Expectations for German EU Council presidency high, climate a priority – Merkel
Clean Energy Wire
Germany will focus its upcoming EU Council presidency on the dual challenges of overcoming the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and making the continent more resilient and future-proof, chancellor Angela Merkel said during a speech in federal parliament (Bundestag). “The answer to the economic and social impacts of the pandemic must not be a return to the conventional way of working and economic activity,” the German chancellor said. “Instead it must strengthen and speed up the transformation to a new way of working and economic activity.” As radical and authoritarian forces tried to use economic crises for their benefit, “pushing for a sustainable development in all regions of Europe is also a political instrument against populists and radicals,” said the conservative. Merkel explained expectations are high for the German presidency during the second half of 2020, and named climate action as one of the government's priorities. As climate change will fundamentally change our way of living, Germany has “clearly bet on supporting green growth” in the proposed coronavirus recovery packages. The European Commission's Green Deal offers a central guideline and a great opportunity for the recovery of the European economy, said Merkel.
Her government will also “intensively continue” talks on the proposed EU climate law to come up with a joint position amongst member states, with the aim to make greenhouse gas neutrality 2050 legally binding and “adapting the 2030 target accordingly”, she said. She added that EU-China relations continued to be at the centre of the presidency, and that a joint EU voice vis-à-vis “strategic partners” like China is also important in regards to climate action. She said she agreed with European Council president Charles Michel and Chinese president Xi Jinping that a leaders’ meeting originally planned for September should take place at a later date.
Germany will take over the six-month presidency of the EU Council on 1 July. The Council represents the executive governments of member states and its responsibilities include setting policy priorities and planning and chairing meetings among ministers and heads of government. Before the coronavirus crisis hit, the EU and Germany were seen to hold a pivotal role in driving global climate ambition in 2020. With the postponement of the UN climate conference COP26 to 2021 and a general focus on dealing with the pandemic, the climate agenda envisioned by many politicians and NGOs has been upended.