12 Dec 2019, 16:06
Sören Amelang Benjamin Wehrmann

Reactions to EU's Green Deal from Germany

The European Union’s new executive has presented its highly anticipated Green Deal to tackle climate change. The policy package commits the EU to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The Clean Energy Wire presents reactions to the Green Deal from German politicians, NGOs, business associations, think tanks and agencies. [UPDATE - adds media comments]


Svenja Schulze, German environment minister

"The Green Deal puts climate and environmental policy where it belongs, namely at the heart of European policymaking. I welcome that they have presented a smart and thought-through roadmap for all parts of our society (…) The goal of climate neutrality has already been set in Germany's Climate Action Law and I welcome the fact that European policy will be geared towards reaching this goal as well now. Everything will now depend on the exact details and what the plans are for specific areas. For me it's important that this programme of ecologic growth is implemented in a socially just manner (...) Europe wants to show that greenhouse gas neutrality is possible (…) Our own national plan has been based on existing rules but it already includes an annual progress review and depending on how the EU exactly plans to design its plan we will adjust the targets for Germany. But first we need to know what this entails exactly. We're united by the goal to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality (…) Europe has the technological and social capabilities that allow to make a contribution to avert global warming (…) Europe is expected to take a leading role at the COP25 and today's announcement will help us to fulfil this responsibility."


Marie-Luise Dött, environmental policy spokesperson of the conservative CDU/CSU alliance's parliamentary group

"The European Green Deal provides a roadmap for the next steps of European climate policy (…) In order to become climate-neutral by 2050, an integrated approach is needed that encompasses all sectors but also considers the social and economic consequences of all climate action measures. What we need is a debate about how Europe can make it and not about setting new goals. The conservative alliance bets on technological progress and a European emissions trading system that is as comprehensive as possible."


Georg Nüßlein, vice-head of the conservative CDU/CSU alliance's parliamentary group

"Before we hold an abstract debate about tightening European climate targets, we need to clarify how this can be implemented. And in a way that preserves Europe's economic competitiveness, keeps jobs here and avoids social upheaval (…) Germany has set an example with its climate package. It's a good thing that Ms. von der Leyen obligates all of Europe to avoid European competition distortions within Europe (…) Expanding the EU's emissions trading system is exactly what we advocate for."


Agencies / Think tanks

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

"The European Green Deal is a bold plan that must now be followed by concrete action. We need a substantial minimum price on CO2 emissions, and we need to include all sectors into the pricing scheme, that's what economic research shows. This could reduce fossil fuel use and incentivize renewable energies. And instead of just spending billions of Euros it would raise some money to be used for making sure the transition towards a zero emissions economy is a fair and just transition. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is right about stating that comprehensive tax reforms are an important instrument to tackle the sustainability challenge. The Green Deal  makes me hope that we Europeans indeed can become global leaders in helping to stabilize our climate and in safeguarding the future of our children."


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

"The announcement by EU Commission leader Ursula von der Leyen is a historic moment – even though the Green Deal for the time being remains only a plan (…) Tightening the climate targets is consistent with international agreements but also quite daring. So far, there are no robust scenarios that describe what the path towards reaching this target could look like. A sober look at the status quo tells us that the discrepancy between ambition and reality unfortunately is rather becoming greater than smaller. This is true for the EU as a whole and especially so for Germany. Tightening the climate targets would have profound consequences for Germany's climate policy. Agreements such as that made by the so-called coal exit commission or in the recently adopted Climate Action Programme 2030 would become obsolete and need a makeover. Given that Germany will be holding the EU presidency next year, the government should use the start of the debate about a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 that it supported to call a special meeting of the climate cabinet and analyse the ramifications for Germany."


Thilo Schaefer, head of environment and energy at industry think tank IW Köln

"More ambitious goals need a convincing strategy and tightening goals alone will not be enough (…) It would make sense to reduce CO2 where this is possible at the lowest cost. Smart instruments are needed for that, such as the European emissions trading system (…) Efforts in reducing emissions in the transport and heating sectors have to be coordinated at the European level. However, a joint system would be too hasty. European industry has to weather competition by rivals that don't have to shoulder CO2 costs.


Christoph Bals, head of NGO Germanwatch

"This is good news for the climate and for Europe. This pact for the future can become a common vision for a strong EU and give the bloc an additional meaning and purpose. The commission has understood that many people wish for a strong role of the EU in climate action and in the socially just transformation of the economy. A markedly improved climate target is a necessary step on the way towards implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. The time is now for other states outside the EU to also raise their climate targets."


Michael Schäfer, head of climate action and energy policy at WWF Germany

"Viewed from [the UN climate summit COP25 in] Madrid, the European Green Deal is the much-needed starting signal for international climate action. The EU has to design its ambition increase procedure for 2030 in a way that allows to take other G20 countries on board – which means rapidly. Ursula von der Leyen's project deserves the German government's wholehearted support. The climate action blockade by German economy minister Peter Altmaier finally has to be breached."


Business Associations

Kerstin Andreae, head of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW)

"It's an important and meaningful signal by the EU Commission to put climate and energy policy at the centre of its future work. However, the right framework conditions are needed for implementing the ambitious goals. This means that wind power expansion needs to be accelerated and the same must be done for solar power and grid expansion. What is more, there needs to be a European hydrogen strategy to make this energy source's potential available for climate policy (…) It's a good thing that the commission generally acknowledges the role of gas for a cost-efficient decarbonisation in the context of sector coupling (…) which if done right will allow to replace natural gas with decarbonised and green gas in the long-term."


Micheal Ebling, head of the German Association of Local Utilities (VKU)

"The new EU Commission's push for a Green Deal is consistent policymaking. Climate action is a common European task that we all must commit to. What's important is that the transport, buildings and agricultural sector all are addressed in a stronger and more binding fashion in order to save CO2 emissions. It will be necessary to expand the European emissions trading system (ETS) to these sectors and also to introduce a cross-sectoral carbon price soon. We welcome the fact the Green Deal doesn't stop at climate action alone and also focuses on broader environmental protection (…) Less waste and a more careful and responsible way to use our natural resources like water and air has to go hand in hand with climate action."


Joachim Rukwied, head of the German Farmers’ Association (DBV)

"The Green Deal sets high goals in environmental and climate action. For the agricultural industry it's important that it will show up concrete solutions. Instead of new rules and regulations we need new modes of cooperation and markets for environmental services (…) Europe's farmers must still be allowed to use pesticides that have obtained a license based on scientific evidence."


Media comments

Karoline Meta Beisel, Sueddeutsche Zeitung

"More efforts are urgently needed. If the EU continues along its current course, it will not be possible to achieve the goal set in the Paris Climate Convention of limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius. Ursula von der Leyen has rightly placed the fight against climate change at the centre of her presidency. If it is not possible to stop global warming, the economic and human consequences will probably burden the European Union even more than the costs of implementing the climate package."


Hendrick Kafsack, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"(The Green Deal) does not give concrete answers on how to reconcile climate protection and growth. These will only be given next year and the year after next, after a thorough examination of the costs and consequences of the various options. That's reasonable. One should never rely on politicking. The temptation to calm the anger of young people on the street with fast but half-baked solutions is great. In most cases, the result is bans and taxes that may serve to protect the climate, but certainly do not serve as the basis for a new growth model. Reconciling climate protection and growth means realigning the EU economy with market-based instruments, incentives and financial aid. This will be expensive, probably even more so than the one trillion euros by 2030 that von der Leyen talks about." 

Alexandra Endres, Zeit Online

"There is a lot of talk about the EU [at the COP25 in Madrid] at the moment. It is clear to everyone that the current climate targets will not be sufficient to meet the ambitious Paris climate agreement goals. As a reminder, at the end of 2015, there was a great deal of rejoicing when the industrialised and emerging countries agreed for the first time in Paris to jointly limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, if possible even to 1.5 degrees. All together, and below two degrees: that was an enormous breakthrough in two respects. . . But the Treaty of Paris has a decisive flaw. It is voluntary. Because nobody was to be forced to protect the climate, each country promised only as much as it wanted to contribute voluntarily. That's why the world is now well on the way to three degrees Celsius, possibly even more."

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