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German heads of delegation call for courageous decisions on climate protection

Too little for some, too ambitious for others. The goal proposed by the European Commission of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% per cent compared to 1990 levels, replacing the previous 40% goal, was welcomed by Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, Chairwoman of the German Bundestag’s Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. At the same time, though, she expressed understanding for concerns about possible negative economic impacts. “Nevertheless, I call on you to pursue these targets fearlessly”, the Green politician said during the Conference of Chairpersons of committees on the environment, energy, transport and agriculture from the national parliaments and the European Parliament which took place on Monday, 5 October 2020, in the framework of the Parliamentary Dimension of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. Kotting-Uhl stressed the enormous opportunities offered by the climate goals, “which we must seize”. As Chairwoman of the Committee on the Environment, who moderated the first part of the Conference entitled “The European Green Deal and CAP: for a sustainable and climate-neutral Europe”, she spoke enthusiastically of the “wonderful quality of life”, which would exist “once we have managed to achieve these goals”.

Commission Vice-President Timmermans: “We have no time to waste”

The Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, stressed that we have no time to waste. He pointed out that the aim of becoming climate-neutral by 2050 could not be achieved if deliberations on the necessary political measures were only to begin in 2040. Likewise, with regard to the Coronavirus pandemic, he stressed that the investments needed to be made now. Yet, he said that “If we put the money in the wrong place, that money will be lost” and “we will put an extra burden on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren without giving them a better society in return.” He therefore said that, if “an enormous amount of money” were spent on reforming economies, this needed to be aligned with sustainability goals. He thus believed that the Green Deal provided the best foundation for achieving a just society and meeting environmental goals whilst maintaining a competitive economy. 

Vice-President Timmermans pointed out that the 55% target would not only help to achieve climate neutrality, but also provide certainty for investors. At the same time, he made clear that the new target needed to be embedded in new climate legislation. Deliberations on the relevant legislative proposal were well underway, he reported.  Timmermans also announced reforms to the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), as well as the effort-sharing mechanism and the framework for land-use emissions, along with reinforcement of the renewable-energy goals and strengthening of CO2 standards for motor vehicles.

The European economy must remain competitive

Timmermans stressed that the European economy nevertheless needed to remain competitive. And he called for fairness, in view of the fact that not all member states and sectors were starting from the same point or had the same capacities to address the challenges of the transformation. He said that help was needed to make the transition just, “or there will be just no transition”.

Timmermans against increasing reduction targets further

Timmermans warned against further increasing the emissions reduction targets, as called for during the discussion by some parliamentarians. He pointed out that Europe should not be the only one taking action.  “We should appeal to other industrialised parts of the world to also take responsibility”.  He said that, while Europe intended to lead the way, it would not be able to achieve that much with its proportion of emissions if others did not follow.  

Poland’s Minister of Climate calls for a just transition process

Michał Kurtyka, Minister of Climate of the Republic of Poland, called for the transformation process to be organised in a just fashion. In order to ensure that nobody got left behind, the differing economic situations in the member states had to be kept in mind. The costs of the EU’s reforms could not be borne by the poorest regions and their citizens, he stressed. Regions with the highest transformation needs could not be expected to pay more for the reforms than those who did not have so far to go to achieve climate neutrality. Kurtyka spoke of the ground-breaking changes which Poland was facing in its energy system. The Polish strategy was based on three pillars: a just transition, especially of coal regions, the building of a zero-emissions energy system and a radical improvement in air quality.

Poland was also facing challenges regarding the transport system, he said. He spoke of Poland’s plan for a zero-emissions system of public transport by 2030. Already, the Polish government was working every day on new incentives for consumers to switch to e-cars.

Özdemir: transport sector has so far contributed almost nothing to CO2 reductions

The transport sector: Cem Özdemir, Chairman of the German Bundestag’s Committee on Transport and Digital Infrastructure, highlighted during the debate the fact that the transport sector was responsible for almost 30% of all climate emissions in the EU and criticised the fact that “the sector has so far contributed almost nothing to reductions”. Yet, he pointed out, the European Union was a world leader in the car and mobility industry, meaning that the transport sector was truly a litmus test for whether “we in Europe manage to successfully combine economics and climate protection”. He welcomed the announcement by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of more ambitious climate reduction targets. As a Green policymaker, he could envisage further-reaching steps, he said, yet he was aware “that the EU is based on the idea of compromise”.   

EU should be more self-confident on climate protection

Özdemir called for Europe to stand tall. “We as the European Union can be more self-confident on climate protection”, he said. “Who, if not we in the EU, has everything needed for successful climate-protection technology?” What was needed now, he emphasised was “courageous policymaking and innovation”. He stressed the need to make considerably faster progress on e-mobility – as well as on hydrogen technology and synthetic fuels.   

Yet the Green politician does not believe that simply swapping all combustion motors for electric vehicles “on a one-to-one basis” is enough. “Many people in Europe would like to see a transition in the transport sector – not only in cities”, he said, adding that a transport transition was not about “banning people from doing something or taking away their cars”. Instead, the aim was to create attractive alternatives and if possible to do so “on a cross-border basis throughout Europe”.  Özdemir was referring to an efficient rail network. But a strong public transport network in towns and cities, along with safe cycle lanes, was also needed, he said.   

Parliamentarians ready to follow the path set out by the Commission

It was clear during the discussion that a strong willingness existed amongst the parliamentarians to follow the path set out by the Commission. One demand in the transport sector was for the solutions proposed to limit greenhouse gas emissions to be linked with the Smart Villages concept, since the common goal was to protect the environment through efficient mobility and energy use.

It was also stressed that the era of private transport was over, so more alternatives needed to be offered and the number of vehicles reduced. Cleaner, more affordable and healthier alternatives in the transport sector could not be achieved over night, however. The social impacts in all areas were also highlighted. More comprehensive impact assessments were therefore needed. (hau/06.10.2020)

The summary report on the CAP section of the Conference of Chairpersons of committees on environment, energy, transport and agriculture from national parliaments and the European Parliament can be found here.

Videos relating to the Conference of Chairpersons on “The European Green Deal and CAP” on 5 October 2020

00:03:01

Film of the Conference of Chairpersons of committees on "The European Green Deal and CAP"

Here you can get a brief insight into the topics discussed at the Conference of Chairpersons of committees on environment, energy, transport and agriculture from national parliaments and the European Parliament on "The European Green Deal and CAP" on 5 October 2020 in Berlin.

More information can be found here.

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Conference films

00:03:01

Film of the Conference of Chairpersons of committees on "The European Green Deal and CAP"

00:01:08

Sylvia Kotting-Uhl at the video conference “The European Green Deal and CAP: for a sustainable and climate-neutral Europe”

00:00:59

Cem Özdemir at the video conference “The European Green Deal and CAP: for a sustainable and climate-neutral Europe”

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