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Parliamentarians discuss routes to climate neutrality, smart mobility and sustainable agriculture

The European Commission has picked up the pace. By 2030, greenhouse gases are to be reduced by 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels, rather than the original target of 40 per cent, as was recently announced by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. This initiative has met with support from Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, Chair of the Bundestag’s Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and from Cem Özdemir, Chair of the Committee on Transport and Digital Infrastructure. The two parliamentarians from Alliance 90/The Greens, together with Alois Gerig (CDU), Chair of the Committee on Food and Agriculture, are hosting the Conference of Chairpersons of committees on the environment, energy, transport and agriculture from national parliaments and the European Parliament on Monday, 5 October 2020, as part of the Parliamentary Dimension of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. The event, which is taking place as a video conference, will be streamed at www.parleu2020.de from 14.00 and is entitled: “The European Green Deal and CAP: for a sustainable and climate-neutral Europe”.

Kotting-Uhl: Ambitious climate action requires committed parliamentarians

“In my mind, there’s no doubt that Germany will seek to build support for the new EU climate targets and their implementation during its Presidency of the Council of the EU,” Kotting-Uhl said ahead of the conference. Ambitious climate action not only requires the support of national governments, but also committed parliamentarians as legislators, she said. Her aim is “that we succeed, as chairpersons of the key committees for this transformation, in agreeing on the common message that we support the target of a 55 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases in the EU by 2030”.

Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the Commission, will talk about the European Green Deal

Kotting-Uhl will chair the conference’s first session, entitled “The European Green Deal: new targets for 2030 on the way to climate neutrality”. The first speaker will be Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, who is leading the Commission’s work on the European Green Deal. Timmermans believes that the parliaments have a crucial role to play, as he made clear recently at the COSAC Chairpersons’ Meeting. Ratification by the parliaments is needed for the Council’s decisions on the recovery to be implemented, the Vice-President of the Commission said. Even before the pandemic, it was clear that Europe needs a new growth strategy, he said, and that is why the European Green Deal was developed. The pandemic offers an opportunity for Europe to restructure its economy.

“We cannot wait. We have a unique opportunity now,” Timmermans emphasised. The funds which have now been mobilised must be invested in the economy of the future, he argued, and the Green Deal is therefore the right approach. He expressed his confidence that if Europe takes the lead, the rest of the world will follow. Keynote statements will also be given by Pascal Canfin, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and Michał Kurtyka, Minister of Climate of the Republic of Poland.

Özdemir sees the transport sector as a litmus test

Cem Özdemir will talk about the subject of sustainable and smart mobility. In his view, von der Leyen has set out the right way forward, “and that means climate action and the technologies of the future”. The Chair of the Bundestag’s Committee on Transport believes that, unlike other sectors, transport has so far contributed next to nothing to climate protection. At the same time, the European Union is a global leader in the automotive and mobility industry. “As I see it, that means the transport sector is a litmus test for whether we can manage to successfully bring together business and climate interests in Europe – and that is exactly what the European Green Deal is all about,” Özdemir said, adding that he was hoping for “a strong signal for greater European self-confidence in the international competition to lead the way on climate action”.

Farm to Fork: sustainable agricultural policy

The conference’s second session will focus on agricultural policy, with the slogan “Farm to Fork”. The participants will discuss new challenges facing the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the period from 2021 to 2027, “focusing particularly on sustainable food production”. The session will be chaired by Alois Gerig, Chair of the Bundestag’s Committee on Food and Agriculture. In his view, the key issue is the long-term compatibility of world food security and intact ecological systems. Gerig also pointed out that almost no other policy field in the EU is as heavily communitised as agricultural policy. Yet agriculture, in particular, requires site-specific solutions, “which can vary even from field to field,” the CDU politician said. The new CAP and the Green New Deal must provide space for that “without losing their common nature”. Ultimately, he said, the EU’s strength lies in “its common approach”.

Gerig wants to avoid distortions of competition between the member states

Gerig agrees with the view that agricultural policy must become more environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral. But a key question remains: “Who pays for the environmental services, which involve additional costs for our farmers, given that they are already under enormous economic pressure?”

With regard to the CAP, he said, “It is particularly important to me to prevent distortions of competition between the member states.” He takes a critical view of countries going it alone and of coupled payments.

Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, will address the parliamentarians

Several prominent speakers are to take part in the discussion that Gerig will chair. Statements will be given by Julia Klöckner (CDU), Germany’s Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture, and Norbert Lins, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. (hau/30 September 2020)

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