Quantcast

Germany’s New Coalition Agreement Waffles on Paris Goals

Renewable Energy
Wind turbines and solar panels in Zerbst, Germany. René / Flickr

Nearly six months after elections took place, three German parties finally signed an agreement to form a coalition government Monday, Reuters reported.

But while the agreement, between Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democratic Party, might relieve Germany's political uncertainty, it is less reassuring for the environment, according to some critics.


That is because the agreement leaves open the possibility that Germany might not meet the 2020 goal it set itself in the Paris agreement, NewClimate Institute founding partner Niklas Höhne explained in a post originally written in German for NewClimate Institute and posted in English on Climate Home News.

While the agreement formally commits to "national, European, and Paris Climate Agreement climate protection goals for 2020, 2030, and 2050 for all sectors," it also makes plans to phase out coal in such a way so as to "close the gap to the 2020 goal 'as much as possible,'" according to a Factsheet on the agreement prepared by Clean Energy Wire.

"[It] can be interpreted as an admission that this gap will not be closed in 2020, but later," Höhne wrote.

Höhne praised some aspects of the agreement. It would up the percentage of Germany's energy to be supplied by renewables from 50 percent to 65 percent by 2030, decide on a date for phasing out coal power in 2018, and pass a climate protection act in 2019 that would make it harder for future governments to undo environmental reforms.

But Höhne said the agreement did not do enough to meet Paris targets. Without the development of carbon capture technologies, 100 percent of Germany's electricity would need to come from renewable sources by 2030 or 2040 in order to meet its Paris goals.

Further, the agreement's proposals on industry emissions and building renovation are too vague to be effective, and, in the transportation sector, it includes no phase out of combustion engines such as India, France, Norway and the Netherlands have committed to, Höhne wrote.

Höhne isn't the only one who has criticized the new agreement's climate credentials.

Rainer Baake, Germany's former energy state secretary who oversaw Germany's "Energiewende," or transition to renewable energy, for the past four years, quit last week. In his resignation letter, he called the new agreement a "bitter disappointment" and said the new government was "missing out on the opportunity to thoroughly modernise Germany's economy," Clean Energy Wire reported.

Germany has long been a global leader in the fight against climate change. Angela Merkel has even been nicknamed the "climate chancellor" due to her role in pushing for international climate agreements, DW reported.

But that doesn't mean her domestic policies have always reflected her global aims.

"On the world stage, Merkel fights for international climate agreements, while at home she misses her own climate targets," Claudia Kemfert, energy and climate expert at the German Institute for Economic Research, told DW.

As of September, 2017 the country was not on track to reach its 2020 goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared with 1990 levels; in 2016, it had only lowered them by 28 percent.

A graph showing how Germany is falling short of its emissions targets DW

While Germany has made impressive strides in renewable energy, its total emissions have not always fallen as a result, since it still gets a significant amount of energy from coal, DW explained.

Höhne said it was essential for the global push against climate change that the German government not walk back its 2020 commitment. "If a country like Germany, whose outstanding role in international climate diplomacy made the Paris Agreement possible, does not meet its long-established goal, who will?" he wrote.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A glacier is seen in the Kenai Mountains on Sept. 6, near Primrose, Alaska. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the glaciers in the area since 1966 and their studies show that the warming climate has resulted in sustained glacial mass loss as melting outpaced the accumulation of new snow and ice. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Mark Mancini

On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.

Read More Show Less
Members of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America table at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18. Alex Schwartz

By Alex Schwartz

Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
StephanieFrey / iStock / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Muffins are a popular, sweet treat.

Read More Show Less
Hackney primary school students went to the Town Hall on May 24 in London after school to protest about the climate emergency. Jenny Matthews / In Pictures / Getty Images

By Caroline Hickman

Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?

Read More Show Less
Myrtle warbler. Gillfoto / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bird watching in the U.S. may be a lot harder than it once was, since bird populations are dropping off in droves, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on Sept. 19 in Washington, DC. Paul Morigi / Getty Images for Amazon

The day before over 1,500 Amazon.com employees planned a walkout to participate in today's global climate strike, CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a sweeping plan for the retail and media giant to be carbon neutral by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris agreement schedule.

Read More Show Less

By Winona LaDuke

For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.

Read More Show Less
The climate crisis often intensifies systems of oppression. Rieko Honma / Stone / Getty Images Plus

By Mara Dolan

We see the effects of the climate crisis all around us in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and rising sea levels, but our proximity to these things, and how deeply our lives are changed by them, are not the same for everyone. Frontline groups have been leading the fight for environmental and climate justice for centuries and understand the critical connections between the climate crisis and racial justice, economic justice, migrant justice, and gender justice. Our personal experiences with climate change are shaped by our experiences with race, gender, and class, as the climate crisis often intensifies these systems of oppression.

Read More Show Less