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19th Jan 2020

Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal

  • The European Union pavilion at the Bonn climate conference (Photo: European Commission)

Germany's outgoing environment minister said on Friday (17 November) that a Dutch proposal to increase the EU's emissions reduction target to 55 percent was "unrealistic".

"I don't think that the European Union will be capable of achieving this," minister Barbara Hendricks told this website at a press conference in Bonn, on the final day of international climate talks.

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  • German environment minister Hendricks, speaking because Germany is technically the host of this year's climate talks (the presidency is held by Fiji, but the summit is held in Bonn for practical reasons) (Photo: UNFCCC)

She spoke a day after newly-appointed Dutch minister for economic affairs and climate, Eric Wiebes, came to Bonn to find support for an increased climate ambition within the bloc.

In October 2014, EU leaders agreed that the EU should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

Wiebes wants to raise that reduction target to 55 percent, the same figure which Germany has set for itself.

"Germany wants to reduce by 55 percent and I'm quite convinced that we'll be able to achieve this," said Hendricks.

But she said "all of the EU" would not be able to do the same.

"We could be more ambitious, going a bit beyond the 40 percent already agreed, but I think 55 percent will not be realistic."

Hendricks, in government since December 2013, is a centre-left Social Democrat, whose party lost significantly at German parliament elections in September.

She is caretaker minister until coalition talks – which do not include her party – are wrapped up.

Nevertheless, she still speaks on behalf of Berlin and her dismissive comments will likely disappoint the new Dutch government, which began its work last month after lengthy, record-breaking coalition talks.

The Dutch coalition deal agreed in October already included the intention to increase the goal to 55 percent, but this week was the first time Wiebes presented it at an international forum.

He said neighbouring countries were "positive" that the Netherlands "wants to belong to the leading group", but did not say whether specific countries were convinced yet.

The Netherlands is mostly looking to countries in its neighbourhood and the Nordics.

Sweden has previously called for an increase beyond 50 percent.

"We will push for higher ambition," a member of the Swedish delegation at the Bonn conference told this website.

The "at least 40 percent" reduction target from 2014 was the result of difficult negotiations that culminated at an EU summit, where coal-reliant Poland and other eastern European countries had to be given some concessions.

It also included the possibility for the EU to review its targets, depending on how climate talks in Paris in 2015 played out - if negotiations collapsed, the targets could be revised downward.

Instead, the climate conference in Paris did lead to a historic climate agreement, which supports the argument for those EU countries that want to raise ambition.

But the Dutch coalition parties have also included in their coalition deal a contingency plan: if an increased EU target is not possible, they want to team up with "like-minded" countries in the north-west of Europe – like Germany – to reach "more ambitious agreements".

Whether Hendricks' successor will be open to that, will depend on the result of the German coalition talks between the two Christian-Democrat parties CDU and CSU, the Greens, and the Liberals.

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