On 1 July 2020, Germany assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the next six months. During the Presidency, Germany will act as a coordinator and mediator for the 27 EU member states and plans to host more than 400 events, all of which will be organised to be sustainable and climate neutral.
Federal Environment Minister Schulze remarked: "It is important to take action that is in line with our political advocacy for sustainable and climate-neutral lifestyles and economies. This is why the German government has drawn up a concrete plan for implementing and achieving the targets of climate neutrality and sustainability at all events during our Council Presidency."
The German government’s guidelines for all the events under the Council Presidency are the time-tested sustainability criteria of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU). These criteria cover issues including the selection of venue, waste management, catering and transport options for participants. In all of these areas, the aim is to minimise the impact on the environment and climate through careful planning.
The choice of venue is based on sustainability criteria such as use of renewable electricity, central and convenient location and environmental management certification. The German government will also refrain from providing any small gift items for participants.
The ecological footprint of the catering can be minimised by avoiding meat and fish products and focusing on seasonal produce from organic farms. The Federal Environment Ministry will therefore refrain from serving any meat or fish products and provide exclusively vegetarian catering.
In order to fulfil its climate responsibilities, the German government will offset the unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions arising from participants’ travel and the events themselves. This is done through the purchase and cancellation of carbon credits from high-quality climate projects certified under the UN rules of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. The German government generally follows the principle of "avoid, reduce, then offset" in its approach to emissions. The Federal Environment Agency has calculated emissions for all of the planned events on behalf of the German government. Conservative standard values were used for the calculations in order to avoid estimates that are too low. The actual emissions will then be calculated again as part of a sustainability assessment.
The Federal Environment Ministry will assess the implementation of the climate-neutral German Council Presidency after its conclusion. The lessons learned will then be published in a short report that will also provide recommendations for future events. Experiences related to sustainable event planning will be compiled and findings from the emissions calculation process will be made available for future Council Presidencies. These will also be used within the German government to support the shift towards climate-neutral administration.
The events are not exempt from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and compliance with hygiene rules and minimisation of infection risk are top priorities for the German government. For this reason, some events will not be able to be held in person as planned and will take place in hybrid or virtual formats. Sustainability criteria will also be taken into account for these types of events.