Germany’s New Coalition Agreement Waffles on Paris Goals
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.
Germany Sets New Renewable Energy Record https://t.co/qBnOM3h5VQ @EnergyCollectiv @RenewablesNews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1514498453.0
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.
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By Betsy Mason
For decades, climate scientist David Keith of Harvard University has been trying to get people to take his research seriously. He's a pioneer in the field of geoengineering, which aims to combat climate change through a range of technological fixes. Over the years, ideas have included sprinkling iron in the ocean to stimulate plankton to suck up more carbon from the atmosphere or capturing carbon straight out of the air.
Solar geoengineering would involve injecting reflective aerosols from high-altitude planes into the layer of the upper atmosphere known as the stratosphere, which stretches between 10 to 50 kilometers (6 to 31 miles) above Earth's surface. The idea is that the aerosol particles would reflect a small amount of sunlight away from the planet, reducing the amount of heat trapped by greenhouse gases and mitigating some of the effects of climate change.
The planned Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment will send a balloon carrying scientific instruments in a gondola into the stratosphere. The instruments will release a small amount of material — likely ice or mineral dust — to form a kilometer-long plume of aerosol particles (left). Modified airboat propellers will allow the gondola to maneuver above the plume (middle) and lower instruments into the plume to take repeated measurements of how the particles spread through the stratosphere (right). ADAPTED FROM J.A. DYKEMA ET AL / PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A 2014
David Keith envisions using multiple approaches to combat climate change. The red line shows how the impacts of climate change would worsen with a business-as-usual scenario of unabated burning of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas emissions. Aggressively cutting emissions bends that curve, and removing carbon from the atmosphere offers further cuts, but there are still consequences from the already high levels of carbon dioxide. In this scenario, solar geoengineering would lessen the impact from existing atmospheric carbon dioxide, effectively carving the top off the curve.<p>Some people think we should use it only as a get-out-of-jail card in an emergency. Some people think we should use it to quickly try to get back to a preindustrial climate. I'm arguing we use solar geoengineering to cut the top off the curve by gradually starting it and gradually ending it.</p><p><strong>Do you feel optimistic about the chances that solar geoengineering will happen and can make a difference in the climate crisis?</strong></p><p>I'm not all that optimistic right now because we seem to be so much further away from an international environment that's going to allow sensible policy. And that's not just in the US. It's a whole bunch of European countries with more populist regimes. It's Brazil. It's the more authoritarian India and China. It's a more nationalistic world, right? It's a little hard to see a global, coordinated effort in the near term. But I hope those things will change.</p>
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By Lisa Newcomb
Analysis released Thursday of the world's top 10 biggest plastic polluters in 15 countries reveals how major corporations hide behind the veneer of corporate responsibility while actively working to thwart regulatory legislation around the globe.
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<div id="688ca" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3370c14123ff2ac521085479120d1260"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306488205198401536" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">DELAY, DISTRACT and DERAIL: 3 tactics that help Big Plastic fight plastic legislation behind the scenes across the… https://t.co/f29Pc86aMj</div> — GAIA (@GAIA)<a href="https://twitter.com/GAIAnoburn/statuses/1306488205198401536">1600326036.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="eaab1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0f6dbe75ec7e7ed4656a767958238c89"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306313773511303169" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Amount of federal government subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry every year: $15 billion. The amount it sh… https://t.co/NRWQWRiw5f</div> — Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)<a href="https://twitter.com/SenSanders/statuses/1306313773511303169">1600284448.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Urbanic urged lawmakers to act to protect the planet.</p><p>"The voluntary initiatives and commitments by the industry have failed," she said in a statement. "Policymakers should look past the industry smokescreen and adopt proven, progressive legislation globally to create the systemic change that this crisis so urgently needs."</p>
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The secretive blueprints for two of the leading vaccine candidates for the coronavirus were released Thursday. Pfizer and Moderna became the first two companies among the nine leading vaccine candidates to share their study designs, hoping that the disclosures will create trust and clarity for the public, as The New York Times reported.
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New Zealand could be the first country in the world to require its major financial institutions to report on the risks posed by the climate crisis.