Germany during its upcoming EU presidency plans to advance joint offshore wind projects across member states, as well as hydrogen and investments in energy efficiency and renewable power, the country’s economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier said.

“We can give the Energiewende (energy transition) a significant boost while at the same time providing for investment and economic growth,” Altmaier said before taking part in a video conference of EU energy ministers that will mainly be discussing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the energy sector.

“We also want to advance some of these topics within the framework of the German EU Council Presidency 2020.”

Altmaier also said the energy sector can make an important contribution to the post-Covid-19 recovery in Germany and Europe, with the EU’s Green Deal playing an important part.

“It can become an important growth strategy if we specifically incentivise investments in new technologies and advance them in such a way that we increase our competitiveness and secure jobs.”

Altmaier’s comments come amid an intensifying debate whether post-Covid-19 recovery strategies should accelerate the EU’s Green Deal plans and the energy transition in individual member states, or rather slow down climate ambitions for cost reasons as large amounts of money have to be poured into other sectors of the economy.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel after a summit with EU leaders last week stressed that recovery plans should be directly related to climate protection, innovative mobility and digitalisation.

Her environment minister Svenja Schulze at the beginning of the ‘Petersberg Climate Dialogue’ (that Germany this year also holds as a video conference) also urged the recovery to be linked to more climate protection.

“In contrast to the fight against corona, we already know the vaccine” against climate change, Schulze is quoted as saying by German media.

Many German industrial firms such as steelmaker Thyssenkrupp also favour a more ambitious climate policy, but the powerful federation of industries (BDI) in Europe’s largest economy called for re-examining the EU’s 2030 climate targets to spare industries already under pressure from Covid-19.

Stiftung 2 °, a group of 68 large German and international companies in favour of a recovery strategy including ambitious climate policies, said governments must act decisively now and restore urgently needed investment security with climate friendly long-term economic stimulus programmes.

"Many companies from all sectors of the economy have already begun to make their business models climate-friendly, based on scientific evidence. These investments must not be jeopardised," the group's managing director, Sabine Nallinger, said.

"The German government should work with all member states of the EU to assure that the there is no turning back from European climate policy.”

The call by the Foundation 2° was signed by companies such as EnBW, Vattenfall, E.ON, GE Deutschland, Stadtwerke München, IKEA Deutschland, Allianz, Innogy, Unilever - but no carmaker.

Germany’s government in its latest growth estimate expects the country’s gross domestic product to shrink by 6.3% this year, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) even predicts an 8.9% plunge.

UPDATED with comment by the Stiftung 2 ° group of large German and international companies