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Germany’s EU presidency must tackle climate and biodiversity emergencies alongside COVID-19 crisis

The coronavirus crisis is not an excuse to delay environmental action but a reason to accelerate it and scale it up. As Germany takes over the rotating EU presidency, the EEB has released a ‘Dozen Demands’ to enable the European Union to build a sustainable and healthy future.

On 1 July 2020, Germany will take over the rotating six-month EU presidency from Croatia.

Jeremy Wates, the Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said;

“The response to the Covid-19 crisis will be a core element of the German presidency. However, the pandemic has not in any way reduced the urgency of tackling the multiple environmental crises that we were already facing – if anything, it has shown that we need to step up the pace and put the green transition at the heart of the recovery process. It has shown that we can and must do things differently.”

With over 160 member organisations in 36 countries, the EEB is the largest and broadest network of environmental NGOs in Europe.

Germany, the largest EU country in terms of both population and economy and one of the Union’s founding member states, is well-positioned to drive an ambitious agenda for change.

Germany kicks off a trio of coordinated presidencies that will stretch over 18 months and includes Portugal and Slovenia. “Overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring the rapid economic and social reconstruction of Europe will form the focus of the trio presidency,” the leaders of the three countries said in a joint statement.

“We cannot simply go back to business as usual and continue a system that over-exploits the planet without regard for the consequences,” Wates reiterated.

Ahead of its presidency, the German government released the broad outlines of its presidency’s work programme. Top of the agenda is overcoming the socioeconomic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Other focuses include building a more innovative, sustainable and fair European Union.

Blueprint for green action

Rather than viewing the coronavirus and environmental challenges we face as distinct crises, it is vital that the German, Portuguese and Slovenian presidencies recognise and act on them as intricately and intimately interrelated problems and tackle them simultaneously and cohesively.

Towards that end and as part of its regular tracking of EU presidencies, the EEB has released its blueprint for joined-up green action by the presidency trio which covers 12 key demands.

The Dozen Demands include addressing not only the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic but also tackling the climate emergency, reversing the alarming loss of biodiversity and creating a non-toxic environment, not least because pollution can weaken people’s immune systems. It also involves setting in motion a just transition towards a sustainable and resilient Europe, as well as leveraging all the financial means at the EU’s disposal, from the European Green Deal to the COVID-19 recovery package.

The Dozen Demands are addressed to the entire trio of forthcoming presidencies: Germany (second half of 2020), Portugal (first half of 2021) and Slovenia (second half of 2021).

Read the full document: ‘A Dozen Demands from civil society

Measuring up to expectations

The EEB is also putting ten specific demands to the German presidency. The EEB will monitor the presidency’s performance against these and issue a scorecard in January 2021at the end of the six-month period.

The ten tests for the German presidency are as follows:

  1. Drive a just transition to a sustainable and resilient Europe
  2. Channel the EU’s Recovery Package and budget towards a green transition
  3. Tackle the climate emergency
  4. Reverse the dramatic loss of biodiversity on land and water
  5. Initiate a transition toward sustainable food supply chains and agriculture
  6. Promote a shift towards zero pollution
  7. Drive a new industrial revolution (the circular economy, digitilisation and artificial intelligence)
  8. Set in motion an ambitious chemicals strategy for sustainability
  9. Enhance greater democratic accountability and rule of law relating to environmental issues
  10. Promote European solidarity, wellbeing and social and environmental justice

Read the full report: ‘Ten tests for the German presidency of the EU

Gauging Croatia’s presidency

The final report in the trio of presidency papers released by the EEB is the assessment of the environmental performance of the Croatian presidency.

Croatia’s first time at the helm of the EU was a baptism of fire as it came during the COVID-19 pandemic, the greatest public health crisis that has faced Europe and the world for generations.

That said, the Croatian presidency’s performance has been a mixed bag. Overall, it did well on air pollution, clean water and biodiversity but performed poorly on agriculture and chemicals.

Read the full report: ‘Assessment of the environmental performance of the Croatian presidency of the EU

For more information:

Khaled Diab

Acting communications manager

khaled.diab@eeb.org