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24th Oct 2020

Green Deal

East vs West split in EU on higher Green Deal target

  • Tough talks lie ahead since member states are divided on whether to increase the emissions-reduction target (Photo: Silje Bergum Kinsten)

Eight member states on Tuesday (23 June) urged the EU to go further on the Green Deal - while central and eastern European countries remain cautious, expressing concerns about different starting positions and possibly deepening inequalities.

EU climate ministers from Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Latvia, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands and Sweden urged on an increase on the EU's 2030 emissions-reduction target, to at least 55 percent.

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  • The commission is expected to increase the 2030 emission-reduction target, from 40 percent to between 50 to 55 percent (Photo: European Environment Agency)

The German minister for climate, Svenja Schulze, who previously backed a higher 2030 target, said on Tuesday that striking a deal to increase the EU's 2030 climate target remains a priority for her country's incoming rotating EU presidency - which starts on 1 July.

"During our presidency, we want to ensure that the Green Deal contributes to overcoming the consequences of coronavirus pandemic to reach sustainably economic competitiveness," said Schulze.

For its part, Denmark stressed that EU climate law should be strengthened, paving way for a totally climate-neutral future.

"There is no time to lose and our next step is crucial. That's why Denmark has been pushing hard for a stronger 2030 target of at least 55 percent by the end of this year," said Danish minister for climate Dan Jørgensen, adding that EU must lead by example.

Similarly, Irish climate minister Richard Bruton said that the pandemic offered a "unique opportunity" due to the need for a massive government stimulus across the EU - which will test "whether we political leaders can put our money where our mouth is".

The commissioner in charge of the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, told environment ministers he hopes governments can adopt a common position on the draft climate law by October.

"More than ever, investors need certainty; this is why we need to have the climate law adopted as soon as possible to make the path to climate-neutrality irreversible," he warned.

Later this year, the commission is expected to increase the 2030 emission-reduction target from 40 percent to between 50 and 55 percent - following an impact assessment on the EU as a whole, but also looking at different sectors of the economy.

40% vs 50% vs 55%

However, tough talks lie ahead since member states are divided on how to address the ongoing climate crisis.

While Bulgaria said on Tuesday that it could not achieve a higher 2030 national climate goal, several countries called on the commission to assess the individual impact of an increased 2030 target on each EU country.

Slovakia's environment minister, Andrej Vizjak, said discussion of updated target by 2030 should take place at the council level.

While the Polish minister for climate Małgorzata Golińska said that "green measures should take into account specific circumstances of member states and should not hamper the economic recovery of the countries".

Additionally, her deputy minister of climate, Adam Guibourgé-Czetwertyński, said that the EU should make sure that the recovery does not deepen inequalities.

"We need to focus more on the social dimension of our policies. The [coronavirus] crisis has affected entire sectors and regions, but we should not create extra burdens for the most vulnerable," he said.

Emissions Trading Scheme in spotlight

Last week (19 June), the 27 EU leaders discussed an unprecedented €1.85 trillion stimulus package - made up of the next EU budget, worth €1.1 trillion, and €750bn recovery fund.

However, member states disagreed whether it should be distributed to member states through grants or loans, on what criteria, and what sort of further revenue and taxes the EU itself can have.

One of the hot topics is how expanding the existing EU emissions trading system (ETS) scheme could increase the resources of EU coffers.

"All member states agree that this will be 'big topic' in the discussion about the EU budget - but also that it is too early to fight about it," EU sources told EUobserver.

According to Reuters, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Estonia and Bulgaria oppose the idea.

Climate ministers from several countries such as Austria and Denmark stressed the importance of respecting the "do no harm" principle attached to the proposed €750bn coronavirus recovery fund - which would exclude any subsidies to activities such as fossil-fuels industries, nuclear energy or incineration of waste.

Timmermans said that the national energy and climate plans will be crucial in the recovery plans that member states will have to present to the commission.

"I think this principle of 'do no harm' should be guiding all of us as of now," he told EU climate ministers.

EU Commission's green recovery criticised as 'brown'

The European Commission's €1.85 trillion recovery plan from the coronavirus crisis did not convince environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace, which believes that the proposal fails to offer a truly 'green recovery' and alternatives to the existing economic model.

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The European Commission's recovery plan from the coronavirus pandemic gives priority to building renovation, renewables and hydrogen. However, eight member states have insisted that gas plays a crucial role in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

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Study: Green post-virus stimulus is 'life or death'

Oxford University study says fiscal stimulus for green projects offer higher returns on government spending in the short and long term than traditional incentives on fossil fuels.

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France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Regions urge EU to act on 'green hydrogen'

The EU's regions urged the unlocking of the potential of hydrogen produced from renewable sources, so-called 'green hydrogen', to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

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