25 Jun 2020, 13:24
Julian Wettengel

German EU Council presidency programme “much too vague” on climate – Germanwatch

Clean Energy Wire

The German government cabinet has approved the programme for its EU Council presidency one week before the start of its six-month tenure next week (1 July) with a clear focus on tackling the coronavirus crisis and “future issues” such as climate and digitalisation. The government has thus far only presented cornerstones, but the programme – seen by Clean Energy Wire – highlights the role of the Commission’s Green Deal in the bloc’s sustainable recovery from the pandemic and devotes an entire chapter to climate and environment, labelled “a sustainable Europe”.

The government is aiming to reach an agreement on raising the EU’s 2030 climate target – Germany says it welcomes the Commission’s proposal to increase it to a 50 to 55 percent greenhouse gas reduction – and finalise member states’ decisions to enshrine climate neutrality by 2050 in an EU climate law. The programme also includes several energy policy provisions. It calls for a Council agreement on a framework for joint renewables projects, especially offshore wind, and plans to lead discussions on a market design for low-CO₂ or carbon-free gases such as hydrogen. Germany also wants a debate on expanding CO₂ pricing to all sectors and a minimum price in the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The Energiewende home country is looking to accompany the Green Deal with an “active energy foreign policy” that would see new partners for green energy imports and increase fossil fuel exporters’ awareness of “the possibilities of a new energy world”.

The NGO Germanwatch said the government has set many priorities right, but complained that the programme is often “much too vague” on how issues such as climate action should be dealt with. Policy director Christoph Bals said the text lacked a commitment to clear climate-related conditions for recovery package funds, among other gaps. Germanwatch said the Council presidency could decide Chancellor Angela Merkel’s legacy – she has in the past been called the “climate chancellor” for her efforts in international climate action. “This Council presidency offers the chancellor the opportunity to set the course in Germany and the EU towards solidarity, sustainability and climate action,” said Bals.

The coronavirus crisis had upended many years of planning by the German government for the presidency starting next week, and priorities have shifted. On climate, tough talks on how to make the European Union greenhouse gas neutral by 2050 are a major challenge for the presidency. The negotiations for a European economic recovery programme will be a first test of its role as moderator. The government plans to publish the full programme on the presidency website on 30 June.

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