German companies call for COVID-19 aid to be tied to climate action

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German companies including ThyssenKrupp, Salzgitter, Bayer, Covestro, E.ON, HeidelbergCement, Puma, Allianz and Deutsche Telekom have called for coronavirus-related state aid to be tied to climate action, daily Handelsblatt reported.

“We appeal to the federal government to closely link economic policy measures to overcome both the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis,” more than 60 companies said in letter, ahead of the Petersberg climate dialogue starting on Monday.

The companies are concerned that environmental issues will be put on the backburner during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Car makers are already lobbying to prevent the announced tightening of emissions limits on cars, airlines for a waiver on jet fuel taxes, and the plastics industry for an appeal of the ban on some plastics products.

“The pandemic highlights the vulnerability of our globalized economic system to threats that are not limited to regions or industries,” the appeal says. “Climate change is a comparable challenge.”

As part of the initiative, Bernhard Osburg, head of ThyssenKrupp’s steel unit, called for a climate economic stimulus programme, while Joerg Fuhrmann, Chief Executive at peer Salzgitter, said the state should encourage the replacement of coal with hydrogen in steelmaking.

Markus Steilemann, head of plastics maker Covestro said: “It is about making our economy more crisis-resistant and competitive with a view to a truly sustainable, climate-neutral future.”

The German BDI industry association said it was sticking to the European goal of climate neutrality, or net zero greenhouse gas emissions, in 2050, but warned that governments, companies and households will in future have reduced scope for investments.

“The EU’s Green Deal must therefore become a Smart Deal, in which growth, employment and ambitious climate protection targets are linked as efficiently as possible via an intelligent investment and relief package,” said BDI deputy managing director Holger Loesch.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Kirsten Donovan