My colleague Heiko Maas,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The coronavirus crisis is by no means over yet. We are witnessing that across Europe right now. The current situation brings home only too well the importance of a fully functioning state. One that can create the conditions needed to protect public health. A state that can protect businesses and jobs, for instance with provisions on short-time work.

But we must look beyond today's problems and give thought to the time after the coronavirus as well. Future generations need to be able to live well too – in a country, and a Europe, that is fair and economically robust. That is why I am very pleased that the German government is using the state economic recovery support related to the coronavirus situation to accelerate the transition to a climate-neutral future.

Not only Germany is doing this, but the EU as a whole. The EU has just set out a new strategy for the future with the European Green Deal. The implementation of the European Green Deal and progress towards a climate-neutral Europe is also at the heart of the German EU Council Presidency.

We have already achieved one important milestone: agreement on the recovery package at the end of July, which combines economic recovery with investment in environmental protection and climate action. In future, 30 percent of EU funds will be earmarked for climate-related measures. In the main EU programme, the new Recovery and Resilience Facility, the figure will be as high as 37 percent. This is a great achievement which will help us to emerge from the crisis stronger than before. It also shows that, in times of crisis too, Europe stands united and capable of action.

We now need to lay the political foundations for climate neutrality.

In the Environment Council last week we discussed the European Climate Law, which aims to make our climate targets for 2030 and 2050 binding throughout the EU. I am delighted that last week we were able to reach a broad agreement on this legislation. The only point left open was the level of the 2030 target.

An agreement on raising the 2030 target remains my main objective for the last weeks of the German EU Council Presidency. I am confident that we will be successful. We are on track for considerably more climate action.

The heads of state and government will determine the level of the 2030 target: at their last meeting in mid-October they decided that they themselves, rather than the environment ministers, would address this issue.

As a result, the European Council plans to conclusively deal with the EU climate target for 2030 at its meeting on the 11th of December. It is clear that the Commission proposal to reduce emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels will be the basis for these discussions. The European Council has made a direct reference to this. The Environment Council will then adopt the Council draft of the European Climate Law, including the addition of the climate target, on the 17th of December. With the European Commission as facilitator, the final version of the European Climate Law will then be negotiated in the trilogue between the European Parliament and the Council. Both institutions will then formally adopted it.

They also confirmed that an agreement on raising the climate target should be reached by the end of the year. We are therefore well on the way to achieving the goals we prioritised for our Council Presidency.

You all know that raising the EU climate target, our NDC, is necessary if we are to meet our commitments under the Paris Agreement. It is encouraging that more and more countries are pledging to pursue climate neutrality and are taking concrete measures to achieve that goal. China's announcement that it wants to become CO2-neutral by 2060 is an enormous step forward. Japan is aiming to become climate-neutral by 2050. Other major economies will not be able to evade this momentum for climate action much longer.

For COP26 to be successful it is imperative that, in the run-up to the conference, as many countries as possible submit enhanced climate targets – their updated NDCs. The economic recovery plans now in place are an opportunity to move forward along this road.

Today, you will be talking about how we can make COP26 a success and Europe fit for the future. Please use this opportunity to bring your ideas to the table.

I wish you all constructive and interesting discussions.