– Check against delivery –
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today and yesterday, my colleagues and I met in an informal video conference to kick off the German EU Council Presidency. I am grateful that my colleagues accepted my invitation to an additional informal meeting.
My overall impression of the meeting as well as our recent bilateral talks is that the pandemic brought Europe closer together - and this definitely applies for ministers of environment. The last two days have shown a high degree of agreement how important environment and climate are in the recovery of our economies. These EU-Ministers are a powerful team in the current debates about the future of the EU.
In these extraordinary times, it is crucial for me to create as many opportunities as possible for us to talk, even if it is through digital means. For over 60 years, our Europe has thrived above all on personal interactions. Our culture, knowledge, innovation and shared values are shaped by our curiosity in and enjoyment of diversity, by mutual respect and trust − and by such personal interactions.
Yesterday, our common ground was evident. We all agreed that the climate and environmental crises have lost none of their urgency. On the contrary, the coronavirus pandemic has shown us very clearly how vulnerable our economies and societies are with their reaction to external shocks caused by an enormous loss of biodiversity and natural areas.
The measures taken to protect public health have unprecedented social and economic consequences in all our countries.
For the recovery process, we agree that we have to maintain the balance between stabilising and strengthening our weakened economy while enhancing future resilience and combating climate change and biodiversity loss. We are convinced that the cost of not taking any action would be too high – for us and for future generations.
In our Joint Call for a green recovery, we have emphasised that the objectives of the European Green Deal provide key guidance, also for the recovery of the European economy.
All EU environment ministers agree that it is essential for the design and implementation of the Multiannual Financial Framework – the MFF – and the EU Recovery Plan to contribute substantially to the EU's climate and environmental objectives.
Let me mention the global dimension of our debate on green recovery: Yesterday at our meeting, we discussed with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva how the EU can drive green recovery globally. We, as the German EU Council Presidency, have organised a side event taking place today at the High Level Political Forum. This year the forum is taking place virtually.
We also discussed the pressing topic of digitalisation and the environment. On the one hand, we have to steer digital technologies and infrastructures along environmentally compatible lines – even more so at times like this when we are so reliant on digital infrastructure. On the other hand, we can use digital solutions as a lever for environmental protection and climate action. With a circular economy data space, we could enhance transparency for consumers and companies (on the social and environmental conditions along supply chains).
This weekend, we brought together 80 young people from 15 European countries in our virtual hackathon Code4Green. They set out to develop creative and innovative solutions using computer science, for example a tool for monitoring plastic waste in the oceans via the European observation programme Copernicus. That shows the potential of environmental data — from biodiversity conservation to the expansion of renewable energies.
Finally, I want to touch on a key priority during our Presidency, which is climate action.
During our Council Presidency, I want to work towards concluding the deliberations in the Council on the draft of a European Climate Law, which will specifically write into law the goal for the European Union to become climate-neutral by 2050.
I also want us to reach consensus on an enhanced EU NDC for 2030 under the Paris Agreement, despite COP26 being postponed to next year. By doing this, the EU would send a clear message to the global community that we firmly stand by the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which calls for updated NDCs by 2020.
Today I collected first reflections by ministers on the envisaged new enhanced 2030 target. Many colleagues indicated that they see the corridor of a reduction target between 50 to 55 percent as a reasonable range for the new NDC. A number of Member states expressed their view that the new target should be even more ambitious and some felt already the 50 to 55 percent difficult to achieve. I know that there is still a great need for this discussion. That is why it is important to me to create enough space for this exchange, like in our meeting today.
The Commission’s impact assessment on raising the 2030 target to 50 to 55 percent, which is announced for September, will form the basis for our further discussions. Once presented, I will start to facilitate an exchange on it. I have invited my fellow environment ministers to an informal Environment Council on the 30th of September and the 1st of October in Berlin. I hope that we can talk face-to-face rather than virtually!
The two official Environment Councils are planned for the 23rd of October and the 17th of December. I am sure that these meetings will be crucial milestones for climate action and environmental protection in Europe.