Germany Falls ‘Disastrously’ Short of 2020 Carbon Target in ‘Significant Blow’ to Climate Leadership
Germany is on track to fall “disastrously” short of its 2020 target for greenhouse gas reductions, an outcome that would deal a “significant blow” to the country’s climate leadership, according to an internal environment ministry analysis obtained by Clean Energy Wire (CLEW).
“Without further action, Germany’s CO2 emissions will only be 31.7% to 32.5% below 1990 levels,” compared to an official target of 40%, CLEW correspondent Sören Amelang reports on Climate Home. A gap of that magnitude would be “a disaster for Germany’s international reputation as a climate leader,” the confidential paper stated.
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“The ministry’s warning adds further pressure to make fast progress on climate-related issues in upcoming talks aimed at forming a new government following September’s general elections,” Climate Home notes.
Emission reductions have been a key priority for Germany’s historic Energiewende, along with the country’s decision to shutter its nuclear generating capacity following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed the G20 to lead on compliance with the Paris agreement, and promised to find a way to meet the 40% target during the country’s recent election campaign.
“Most experts believe Germany’s only option to drastically cut its emissions in the short term is to close down its dirtiest lignite-fired power plants,” Climate Home notes. “This is a prominent Green Party demand in the upcoming coalition talks with Merkel’s conservatives and the free-market FDP.”
The environment ministry paper cites “unexpectedly strong economic growth, low energy prices, the continued rise of power exports, and population growth” as factors that will prevent Germany from hitting even a more modest 35% GHG reduction target by 2020. That means “the expected readjustments regarding the 2020 target at the start of the [new] legislative period become ever more urgent and will have to be much more comprehensive than previously assumed.”
In a separate report on Climate Home, Clean Energy Wire has the country’s Green Party open to negotiation on some aspects of their coalition discussions with Merkel’s Christian Democrats, but not on climate targets. “Every one of the parties has committed itself to the aims of the Paris climate agreement. That’s a good starting point,” said Oliver Krischer, vice-chair of the Greens’ parliamentary group. But “there will be no coalition agreement without substantial progress in climate protection.”
“We would be out of our minds if we don’t make climate our chief concern once negotiations begin,” agreed Green legislator Ingrid Nestle.
The critical assessment of Germany’s progress toward its 2020 targets is just the latest to cast a pall on the success of the Energiewende. But on The Energy Collective, John Mathews of Australia’s Macquarie Graduate School of Management mounts a spirited defence of the program.
“The Energiewende has been subjected to relentless attack ever since its inception, both within and outside Germany. The gist of the criticism is that the German energy transformation has achieved too little, and at too high a price,” Mathews asserts. “Both assertions are easily rebutted.”
Matthews posts a chart that shows renewable energy growing nearly five-fold as a percentage of German electricity generation, from 5% to 34%, between 2000 and 2016. Over the same period, coal declined just slightly, to just over 15%, while nuclear fell by half.
“Carbon emissions have indeed not fallen by all that much, but that is due to continuing use of fossil fuels in transport and industry. These too need to be cleaned up—but you cannot blame the Energiewende, with its focus on electric power generation, for that outcome,” Mathews writes.
He acknowledges the renewable energy transition “has been expensive because Germany was a first mover, and introduced [Feed-in Tariffs] when solar and wind power was still costing much more than fossil fuels. But now the renewables cost less, and their costs are continuing to fall—so other countries don’t need FiTs, and can actually introduce their own energy transformations without any public subsidies at all.”