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22 Jun 2020, 12:33
Edgar Meza

Scientists sketch path to EU climate neutrality ahead of German Council presidency

Leopoldina / Acatech / Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities

In a joint statement, leading German scientific institutions, including the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, on Monday presented their recommendations for a path to greenhouse gas neutrality in Europe in light of the German EU Council presidency beginning on 1 July. In order to achieve the EU’s European Green Deal goal of climate-neutrality by 2050, the EU must undertake “no regret” measures, the introduction of a standard cross-sector CO₂ price, including a minimum price, and comprehensive changes to the infrastructure, the academies recommend in a press release. In view of the coronavirus pandemic and its potential impact on climate protection policy, the authors call for financial resources to be mobilised and “invested in accordance with the achievement of climate protection goals”. The academies’ working group is currently identifying political, technological and regulatory measures to “enable an energy transition without overburdening society and the economy”.

Noting that some technologies are considered “indispensable” for meeting the climate targets of 2030 and 2050, the authors argue for such "no regret" measures as strengthening wind energy and photovoltaics, expanding a high-performance electricity transmission and distribution network and expanding e-mobility and heat pump technologies. The paper also makes the case for hydrogen, saying it will play a key role and stressing that investments in the energy source and pilot systems are necessary. The academies also recommend using incentives to make the transformation as cost-efficient as possible. “Europe demonstrating that a comprehensive transformation of the energy system can succeed without overburdening the national economy could also provide an important impetus for third countries to adopt climate-friendly policies and to convert to new energy systems,” the statement notes.

Also seen as vital is a cross-sectoral, EU-wide uniform CO₂ price, particularly in view of the pandemic: “Due to the recession resulting from the crisis, there is a risk that uncertainty about the long-term price development will increase,” the authors write. “An effective minimum price for CO₂ is thus more important than ever in order to provide planning security and to set long-term incentives for sustainable investments in climate protection.” The paper also calls for a standard price for greenhouse gases across all sectors in the longer term, preferably achieved through an expansion of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The academies also call for closer European coordination in order to create a harmonised European energy system.

With the statement, the institutions aim to provide the German government with recommendations “for giving the desired European energy transition the momentum it requires” as it takes on the EU Council presidency on 1 July. Germany will focus the 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 had said.

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