09 Sep 2020, 14:35
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

German env min backs tighter EU climate target as industry reiterates warnings

Clean Energy Wire / Handelsblatt / EurActiv

The expected call by the EU Commission for an increased 2030 emissions reduction target has been welcomed by German environment minister Svenja Schulze who said on Wednesday that Europe was in the position to set a good example in the implementation of the Paris Agreement by raising its climate goals. "It is time to take the next step and set a new, better target," the minister from the Social Democrats (SPD) said. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to announce the ambitious increase next week, possibly raising the emissions reduction target from 40 to 55 percent compared to 1990 levels by the end of the decade. "We are experiencing major technological advances in energy supply and mobility, we sense a great deal of social support and we see the growing urgency of dangerous climate change," Schulze said in a written statement. As part of the German Council Presidency, she would do everything in her power to organise an agreement among the member states that will "advance climate protection as far as possible".

At the same time, German industry representatives in Brussels criticised the EU Commission for eying the more ambitious target, Eva Fischer, Silke Kersting and Hans-Peter Siebenhaar write for Handelsblatt. "Europe marches on lonely in this world," an unnamed industry representative told the newspaper. The source claimed that EU climate targets are not discussed "in a fact-based manner," arguing that "some people in EU states apparently don't care if the automotive industry hits a wall." Wolfgang Steiger, head of the party-affiliated CDU Economic Council, called both the expected move and potentially tighter emissions limits for cars a "political insensitivity," as "additional burdens" through tougher climate regulation would compound the current economic crisis many companies are facing. "At the same time, it doesn't make sense to debate tighter goals as long as we don't agree on the necessary tools," he added. Markus Pieper, a member of the European Parliament for the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) and also the German CDU, said a reduction target of 55 percent would be "unrealistic" and "demand too much from a European industry still reeling from the COVID-19 crisis."

Meanwhile, EurActiv reported that the EPP as a whole has rallied behind the 55% target. Pieper's party colleague Peter Liese said the EPP was ready to back the target, regardless of what other countries do. 

Germany's chambers of industry and commerce already warned against the impact of a tighter EU climate targets on industrial companies at the beginning of the week, arguing that costs for production are set to rise across the board and especially so for energy-intensive businesses. As Europe's biggest economy and also its largest greenhouse gas emitter, Germany takes a key position in EU climate negotiations and the government has promised to make the topic a top agenda item during its current EU Council Presidency.

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