German Government Sets Out for More Sustainability

Today, the Federal Government of Germany published its national programme for Germany's presidency of the Council of the EU, called "Together for Europe’s recovery". As expected, the programme focuses on searching for the right responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Together, steps can be taken " [...] to ensure that Europe – while upholding the principle of subsidiarity – becomes stronger, fairer and more sustainable." Also the joint programme of the trio of the German, Portuguese and Slovenian Council presidencies, which was adopted already in mid-June, contained a commitment to more sustainability (see our blog entry "The Council Presidency Trio Commits to More Sustainability".

In its national programme, too, the German government is placing the management of the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic at the centre of its efforts. To this end, it announces to pursue a "sustainable and inclusive growth strategy". The government seeks to ensure that the transition to a sustainable economy on the basis of the European Green Deal is accomplished and that the digital transformation plays a key role in this regard.

The pandemic was turning the spotlight on the vulnerabilities of global supply chains and the people working in them. A comprehensive risk management system for enterprises that is in line with the global agenda for sustainability could help to increase the resilience of supply chains. Therefore, the government is committed to an EU action plan to strengthen corporate social responsibility in global supply chains that promotes human rights, social and environmental standards and transparency, and which takes the experiences and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic into account. This supported the coherent implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of the United Nations and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

An EU supply chain law with binding due diligence requirements in the supply chain, as EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, had announced some weeks ago (see our blog entry "Cross-sector supply chain due diligence obligations underway"), is however not explicitly mentioned in the programme. It therefore remains to be seen what the content of the announced EU action plan to strengthen corporate responsibility will be in detail, and whether it will also take up the issue of sustainable corporate governance. It is also possible that the German government will await the results of the second round of NAP monitoring which are expected at the end of the summer.

In its national programme for the German presidency of the EU Council, the government dedicates a separate chapter to further sustainability aspects: "IV. A sustainable Europe". The chapter begins with the following introduction:

"Our goal is to overcome the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic sustainably and inclusively and thereby help shape the transition to a sustainable economy. Our priorities to this end are an ambitious climate, environmental and biodiversity policy, a focus on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and sustainable agriculture. The German Presidency of the Council of the EU will also work to ensure that the European Union and its Member States continue to fulfil their role in the international arena as ambitious and active players in the area of climate diplomacy, sustainability and European values."

Specifically, that means:

  • Support for the Green Deal by the EU Commission as a "comprehensive and ambitious strategy"
  • Adoption by the European Council of conclusions on the Commission’s new Circular Economy Action Plan
  • Launching of Council conclusions on the new EU Biodiversity Strategy (in view of the relationship between biological diversity and human health)
  • Conclusion of the deliberations on the draft of a European Climate Law in the European Council which will specifically write into law the goal for the European Union to become climate-neutral by 2050, and agreement on the increase of its nationally determined contributions for the year 2030; here the government welcomes the European Commission's goal to increase the EU’s reductions target for 2030 to 50 to 55% compared with 1990 levels.
  • In the transport sector, the government intends to continue to work towards climate-friendly, sustainable and affordable mobility.
  • In the energy sector, the government aims to formulate Council conclusions on the European framework conditions for joint renewable energy projects by the Member States, in particular in the area of offshore wind power. The government has further set out to contribute to a secure and sustainable supply of carbon-neutral and preferably carbon-free gases, such as hydrogen derived from renewable energies. At an international level the German government will work to establish a level playing field in the prevention of CO2 emissions, taking account of the principle of joint but differentiated responsibility, as well as striving as far as possible to avoid the creation of incentives for carbon leakage to third countries.
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are guiding principles for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. The government works towards the submission of the concept announced by the Commission for the comprehensive implementation of the 2030 Agenda, so that the relevant Council consultations can begin in the second half of the year
  • The German government intends to contribute to implement the SDGs through a modern and sustainable agricultural and fishing industry. In the negotiations on the common agricultural policy (CAP) after 2020, a general approach of the Council is aimed at. In the spirit of sustainable development, the common agricultural policy and other policy areas ought to make a greater contribution to safeguarding the future of rural spaces, tapping the development potential of rural areas and preserving and developing them as attractive places.
  • Finally, the German government is calling for the Council to be involved from an early stage in drafting the new Consumer Agenda which the Commission wants to present in the second half of 2020. The Agenda had to help consumer protection in the European Union to adapt to the current digital and environmental challenges.

Dr Daniel Walden

Dr Matthias Etzel

Dr André Depping

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