The European Green Deal is an ambitious climate action plan by the European Union. Its implementation leaves a number of questions unanswered. During the European Evening at ZEW Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of Science, Theresia Bauer, former EU Commissioner, Günther H. Oettinger, as well as the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Ottmar Edenhofer, and president of ZEW, Achim Wambach, discussed what exactly is needed in order for Europe to become carbon neutral by 2050. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an exclusive group of participants comprising 30 guests was permitted to attend the event in person, many others followed the debate via a live stream from their screens at home. Journalist Johannes Pennekamp moderated the panel discussion at the event.
Under the motto "Green Deal for Europe - Green Transformation after Corona?", the participants in the panel discussion discussed growth opportunities in Europe against the background of the EU's climate policy. The Green Deal poses a major challenge for Baden-Württemberg and its automotive industry in particular. "One should not commit oneself too early to having the right solution," said Theresia Bauer, Baden-Württemberg's Minister for Science, Research and the Arts. "We need openness to technology and the courage to let science work out solutions." The state government wants to tackle the green transformation together with car manufacturers and suppliers. "We also need to develop our university landscape in terms of engineering education at a rapid pace," Bauer said.
Bringing EU member states together on climate protection
The environmental economist Ottmar Edenhofer underlined the ambition of the Commission's plans: "The coal phase-out, as decided in Germany, has long been a waste of time due to the announcement of Frau von der Leyen. He pleaded for an expansion of the CO2 price to achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. "In principle, the CO2 price is an excellent instrument because it provides incentives to reduce those emissions for which it is most favourable. Those who want to achieve neutrality by 2050 cannot do this with planned economy instruments, but must use the power and innovations of the market," says Edenhofer. According to him, a further advantage of CO2 pricing is that it provides politicians with income to compensate for social hardship in climate protection.
ZEW President Achim Wambach believes that the decisive prerequisite for the success of the Green Deal is that companies in Europe master the structural change: "The majority of research and development takes place in companies. They need to know that it is worth investing". At the same time, he called for the EU to have functioning decision-making processes. "The challenge will be to bring the member states together. If we don't succeed in doing this in the EU, how will we succeed worldwide," Wambach said. In his view, Europe will only become climate-neutral by 2050 if the USA and China are also convinced of this path by 2030. "If we fail to shape the transformation internationally, then the mood in Germany will also change. We must therefore create structures that promote this international commonality," he demanded.
Günther H. Oettinger, former EU Commissioner and former Minister President of the State of Baden-Württemberg, also made it clear: "Only if the structural change in industry succeeds and the industrial value creation can remain here will Central and Eastern Europeans join in and other regions of the world also see the Green Deal as a model". He expressed concern that the financial resources earmarked for the Green Deal were not sufficiently stringent. "The country-specific recommendations of the EU Commission must be sharply focused. Otherwise some countries will use the money for current expenditure. Italy, for example, needs a reform agenda to strengthen its economy. Overall, Oettinger was cautiously optimistic about the goal of climate neutrality in 2050: "We will succeed if research produces new technologies that enable a faster reduction path," was his forecast.