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London — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has endorsed the European Commission's proposal to raise the EU's 2030 CO2 reduction target from 40% to 50%-55%.

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"We know it is going to be a long road [to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050] and that is why I welcome the interim target proposal for the European Union to reduce emissions by 50%-55% by 2030 over 1990 levels," the Chancellor said in a speech Tuesday at the Petersberg Climate Dialog.

It was important, as economic stimulus programs were set up post-coronavirus, to "keep a close eye on climate protection and to make it clear that we are not saving on climate protection, but investing in climate protection," Merkel said.

She characterized debates on climate financing as "difficult," while indicating Germany was prepared to significantly increase its share.

Climate-friendly financing would need to be provided by states, development banks and the private sector, she said.

European climate investment will focus on the EU's Green Deal, with EC President Ursula von der Leyen confirming earlier this month that at least Eur1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) of sustainable investments would need to be mobilized over the next 10 years to help the EU become climate-neutral by 2050.

The EC is working on an impact assessment for increasing the target to 50%-55% and plans to unveil details of the plan in September.

New targets would need approval by the EU Council, representing member states with a majority backing calls for a green recovery plan.

EU energy ministers debated a first framework for the green recovery plan and a virtual energy minister meeting chaired by Croatia.

Germany will take over the rotating EU presidency from July and focus on a sustainable stimulus package post-coronavirus, as well as existing plans for closer cooperation, especially for offshore wind in the North Sea.

CO2 pricing key for global level playing field

Merkel also reaffirmed German climate targets, including a 2030 target for a 65% share of renewables in its power mix.

The German chancellor focused on strengthening carbon pricing to boost climate-friendly investment and supports plans to extend the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) to additional sectors.

Germany will extend CO2 pricing to transport and heating from 2021 with a fixed price and after 2025 aims to integrate this into the ETS.

CO2 pricing should also be extended beyond Europe as the best way to "prevent distortion of competition."

The annual Petersberg conference is a key milestone in preparation for the next UN climate conference despite COP26 in Glasgow being postponed to 2021.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and ministers from 30 states met online to debate how countries can proceed with a Paris climate deal pledge to raise national contributions by the end of 2020.

UK energy minister Alok Sharma, in his role as designated COP26 president, said: "When recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, one thing is clear: The decisions we make will either lay the foundation for sustainable growth, or they will set polluting emissions for decades to come."