mechanism for achieving the target are needed, Bals said.


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