EU Recovery: on a shared path to climate neutral Europe

By Sabine Nallinger und Pascal Canfin
This article has been published on July 16, 2020 in Les Echos and Tagesspiegel Background.


One of the lessons that we can learn from the devastating coronavirus crisis is that in the European Union there is a clear strong support from the business sector for ambitious climate protection and a green recovery. Today, a majority of businesses, politicians and stakeholders from civil society are clearly asking that the Green Deal be at the heart of the post-crisis recovery.

The will for a green recovery goes beyond a simple vow to paint the future green. Many key businesses have already begun to gear their business models towards climate-friendly economic development. This is why many companies do not want to slow down efforts for climate protection: they have already made the switch to a greener path and need policymakers to help them stay on it by designing and implementing a reliable and smart transition towards climate neutrality.

It is time to “walk the talk”

The basis for ambitious climate protection does exist. Strong declarations from European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen impressively illustrated the vision for European recovery, with the Green Deal at its heart. But how do we walk the talk of real climate action towards climate neutrality? In the legislation related to the recovery plan, we need to use the Green Deal as a vehicle for industrial innovation and a circular economy to make sure we are accelerating the transition towards clean energy, sustainable buildings and zero-emission mobility. To do so, we need to make sure that the Recovery Plan will enable to significantly reduce the climate and environment friendly investment gap and use the Taxonomy appropriately for sustainable finance both as a guide and as a driver for the transformation of our economy.

Innovation: key to a carbon neutral Europe

Today, the Green Deal needs to be a success story for European businesses. The challenge lies less in finding the technological solutions, which on the contrary of 2008, are available today, but in the need of financing them. Whether it is for the building, energy, industry or mobility sectors, we need to massively scale up investments in existing greener solutions. To achieve our climate goals and put European business in the position to invest and use climate protection as a driver for innovation, we need to enable businesses to channel substantially more financial ressources into low carbon technologies, renewable energy systems or clean hydrogen.

Investors across the globe strongly emphasised their appetite for a Green recovery: they stand ready to invest in green technologies, because they know that in Europe, they have a clear horizon: a long term target of climate neutrality by 2050.

The transition towards climate neutrality will not be a success without business and investors on board: we need to continue and deepen the honest and open discussion with the business sector on climate targets and how to achieve them together.

France and Germany: the drivers of a Green recovery

France and Germany are working towards designing a recovery package aligned with the Paris Agreement. The Green Deal is therefore central in a successful recovery plan, which relies on a bold Franco-German political leadership for a truly European recovery package that puts Europe on track to meet both the social and economic crisis from COVID-19 and the wider climate crisis at the same time.

The first test comes fast: on July 17th at the EU Council meeting, will the heads of state follow the franco-german impulsion and deliver the needed stimulus that aligns the solutions for the social, economic and environmental crises?

Secondly, in order to achieve climate neutrality in 30 years, we must define a clear path to follow together to reach our common 2050 target. In this context, an intermediary 2030 target in the climate law discussed in the Fall will be another key challenge for the German presidency:  will Angela Merkel seize the opportunity of the German EU Council presidency to strike an ambitious 2030 deal?

Finally, how we finance the transition must be at the top of the German political agenda. Member states need to invest in solutions that will accelerate transition towards zero emissions mobility, develop a powerful financing mechanism for the European Commission’s Renovation wave in the building sector scheduled for September, and finance mass deployment of renewable energies and clean hydrogen.

All this, will only be possible if our heads of State seize the opportunity of the next EU Council meeting on Friday. Bold decisions are needed to deliver a recovery package that will do both, save and transform our economy, and implement an ambitious green deal. Angela Merkel has a key role in this, but she will need the support by all heads of state. For keeping Europe’s place on the world stage, let our climate ambitions contribute to Europe’s influence. We have a unique window of opportunity to build a common credible and ambitious pathway towards climate neutrality and a circular economy, emerge stronger from this crisis and accelerate the transition: let’s move together from vision to reality!

Sabine Nallinger, Managing Director, Foundation 2° – German Businesses
for Climate Protection

Pascal Canfin, Member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe), Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)