The targets for further climate action in the EU are likely to be low and the European Commission will have little influence on the outcome. This will challenge Germany's role as a pioneer of a green energy transition, a study by the Berlin-based think tank Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) and seen in advance by Europolitics concludes. It recommends that Berlin should lobby strongly for ambitious emissions and binding renewable energy targets for 2030. The SWP acts as an adviser to the German government and is financed mostly by Chancellor Angela Merkel's office.
The paper by Oliver Geden and Severin Fischer postulates that the proposal by the Commission for the 2030 target will be largely irrelevant. Decisions would ultimately be taken unanimously by the European Council. Strong opposition to ambitious CO2 reductions and a binding green energy target are to be expected from the members of the Central European Visegrad group and in particular Poland. But the SWP sees a "paradigm shift" in the climate policy of Europe as a whole. In most member states, energy prices and the weak economy have gained prominence over climate action. Yet the UN climate change summit in 2015 would call on the parties to reach a common position.
The most likely outcome of the negotiations is what Geden calls "normalisation" of climate policy in the EU. "Like in other policy areas, muddling through and the intention to take decisions step-by-step will prevail over the intention to establish a long-term transformation." This will most likely result, according to SWP, in a weak emissions target for 2030 and, at best, a narrowed green energy target applicable only to electricity production. A binding target for energy efficiency would be a surprising development.
A slowing climate abatement process in the EU will have a massive effect on the German Energiewende (energy transition), the authors write. Germany could nevertheless decide to hold on to its ambitious targets - but it would get much more difficult. The German green energy target currently aims at 30% of renewables in overall energy consumption in 2030. Much lower European targets would "undermine the expansion of green energy production politically". Furthermore, the discussion about the effects of Germany's solo would get...