Sunday

25th Jul 2021

Germany ready to lead green recovery post coronavirus

  • The Petersberg Climate Dialogue took place online this year, due to the coronavirus outbreak (Photo: OECD)

Germany managed this week to organise - in collaboration with the UK - the 11th Petersberg Climate Dialogue to discuss with 30 countries how to emerge from the current global health crisis - linking climate protection with an economic perspective.

"We remain committed and it is still our responsibility to implement the climate Paris Agreement," stressed chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday (28 April) at the public session of the annual conference.

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"The coronavirus pandemic has shown us once again, in a particularly painful way, that international cooperation is crucial in our closely interconnected world," she added.

Merkel also spoke in favour of increasing the EU's 2030 emissions reduction target to 50-55 percent - up from the 40 percent target today.

However, the UN secretary-general António Guterres warned that there was a lack of necessary political will in some parts of the world to uphold the commitment of the Paris Agreement - which aims to keep global heating below 2 degrees, but aiming for 1.5 degrees.

"The key for tackling the climate crisis is the bigger emitters," Guterres said - calling on G20 countries to commit to climate neutrality by 2050.

"Without the contribution of big emitters all our efforts risk to be doomed," he warned.

The role of the G20 countries is essential as they account for 80 percent of global emissions and over 85 percent of the global economy.

After the UN climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this year was postponed due to the pandemic, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue is the only high-level discussion focussed on climate diplomacy that will take place internationally in 2020.

German six-month leadership

The EU's council presidency under Germany from July-December 2020 "will take a different course than we had planned," Merkel confirmed last weekend.

The German presidency will be focussed on Europe's economic recovery and social cohesion, but also on "the future - and that is climate and environmental issues," she added.

Ahead of the summit, NGOs Germanwatch and Greenpeace said that Berlin's presidency will be key to ensure a recovery plan linked to the Green Deal - the growth strategy only presented by the European Commission in December.

However, they also warned about how fossil-fuel companies are already trying to seize the coronavirus crisis and benefit unconditionally from the vast subsidies being moved by EU governments to boost their economies.

"We are seeing the internal documents from industries indicating that they are trying to use this moment where public money is being put back into the economy to prop up their industries, whether it be the aviation industry [or] the oil industry," said the executive director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan.

Terms and Conditions?

In a letter sent to the commission last week, environmental NGOs urged "strict sustainability conditions" on state aid.

However, according to the commission, "it is up to member states to decide if they wish to grant state aid and to design measures in line with EU state aid rules".

The German minister of environment, Svenja Schulze, stressed that there is a difference between short-term funds focused on the survival of companies and economic recovery.

"This economic recovery has to focus on climate change, with investment in climate action and social progress," she told reporters on Monday.

A group of 68 German companies - including Bayer, Puma, Allianz and Deutsche Telekom - called on Monday for linking coronavirus state aid to climate action.

"The pandemic highlights the vulnerability of our globalised economic system to threats that are not limited to regions or industries," the appeal says, according to Reuters.

"Climate change is a comparable challenge," they added.

Additionally, a group of NGOs on Tuesday called on the European Investment Bank (EIB) to ensure its response to the coronavirus crisis is aligned with the EU Green Deal - especially since the EIB has pledged to become EU's 'climate bank' ending all fossil fuel funding from 2021.

The EIB announced a €40bn recovery package, a €200bn guarantee fund, and a further €5.2bn for financing outside the EU.

"If we get this right, we craft a resilient economy which works for people and nature. If we get it wrong, we lock-in polluting sectors which will only make us more vulnerable in future," said Sébastien Godinot from NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Likewise, the commission's Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance warned that the EU's green recovery should be based on the EU taxonomy - which aims to encourage investors and consumers to identify economic activities that can unambiguously be considered environmentally green.

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