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Germany would have missed 2020 climate goal without Covid-19 emissions drop

BRUSSELS: Germany could meet its climate target for 2020 but would have missed the goal if the economic havoc wrought by the coronavirus pandemic had not caused a large drop in greenhouse gas emissions, the country‘s environment ministry said.

Germany, Europe’s largest-emitting country, had hoped to cut emissions to 40% below 1990 levels this year and introduced new climate policies in 2019.

However, policy efforts would have delivered only a 37.5% emissions cut, the ministry said on Wednesday.

“We have learned the right lessons from past failures,” German environment minister Svenja Schulze said. “Every year we will check whether we are on the path we have agreed, and take further action if necessary.”

The full impact of the pandemic on Germany’s emissions is still uncertain, but actual emissions are likely to be “significantly lower” than expected, meaning the 2020 target could be achieved, the ministry said.

Europe’s emissions are expected to plummet to levels not seen since the 1950s this year, as lockdowns temporarily shuttered polluting industries and slashed the use of energy and transportation.

The European Union wants countries to commit to bigger CO2 cuts over the next decade – a move which has faced opposition from some eastern European countries concerned about the economic cost.

The European Commission will next month propose a new 2030 climate target for a 50% or 55% emissions reduction against 1990 levels, compared with an existing goal for a 40% cut.

Germany will steer talks between member states to attempt to strike a deal on the EU goal this year.

The goal will also need the approval of the European Parliament, where some lawmakers are pushing for a tougher 65% cut, which they say is the minimum effort needed to avert the climate crisis.

EU holds great expectations for president-elect Biden in trade

BRUSSELS: The European Union has “great expectations” of a new U.S. president and hopes the United States will re-engage in multilateral trade talks, EU officials said on Monday.

EU ministers responsible for trade were meeting by video conference on Monday, two days after Democrat Joe Biden clinched the presidency. President Donald Trump, with whom Europe has had strained relations, has not conceded and is making legal challenges to the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

“There are great expectations and the hope that the American presidential elections will lead to a return to multilateral engagement in international trade and that it will be possible to overcome past conflicts,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told a news conference before the ministers met.

EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said the European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 27 EU member states, had made some informal contacts with Team Biden.

“So some first contacts have been made, among other things also to discuss trade issues,” he said.

The EU wants the United States to remove U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium and resolve a dispute over civil aircraft subsidies for planemakers Boeing and Airbus.

The bloc is ready to impose extra duties on $4 billion of U.S. imports after a World Trade Organization award in a case on Boeing. The United States already has tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU products approved in a parallel WTO case related to Airbus.

Dombrovskis, a vice president of the European Commission, repeated an EU offer that the bloc would suspend its measures if the United States did the same, but said Washington had so far not agreed to do so.

“We are ready to suspend or withdraw our tariffs any time when the U.S. suspends or withdraws their tariffs. We are ready to do it any time,” he said.