Germany calls its plan to transition to a low or zero carbon economy Energiewende. It says it is moving ahead with the plan, which will allow it to honor the commitments it made to the world community in Paris in 2015, and is on schedule. But critics charge it is stalled and in need of an immediate jump start.
Three non-profits — BUND, WWF Germany, and German Nature Conservation (DNR) — have issued a joint statement saying that if nothing changes in the next two years, Germany will miss its carbon reduction targets by at least eight percentage points. They claim their position is based on findings by the Federal Ministry of Environment. Such a failure would seriously undermine Germany’s credibility with other nations.
“In order to comply with the Paris climate agreement, Germany must take a steep CO2 reduction path very quickly, says DNR President Kai Niebert.”The new German government will have to start the trend reversal with an emergency program. Hubert Weiger, BUND’s chairman, says, “We are taking the Chancellor’s word that the climate change is being observed in 2020. This has climate implications for the coal-fueled coalition.” He argues that Germany needs to greatly increase the rate of closure of coal fired generating plants “otherwise all future climate change will become waste.”
Michael Schäfer, head of energy and climate at the WWF, says: “Great Britain, France and the Netherlands have launched their coal [reduction plans], while Germany’s CO2 emissions have not declined for eight years. A coalition agreement without coal would be unacceptable……the federal government alone has to save 100 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020.” As a result of the recent German national election, Chancellor Angela Merkel must now forge a coalition government which includes a surprising number of representatives from the country’s neo-nationalist party.
Wolfgang Lucht, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, supports the objective of the emergency program. “The measures demanded by the associations in the immediate climate protection program are fully in line with what is the view of climate science Germany is still able to lead the climate protection path, which aims at protecting the health, the environment and society, as well as providing scope for a socially and economically sound design after 2020 keep it.”
One of the most contentious issues in Germany’s Energiewende program is the level of subsidies provided to renewable energy companies, something that rankles traditional companies like Uniper SE, a German utility company. Its CEO, Klaus Schaefer, says those subsidies have done little to rein in carbon emissions while forcing German companies to abandon valuable equipment. “It’s difficult to see a lot of winners from the energy transition,” he tells Bloomberg.
Such grumblings are eerily reminiscent of the “government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers” arguments so much in fashion in political circles in the US currently. Thanks to a 25% green energy surcharge meant to help fund such subsidies, Germans pay some of the highest electricity rates in the world — about 35 cents per kilowatt-hour on average.
The NGOs say shuttering 50% of existing coal plants is only part of the Energiewende solution. They want an acceleration of the renewable energy sector plus a rethinking of agricultural and transportation policies to reduce carbon emissions from those sectors. The shape of the new German coalition government is still a work in progress.
Source: BUND | Hat tip: Benjamin Schultz