EU denies climate policy hinges on German election

By John Parnell

The EU’s climate and energy policy will not be swayed by the result of this year’s German election its lead climate negotiator has told RTCC.

This is despite warnings from a German NGO that the removal of Berlin’s support would hamstring efforts in the EU to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

Europe is debating its climate and energy framework for 2030. The strength of the EU’s stance is an important input to the UN climate change negotiations. The talks are at a delicate and crucial juncture.

“As Europe has currently started the discussion about its future energy and climate policy, the upcoming elections are decisive,” said Christoph Bals, policy director of Germanwatch.

“The current discussion about the backloading proposal to reform the EU emission trading scheme has shown that a progressive EU policy is not possible without German support.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Source: Flickr/European Council)

Germany has the most MEPs in the European Parliament and is one of the four most influential members of the European Council. Its ambiguity on the recent carbon market reforms contributed to the parliament’s failure to approve the changes.

Chancellor Merkel’s CDU/CSU party has seen support grow since 2009’s vote but its junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party is polling at around 10% less than last time round. It is on as little as 4% according to some estimates.

The likely result is a new coalition but Bals says all the mainstream parties have a chance of participating in various possible combinations. This could pull policy in either direction.

The EU’s head climate change negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, also a German native, does not think the election will change the country’s course.

“My expectation would be that Germany would always stay on the ambitious side when it comes to the international climate negotiations,” he told RTCC.

“In the last few years we have seen governments changing but Germany has always tried to stay in pole position on climate change. There’s no real constellation, if you look at the polls, that would result in a decline in the level of ambition of German climate policy,” he added.

Prices

As the economic situation in Europe deteriorated, competiveness and the effects of energy prices have led some lobby groups to push back on climate policy.

At the same time Germany is undergoing an energy revolution, Energiewende, which involves the gradual shut-down of its nuclear power stations.

“It is argued that the energy turnaround and the growth of renewable energies has led to rising energy prices,” said Germanwatch’s Bals.

Earlier this month, language on competitive energy pricing was agreed at a European Council meeting.

Despite this apparent rebalancing, the EU has continued to stress that it intends to push for aggressive action on climate change.

Whether this happens, will be put to the vote.

First MEPs will re-run the failed backloading vote in July with a few tweaks made to the previous proposal.

Chancellor Merkel has said she hopes German industry will be in a better position to support the changes in the Autumn. This she says would allow the Government to be clearer on its own position.

With the election scheduled for September 22, the decision may not be hers.

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