The French Minister for Transport and German Parliamentary State Secretary mapped out possibilities for economic growth and the green transition.
The European Union has committed itself to becoming the first net zero continent by 2050. But successful implementation is still far from certain, and the EU elections might throw a spanner in the works. To gain insight on how France and Germany are dealing with the situation, the Hertie School, in cooperation with its Jacques Delors Centre, welcomed Clément Beaune, French Minister for Transport, and Franziska Brantner, German Parliamentary State Secretary at the Ministry for Economic Affairs, to a panel discussion. The event, “Green and powerful: The road towards sustainable growth and a stronger Europe”, took place on campus on 29 September.
The EU Green Deal: Economic and peace project
Both Beaune and Brantner were hopeful that a green transition was possible. “Four years ago, the European Commission put the EU Green Deal on the table. And when you look at the decisions that were made in these four years, it is impressive,” Beaune said. In particular, he noted the EU’s decision to prohibit new combustion engine cars as of 2035. Parliamentary State Secretary Brantner emphasised that the green transition was not only a climate or economic project, but inherently a peace and security project as well. “Many said when the war in Ukraine started that the Green Deal is dead. But we came to another conclusion. The Green Deal is more important than ever because it helps towards sustainable growth but also makes us stronger as Europe,” she said. “We don’t want to be dependent on autocrats.” Gaining independence from Russian gas flows had led to exploring new partnerships in Africa and Latin America, and many of these new partners were interested in green supply chains.
Responding to criticism from businesses and citizens
However, in their daily work, Beaune and Brantner also had to reassure businesses and citizens that the green transition in France, Germany and Europe would not lead to business decline because of higher energy costs or higher costs of living. “Our [French] businesses are very worried about energy policy and climate transition. They are even critical of the Green Deal. What I then say to businesses is just think on a European level: either we have the Green Deal, or we have 27 solutions,” Beaune said. Addressing the audience, he emphasised that “especially for your generation, this would be a catastrophe."
In a similar vein, Brantner pointed out that in implementing green policies, we should “make sure it’s affordable and that we won’t stop the things that are running”.