The Commission's objective is to ensure that the national recovery plans include an environmental dimension, making the grants conditional on compliance with environmental criteria. This new conditionality, supported in particular by MEP Franziska Brantner, spokeswoman for the Greens in the Bundestag, mainly involves two mechanisms. In addition to the applicability of the principle of "do-no-harm", which excludes investments in fossil fuels, an even more ambitious conditionality could involve earmarking part of these funds for certain key sectors in line with the Commission's priorities, such as building renovation, offshore wind energy or hydrogen production. More significantly, a review of European competition policy could lead to a relaxation of the (currently suspended) state aid control regime, allowing European states to subsidize companies in sectors deemed strategic for the ecological transition. We are thus witnessing a real transformation at the European level: the dogma of free competition is now being replaced by that of climate protection.
At the beginning of June, Germany presented a national recovery plan of €130 billion, with a strong focus on climate protection. In what way is this likely to inspire France's recovery plan, which it should present at the beginning of the new academic year?
The climate ambition of the German recovery plan is incontestable, and has been analyzed in detail by the German think tank Agora Energiewende. Thus, in the mobility sector - in contrast to the measures taken during the 2008 economic crisis - no bonus has been granted for the acquisition of polluting vehicles. The German State will also double the Environmental Bonus paid for the purchase of an electric vehicle. This plan also presents spectacular support for the development of a German hydrogen industry, more specifically green hydrogen, produced by electrolysis from renewable electricity. Germany has invested nearly €9 billion euros for the development of this technology. On the other hand however, the building sector appears to be on the sidelines of the recovery plan, with a budget of €2 billion for the energy renovation of existing buildings.
The example of the German recovery plan is certainly interesting, but let’s remember that Germany’s economic and social context is not quite the same as that of France, who is only just exiting the Yellow Vests crisis, and facing a deeper economic recession. France’s objective is to set up "green" recovery plans that do not undermine household purchasing power. It therefore need not and could not copy the German recovery plan. However, as Carsten Rolle, Director of the Climate and Energy Department of the German Federation of Industry (BDI), reminds us, better coordination between the two countries is necessary for European cooperation in key sectors such as the hydrogen economy or offshore wind energy.
The challenge for the French government is to now identify the most useful levers for a new growth model or, as President Emmanuel Macron put it, "to build a new world with a lower carbon footprint, one based on prevention and sustainability, so that we can cope with the crises our world has yet to face". Europe's resilience to crises will be at the heart of the Genshagen Forum, to be held in Germany in June 2021.
Copyright: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP