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15 Jul 2021, 09:30
Sören Amelang Kerstine Appunn Charlotte Nijhuis Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

German reactions to EU “Fit for 55” plans to overhaul climate and energy laws

The Berlaymont building lit in green to mark European Green Deal. Source: European Union 2021.
The European Commission has presented its plans to transform every corner of the EU economy - the Fit for 55 package. Source: European Union 2021.

The German environment ministry has called new EU proposals to reform the bloc's climate and energy policy “nothing less than a new industrial revolution in the European Union.” The European Commission's comprehensive proposal to get the bloc on track for its new 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent – the “Fit for 55” package – includes a new emissions trading system for transport and buildings, a sales ban on polluting cars from 2035, more ambitious renewables expansion plans, and a carbon border price on imported goods. Today’s (14 July) presentation kicks off what could be several years of difficult negotiations among member states and the European Parliament before the final reforms are adopted. The proposed changes would heavily influence national policies and the lives of citizens across the European Union. Clean Energy Wire collects first reactions from German stakeholders.

The European Union on 14 July entered the next phase of introducing more ambitious climate policy to put the continent on a path to climate neutrality by 2050 and help keep global temperature increase below 1.5°C. The Commission’s “Fit for 55” package of legislative proposals – its central aim is to make the EU fit to reach the new 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of 55 percent – includes plans to make the existing emissions trading system (EU ETS) for industrial and energy-industry production processes  more ambitious and to extend it to shipping; introduce a new emissions trading regime for the transport and building sectors; set an end date for cars powered with fossil fuels; and introduce a climate levy on imports of steel, cement and aluminium.

The overall package “is nothing less than a new industrial revolution in the European Union”, said state secretary in the environment ministry Jochen Flasbarth in a first reaction from the German government.

The proposals will now be debated between member states and with the European Parliament for months – or even years. The effects on national policies and citizens’ lives can hardly be overstated as the European Union is set to transform every corner of its economy.

 

CLEW background on the Fit for 55 package, EU climate plans, and the EU 2030 climate target and its implications for member states’ policy

Covering the EU’s “Fit for 55” package of climate and energy laws

Energy transition in EU takes centre stage in quest for climate neutrality

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

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. And Clean Energy Wire's climate & energy expert database is being extended beyond Germany to become Europe’s largest open-source list of contacts for energy transition journalists. Find the database here.

Government and politicians

Peter Altmaier, economy and energy minister

The Commission presented one of the most significant legislative proposals since the Single Market proposal in the 80s, said economy minister Peter Altmaier. He welcomed the “ambitious, detailed and constructive” package and said he will “support everything which helps reaching climate targets.” He highlighted Europe’s role as an international role model and said the EU now had to proof it could reach climate neutrality by 2050.

Altmaier said Germany would make counter proposals with “at least the same climate effect” for those elements “we think do not go in the right direction” – without giving details "less than 24 hours after the Commission has presented its plans." Industry would need support for the transformation and the German government aimed to provide the right framework. Altmaier said he supported the proposal for a new emissions trading system for transport and buildings.

Svenja Schulze, German environment minister

“Today, the EU Commission has presented a comprehensive package of measures that fits in with our major goals,” said environment minister Svenja Schulze in a statement. “Climate action is thus becoming the central European project for the future. [...] Europe is leading the way and positioning itself as a global innovation engine.” She said the government would now examine the Commission's proposals “thoroughly, but also swiftly and constructively.”

“There will certainly be intensive negotiations and we will do our part to ensure that an ambitious, fair and solidarity-based agreement is reached.”

“I will pay particular attention to three aspects in the negotiations: First, the ambition must be right: In all changes to the package, it must be clear that the target agreed in the climate law will be reliably achieved. Secondly, there must be fairness and solidarity: Smaller incomes or structurally weak regions in particular need support on the path to climate neutrality. Climate protection will only succeed if it is done in a social way. Thirdly, Europe must take this path together. National solo efforts will not lead to the goal. We need a coordinated, massive expansion of solar and wind power from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. It is about a network of charging stations on all of Europe's trunk roads and a wave of renovation from Lisbon to Bucharest and from Turku to Catania. Greenhouse gas neutrality is now the business of us all.”

Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary in the environment ministry

The European Commission presented an overall package which “is nothing less than a new industrial revolution in the European Union”, said state secretary in the environment ministry Jochen Flasbarth. This would require a much faster rollout of renewables and quicker switch to climate-friendly industrial processes. Germany had already set the right framework conditions with the recent reform of the Climate Action Law. Flasbarth said the German government would have certain focusses for the upcoming negotiations: “Above all, we will emphasise the importance of reliably and safely achieving climate protection targets throughout the EU. We need a convergence of climate protection policies within the member states. [...] We will also make sure that the competitiveness of our industry is strengthened and not weakened in the process. [...] We will also make sure that the whole package is solidarity-based and social. This concerns the different industries, the regions and the citizens.”

In a press conference he said that the European Commission's package proposes to increase the 2030 target for the share of renewables from 32 to 40 percent. "But this is not supposed to be binding for member states. I think this is something that needs to be discussed, because we need to ensure that renewables make progress in all member states."

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

“Europe is now the very first continent that presents a comprehensive architecture to meet our climate ambitions. We have the goal, but now we present our roadmap on how to get there. Our package aims to combine the reduction of emissions with measures to preserve nature and to put jobs and social balance at the heart of this transformation.”

Hubert Aiwanger, state economy minister of Bavaria

The economy minister of carmakers BMW and Audi’s home state Bavaria has warned that too strict climate policy could endanger the automotive industry. “There must not be a second Detroit in Bavaria,” he said. The transformation to emission-free mobility had to happen without economic slumps. “Overly ambitious limits harm Europe's leading industries. And an industry that has hit rock bottom will no longer be able to produce sustainably.” He called for openness towards all technologies, instead of the focus on e-mobility. “A fleet limit value for new vehicles of zero would force car manufacturers to bring only battery electric vehicles onto the market. [...] A modern combustion engine with synthetic, non-fossil bio-fuel or green hydrogen via the fuel cell is more climate-friendly than a pure battery car with coal-fired electricity from the European electricity mix,” said Aiwanger.

Ulrich Lange, deputy chairman of CDU/CSU parliamentary group

“It is right that the CO2 price will play a central role. However, housing and mobility must remain affordable,” says Ulrich Lange, deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group responsible for transport, building and housing. “The far-reaching proposals must be accepted by the citizens.” Germany’s national CO2 pricing system for heat and transport must be carefully coordinated with the new EU emissions trading system, Lange adds. “The costs for housing and mobility must not shoot up overnight without adequate compensation. The design of a compensation mechanism for tenants, homeowners and transport users will therefore play a special role.”

Industry and business

German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) president Hildegard Müller

"With the fleet emission limit of 0 g planned for 2035, the EU Commission is in fact proposing a ban on combustion engines - this also applies to hybrids and light commercial vehicles. This is anti-innovation and the opposite of openness to all technologies. Consumers' freedom of choice is unnecessarily restricted. The acceleration of the transformation demanded by this is hardly feasible, especially for many suppliers. The impact on jobs in this sector will be considerable. We lack an assessment that takes into account all aspects of the economic and social impacts.

It is positive that the Commission proposes the instrument of binding regulation for the expansion of the charging infrastructure […] Last but not least, we need 100 per cent green electricity for all electric vehicles. This is the only way to win the trust of consumers. The refuelling infrastructure for hydrogen should also be expanded much faster than proposed by the Commission. The proposal for the introduction of the market-based instrument of emissions trading for transport and buildings is welcome and an important step towards a uniform EU emissions trading system for all sectors. However, the most important scope in transport will be lost by setting the fleet limit at 0 g in 2035.

The proposal for a new 'Renewable Energy Directive' (RED) is also not ambitious enough. We acknowledge that the quota for renewable fuels will be significantly increased. However, the proposal does not go far enough. According to calculations by the VDA, 30 per cent renewable fuels in the stock are required for 2030 so that the vehicle stock can also contribute sufficiently to achieving the climate targets."

Federation of German Industries (BDI)

The EU presented a “bold and concrete roadmap”, but fails to give important input on how to safeguard the competitiveness of the industrial and innovation location Europe, said BDI president Siegfried Russwurm. “The climate plan will only be a success and find international followers if our industry remains globally competitive despite decarbonisation.” He said the EU had to work even harder for a global level playing field in climate action, starting with the G7 and G20 countries, as a European go-it-alone approach would not help the global climate.

Policymakers had to provide the right framework so that “the immense necessary investments” in climate-friendly processes and technologies become economical. Russwurm called for a “much stronger expansion” of renewables, also to produce green hydrogen. Without more renewable electricity “a climate-neutral Europe remains a pipe dream,” he said.

Russwurm criticised the “de-facto ban of the internal combustion engine” and called to include solutions such as hydrogen and other CO2-neutral fuels. “A de facto one-sided commitment to pure electromobility is highly risky and restricts international market opportunities.”

RWE

The proposals create “new opportunities to really increase the pace of the ramp-up of renewables and get the hydrogen economy moving,” said German energy company RWE’s CEO Markus Krebber. RWE wrote that raising the EU expansion target to 40 percent by 2030 “is a logical step. But for Europe to really become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, the expansion needs to be even faster.” The company called for reliable investment conditions, and faster approval procedures. It adds: “Many of the approaches in the package stimulate cross-border collaboration within Europe. With this framework in place, Europe can set standards and an example that others will follow.”

German Chemicals Industry Association (VCI)

The package represents an “enormous challenge for companies in Europe”, said the German Chemicals Industry Association (VCI). “We are facing what is probably the biggest transformation of the economy since the beginning of industrialisation,” said managing director Wolfgang Große Entrup. Europe had to not only be a role model for the transformation, but also secure prosperity and competitiveness of the industry. “Companies need effective protection against unfair competition. Otherwise, instead of a climate-neutral European industry, there is a risk of a climate-neutral Europe without industry.” On plans for a CBAM, he said: "The signals from our international trading partners are clear: an EU laboratory experiment with border taxes is dangerous and already doomed for failure."

German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF)

The German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF) welcomed the proposed reform of the Energy Efficiency Directive, which would give companies throughout Europe more planning security for investments in energy efficiency. DENEFF head Christian Noll said the package comes at the right moment. “Prioritising investments in energy efficiency will put the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis on a sustainable path. We are counting on the new German government to push the issue more vigorously in Europe and Germany.”

Federal Association of Wind Farm Operators Offshore eV (BWO)

German offshore wind power association BWO said the package provides a "crucial impulse" to revive the post-pandemic economy and couple growth with emissions reduction. "The quicker we start the necessary transformation, the more the climate and the economy will benefit," the association said. Offshore wind power projects would offer a glaring example of the importance of international cooperation and planning to achieve the climate targets and create the conditions for a European energy system based on clean power.

German Farmers‘ Association (DBV)

The proposals of the Commission lack “concrete instruments and realistic targets,” said Joachim Rukwied, president of the German Farmers‘ Association (DBV). “The envisaged targets for carbon sinks are unlikely to be achievable because of the climate stress that has already occurred in the forest.” Rukwied called for a reassessment of the impact of methane emissions “as a short-lived greenhouse gas” from livestock farming.

German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE)

It is important that the Fit for 55 package is on the table to underpin the EU climate targets with concrete measures, BEE president Simone Peter said. “Unfortunately, the Renewable Energy Directive does not propose any mandatory expansion targets at the member state level,” she said. "The 'Fit for 55' package could be of central importance as a lever for the accelerated expansion of renewable energies. However, at 40 percent, the share is still below the necessary and feasible target of at least 45 percent renewables by 2030. Thus, the EU runs the risk of neglecting climate protection and the overdue modernisation of the economy." She added that the package left “open flanks for the overlong use of fossil energies”. “Supposedly necessary bridges such as blue hydrogen and synthetic fuels made from fossil fuels, cement an outdated energy system through excessively long periods of support”.

 Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV)

With its climate package, the European Commission is “perpetuating the status quo of an unfair burden-sharing in climate protection,” says the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbz). The vzbv welcomes the improvements in consumer rights in the district heating sector and expansion of energy efficiency measures, but says the design of the emissions trading system is “flawed from the consumer point of view.” Whereas money is earmarked to help large companies become climate-friendly, “a payback to consumers is dependent on the goodwill of the member states,” says Thomas Engelke, head of the energy and building team at the vzbz.

 

Analysts, research and science

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

The comprehensive package is an attempt to underpin ambitious targets with “an overall fitting architecture,” said dena head Andreas Kuhlmann. The package will “shape the debate on European and also the respective national climate policies in the coming years.” He calls the proposed new emissions trading system for transport and buildings and the carbon border adjustment mechanism the “most exciting elements” of the package. “Much will depend on the concrete design and the success of these aspects in particular for European industrial policy, but also for social cohesion on the path to climate neutrality.”

Claudia Kemfert, energy economist, German Institute for Economic Research (DIW)

"The Fit for 55 climate package is going in the right direction, it is overdue. We need even higher emission reduction targets, measures and especially with the expansion targets for renewable energies. The direction is right, but there is still a gap in ambition and implementation,” wrote Kemfert on Twitter. "Germany has a key role to play and should be both a driving force and a mediator. Climate protection creates enormous economic opportunities. Europe is finally creating a suitable framework for this. Costs of not-action much greater than costs of action."

Matthias Buck, Director European Energy Policy at Agora Energiewende

"The Commission rightly proposes a significant strengthening of the EU Emissions Trading System at the core of its Fit for 55 package. Reaching EU climate targets for transport and buildings requires a mix of stronger standards and a minimum, EU-wide carbon price also for transport and buildings. Carbon prices in the power sector will soon rise above 50 EUR/t CO2, which means an EU-wide market-driven coal phase-out by 2030. Policymakers and stakeholders must urgently prepare for the rapid transition ahead."

"The pathway to climate neutrality will only be fully successful if environmental integrity and social and distributional justice go hand in hand. Agora thus welcomes the setting up of a social fund to to ensure that its Fit for 55 proposals lead to greater social solidarity to the Commission’s Fit for 55 proposals. The fundshould use additional revenues from carbon pricing to finance national-level clean infrastructure investment programmes and provide targeted support for vulnerable households and lower-income member states."

Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

"This is a big deal - there is no turning back now,” comments Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “The EU's policy package for stabilising our climate is the most comprehensive of its kind to date, and it builds on much of what research has developed.” The second emissions trading system for transport and heating, in addition to the one for the industry and electricity sectors, means almost all sectors are now covered by CO2 pricing, Edenhofer adds. This is “a prerequisite for the EU to be able to negotiate effectively with the USA and China on more international cooperation for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Brick Medak, head of E3G Berlin

“The EU Commission has made a decent start to the EU's year-long climate marathon. Germany has a key role to play here. The entire package must therefore become a topic of discussion in the election campaign, not just emissions trading and CO2 prices, as has been the case so far. In addition, a convincing plan for the social backing of the package must be presented. The current plans do not go far enough.”

 

 

Environmental NGOs and activists

Germanwatch

NGO Germanwatch calls the Fit for 55 package “a step in the right direction” but warns that “the CO2 absorption capacity of forests and peatlands may be below zero by 2030 due to worsening climate change and despite the planned additional efforts”. "For such a case, a mechanism to guarantee the automatic tightening of the reduction targets in the other sectors has to be included, so that the climate target of at least minus 55 percent is safely achieved even then," said Political Director Christoph Bals. He said the proposal lacked the necessary courage with regard to the expansion targets for renewable energies which should account for at least 45 to 50 percent of the energy mix in 2030. He added that the social fund proposed by the Commission to cushion the effects of CO2 prices and other climate policies for consumers, is “simply too small”.

DNR

German environmental NGO umbrella organisation DNR welcomed the package as the “starting point for the upcoming negotiations” at EU level. “Nevertheless, the EU Commission has not yet lived up to its own claim to make the Green Deal the great European renewal and modernisation project,” said managing director Florian Schöne. “On emissions trading, the Commission's proposal remains too cautious to securely and effectively force coal out of the market.”

Greenpeace Germany

“The EU Commission’s climate target falls short of what science demands in order to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees,” says Tobias Austrup of Greenpeace Germany. The NGO says the creation of a separate emissions trading system for road transport is a “climate policy smokescreen” and calls for an end to the combustion engine by 2028 instead of 2035. “The next German government must urgently prioritise climate protection and work to tighten up the Commission's proposals instead of standing on the brakes in Brussels as it has done so far."

Martin Kaiser, executive director of Greenpeace Germany, added that the package is “not an adequate answer to climate extremes.” In a message on Twitter he called on the next German government to “untie the package” in the upcoming negotiations and take the 1.5°C goal seriously.

Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU)

"Commission President Ursula von der Leyen compared the EU's climate neutrality by 2050 with the difficulty of landing on the moon. The present package does not yet live up to this claim," said Nabu president Jörg-Andreas Krüger. The planned reforms of the existing emissions trading system are urgently needed, but do not go far enough - once again. The upcoming new emissions trading for the heat and transport sectors must under no circumstances lead to a weakening of sectoral targets or tried and tested instruments, because that would mean going backwards. It is also highly problematic that the Renewable Energies Directive promotes the burning of wood to generate electricity. This is neither CO2-neutral nor sustainable and threatens to put even more pressure on our forests. As long as the EU does not take decisive steps to adapt livestock and restore stable forests, and as long as it allows highly creative accounting in land use and climate change mitigation, we will fail to meet our climate targets."

Michael Müller-Görnert, environmental transport NGO Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD)

"It is not enough to simply increase the [CO2] reduction targets for 2030 from 37.5 percent to 55 percent and leave the target for 2025 at 15 percent. The Commission's plans leave car manufacturers plenty of leeway to continue selling massive amounts of combustion engine cars until 2030. However, the VCD welcomes the fact that the EU Commission will make the e-car virtually the standard from 2035, when only emission-free new cars may be sold in the EU […] On the other hand, we are critical of the introduction of a separate emissions trading scheme for road transport, which provides for CO2 pricing of fuels from 2026. In principle, we welcome the polluter pays principle, but emissions trading must not lead to the weakening of other important instruments. It is also essential that people with low incomes are directly relieved, e.g. by means of a mobility allowance. In principle, the VCD is in favour of the Commission's initiative to gradually tax kerosine, at least in EU-wide air transport. Whether this will actually happen, however, depends on whether all member states can be convinced of the idea. After all, a common EU tax requires the unanimous consent of all. Germany must be the driver here."

Carla Reemtsma, activist Fridays for Future

“It is greenwashing,” says Carla Reemtsma from the youth climate movement Fridays for Future. “The goal of 55 percent reduction by 2030 is not enough to make a serious contribution to curb the climate crisis,” Reemtsma says, adding that the package is not in line with the Paris agreement goal of staying below 1.5-degree warming, but steers the world to 2,5 or 3 degrees of warming. “This insufficient reduction target is the fundamental problem of the whole programme and it shows that the Green Deal is not sufficient at all to bring about the systematic change we need to fight the climate crisis.”

Media

The EU Commission's plan on climate is “bold and right”, writes Thomas Hummel in Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Commission is the first institution to present a package of measures on how it aims to reduce emissions. “[The Commission] deserves respect for this. Others have so far lacked the determination to do so, especially the parties in the German election campaign. Because now it is getting uncomfortable. [...] After the elections in September at the latest, the moment of truth awaits in Berlin as well.” Hummel expects the biggest challenge in Germany and the EU to be holding society together in times of great upheavals.

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