At the end of April, the eleventh edition of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue was held via video conference due to restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Attendees included Germany’s Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and ministers from almost 30 countries.
In her speech, Merkel argued that 2020 must, “despite everything, be the year of biodiversity and climate protection.” Warning of “difficult discussions about distribution” in the wake of the economic damage wrought by the outbreak, the German chancellor highlighted the need to “keep climate protection very firmly in view” and emphatically backed the plan by the European Commission to raise Europe’s carbon reduction target for 2030 from 40 to between 50 and 55 percent.
Her support was welcomed by environmental groups, who nevertheless consider even 50 percent to be insufficient on the basis of scientific studies. According to media reports, the European Parliament rapporteur on climate law, Swedish social democrat Jytte Guteland, plans to campaign for a target of 65 percent. Meanwhile, Merkel’s own CDU/CSU parliamentary group plans to reject even a 50 percent target unless a greater share of the load is assigned to other EU countries, according to a document from within the parliamentary group.
In the run-up to the conference, industry representatives in Germany had expressed disparate views on the EU targets and plans to make economic aid dependent on climate action measures. In a joint statement issued by the Foundation 2° initiative, 68 companies including major corporations such as Allianz, Bayer, Henkel and Ikea proposed a “climate stimulus programme”, calling on the Federal Government to “closely link economic policy measures aimed at overcoming the corona and climate crises” and “systematically ensure that all relevant stimulus and investment programmes are climate-friendly”.
Meanwhile, the deputy director general of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) Holger Lösch questioned the EU’s plans. Although the BDI remains committed to the target of carbon neutrality by 2050, the 2030 targets are “in urgent need of review given the new economic circumstances,” Lösch argued.