'Risks for Business'

States Protest Climate Action Plan

climate change.dpa.Frank Rumpenhorst
A power plant in the German state of Hesse. Leaders in the country's 16 states are increasingly concerned about the fallout from Berlin's renewable energy plans.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has several ambitious climate change targets that local governments and domestic industrial players warn are being implemented without properly consulting those who will feel the economic effects.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The Climate Action Plan 2050 is designed to help the country reach a goal of almost complete greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.
    • Economy ministers from Germany’s 16 regional states are due to meet in Hamburg from June 8-9 to discuss the program.
    • The Climate Action Plan 2050 calls for all sectors – including energy, transport, agriculture, industry, or private households – to contribute to lowering the emission of harmful greenhouse gases.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Germany’s regional states are growing increasingly concerned about the central government’s plans to reduce carbon emissions through the Climate Action Plan 2050, Handesblatt has learned.

The program backed by Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks is designed to help the country reach a goal of almost complete greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.

Economy ministers from the country’s 16 states are due to meet in Hamburg from June 8-9 to discuss the program, and a motion for the conference, seen by Handelsblatt, makes it clear that many are worried about the potential economic impact of the government’s climate goals.

The motion, put forward by the the state of Brandenburg and supported by several other German states, warns that the proposed measures involve “great risks for business.”

The motion calls for Berlin to gather more input from regional governments and from industry before pushing ahead. It also criticizes many of the measures in the action plan, which calls for all sectors – including energy, transport, agriculture, industry and private households – to contribute to lowering the emission of harmful greenhouse gases.

The draft plan due for endorsement by the German cabinet, the country’s chief executive body, posits that the competitiveness of a nation’s economy will be crucially dependent on its ability to decarbonize.

But not everyone agrees.

Industry players had already complained months ago it that they were under-represented in the process and that the whole drafting system was unfair.

The chemical industry for example, feels it has not been sufficiently consulted. Utz Tillmann, director-general of VCI, the German chemical industry association, told Handelsblatt that Germany could not unilaterally embark on this path without losing competitive advantage over other countries. He said any substantial climate protection measures had to be agreed globally, not nationally.

But an environment ministry spokesman said the criticism was misplaced, adding that the plan had been drafted in an “exemplary” manner. All the states, as well as municipal representatives and a large number of associations, she said, participated in multiple rounds during the several months of the participation process. All target groups had the opportunity to introduce and to evaluate proposals, he said.

But despite the lofty words it is by no means certain that Germany will meet its own goals, not to mention international ones.

The Climate Action Plan comes on the heels of a partially legally-binding commitment by 195 nations to limit the level of global warming to 1.5 degrees (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) – down from the 2-degrees-Celsius threshold reached in Copenhagen six years ago. They made the commitment at the Paris Climate Change conference at the end of last year, after new research found the planet has now already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.

Under the Renewable Energy Sources Act, Germany has set a goal of producing 80 percent of its electricity from green power by 2050. The federal government imposed surcharges on the electricity bills of consumers and businesses, using the additional revenue to subsidize wind and solar power.

But despite the lofty words it is by no means certain that Germany will meet its own goals, not to mention international ones.

In a study seen by Handelsblatt in February, the Renewable Energy Federation reported that by 2020, Germany will have reduced its carbon emissions by 32 percent, eight percent short of the target set by Berlin. Even more troubling, Europe’s largest economy will have cut its emissions 58 percent by 2050, not nearly enough to comply with the Paris climate accord.

 

Silke Kersting reports for Handelsblatt from Berlin, focusing on consumer protection, construction, environmental policy and climate change. Klaus Stratmann is the deputy bureau chief of Handelsblatt in Berlin and covers the energy market.  To contact the authors: kersting@handelsblatt.com and stratmann@handelsblatt.com 

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