While the EU heads of state and government see their summit results from Brussels as a historic success, climate protectionists and politicians in particular are criticizing the decisions. "Providing less money for health, research and climate protection in the middle of the Corona crisis is not economical, it is stupid," said Green Party politician Katrin Göring-Eckardt of the Funke media group. The Swedish climate activist Great Thunberg tweeted that the EU special summit only achieved a few "nice words" and some vague and incomplete climate targets. "As long as the climate crisis is not treated as a crisis, the necessary action remains out of sight."
The German environmental aid spoke of a setback. "Days and nights have been wrestled with various questions. Only for the topic that is the central challenge of this century has nobody really fought," said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Federal Director of DUH. They had the opportunity to combine Corona aid with future investments and a real structural change to a sustainable and green economy. Unfortunately, this 1.8 trillion euro opportunity was missed, says Müller-Kraenner.
The DUH criticized that the 30 percent target for "green" spending was too low to meet the Paris climate protection goals. At least 40 percent was necessary, according to environmental aid. At the Corona Reconstruction Fund, the environment and climate protection criteria remained too vague, it said.
Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, on the other hand, spoke of a "good basis on which we can build on in further legislation". It is now important that the decision is effectively implemented in the design of the EU funding programs. "Because the commitments to climate and environmental protection are important and necessary, but also the concrete distribution of funds must match," said Schulze.
Of the total 1.8 billion euros for the multi-year budget and the corona development program, around 540 billion euros should be invested in climate protection after the climate quota has now increased to 30 percent. The Environment Ministry emphasized that the heads of state and government had committed to setting the new EU climate target for 2030 later this year; the Commission proposes to increase it from 40 percent less CO2 than in 1990 to 50 to 55 percent. The EU budget and the reconstruction program should meet the goal of no longer emitting greenhouse gases by 2050.
Tax on plastic and revised emissions trading
The agreement reached early Tuesday morning includes, among other things, a levy by the member states on non-recycled plastic from January 1, 2021. A levy on the import of CO2-intensive products from third countries and a special tax for digital companies are to follow by 2023 at the latest. Also mentioned in the household agreement is a "revised exhaust gas trade", which may possibly be extended to air and ship traffic.
An important concession on climate protection has been negotiated by Poland: According to the summit agreement, the funds from the planned climate fund will be able to be disbursed even without a commitment to the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. Poland, which is heavily dependent on coal, is the only country that has not yet committed itself to the goal defined in the Paris climate protection agreement.
The EU Commission originally intended that only countries that support the Community's climate target can benefit from the grants from the so-called Just Transition Funds (JTF). The heads of state and government have now agreed that these countries will initially receive half of the planned funds. The other half should flow if the country is committed to climate neutrality by 2050.
Poland is not only the only EU country affected by this, but also the largest potential recipient of JTF funding according to the award criteria of the EU Commission. The EU Commission had proposed the JTF as part of its comprehensive "Green Deal" climate plan, which is to make the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. With the plans of the Corona economic stimulus program, she increased the funds planned for this to 40 billion euros. The money is intended to initiate transformation processes in regions dependent on coal and environmentally harmful heavy industry.
Through the efforts of the "economical" countries Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finland to reduce the share of the grant in the Corona aid program, the volume of the JTF fell to 17.5 billion euros in the course of the budget negotiations. The original Commission proposal envisaged eight billion euros for Poland. Germany should receive the second most with five billion euros. These sums should more than halve with the cuts.
In addition to the funds reserved specifically for climate protection, the budgetary agreement generally stipulates that 30 percent of all EU funds should be used to achieve the Community's climate goals. This requirement applies to both the EU budget and the Corona Aid Fund. In principle, "all EU expenditure should also be in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement", ie at least not for climate-damaging purposes.