Germany’s EU presidency faces climate, biodiversity emergencies

The coronavirus crisis is not an excuse to delay environmental action but a reason to accelerate it and scale it up, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, said on July 1.

As Germany takes over the rotating EU presidency from Croatia, the EEB has released a Dozen Demands to enable the EU to build a sustainable and healthy future, the EEB said in a press release.

“The response to the Corona crisis will be a core element of the German presidency,” EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates said. “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,” he added.

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, the EEB said, reminding that 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.

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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 EU.

Blueprint for green action

According to the EEB, 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.

According to the EEB, 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.

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