Just weeks after the German Presidency began, Executive Vice-President held an online citizens’ dialogue with Carla Reemtsma from Fridays for Future Germany, in German and English and interpreted into Spanish, Dutch, and Polish.
The Executive Vice-President answered questions from online viewers on the Green Deal, the climate pact, the climate convention in France and the future of climate policy. The discussion began with an exchange on the implications of the novel coronavirus on protesters and the Fridays For Future movement, and the green recovery from the crisis. This is an opportunity to not return to our previous ways and dependence on fossil fuels, and not leave any citizen behind in this recovery, emphasised the Executive Vice-President.
The Paris Agreement and the goal of climate neutrality by 2050, as the most ambitious target for any continent in the world, was questioned as too late by Fridays for Future activist, Carla Reemtsma. We need to take responsibility and aim for climate neutrality by 2025 and 2030, she expressed, and the Green Deal needs to be even more ambitious and the EU must take the climate crisis as seriously as activists are. School pupils and young people should not be the ones taking responsibility and pushing for for this, but politicians who have signed up to Agreements, she added.
Green economic growth and legislation were also debated, answering a question from an online viewer who wanted to know about social issues within the growth strategy of the Green Deal. Clean energy was mentioned in response to a citizens’ question on the price of renewable energy and the potential of hydrogen and investing in infrastructure, and the energy switch going even faster.
Answering a question on Twitter on the hydrogen strategy, the discussion turned to decarbonising energy resources and the carbon trading system. That the carbon trading system has not collapsed during the covid19 crisis was a surprise to many – the price is now higher than it was before. The conversation then moved onto subsidies for fossil fuels, which are absurd and should be stopped immediately, declared Carla.
Transport changes and mobility were also brought to the table by a citizen on Facebook who asked when cars would be banned. The corona crisis proved that cities and their air quality fare far better with fewer cars and more bicycles on the road. The infrastructure needs to be amended to ensure this continues.
What about climate refugees and the role of those coming from outside Europe in the Green Deal asked one online viewer, who wanted to know what the EU will do to protect peoples’ lives. We need to ensure we have talent here – the demographic changes in Europe and Africa will be complementary – the young population in Africa and the ageing population in Europe, answered the Executive Vice-President. We need to reach an agreement with Africa to address climate change and to have to help the African continent move away from coal-based heating, he added.
There was optimism in the room when discussing different geographical areas approach to climate policy. The Executive Vice-President referred to the acceleration of renewable energy in Africa, where this is developing quickly. On central and eastern Europe – the Executive Vice-President stated that the polish population are fed up of bad air quality that comes from their reliance on coal, and that people will lead their Government to change its policy on this.
A final question from online viewers was on the climate pact as an important convention in which citizens play a role in shaping the Green Deal. It was discussed that citizens will have a greater stake through taking part in this through the climate pact and the continuation of citizens' dialogues.