Saturday

10th Apr 2021

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 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.

Draft EU 'green recovery' plan amid clash over natural gas

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.

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

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.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Livestream

Live: Join the Nordic climate debate 'Choosing Green'

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled climate negotiations, work has not stopped. The 'Choosing Green' debate will address some of the most important and most complex key areas relating to the global green transition. Live on EUobserver from 10:00 (CET).

Timmermans 'disappointed' with ongoing CAP reform

For European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, the Common Agricultural Policy has to answer to "higher expectations" on climate action, protection of biodiversity and environmental sustainability, while ensuring a fair income for all farmers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us