Fridays for Future student climate protest in Dortmund in August 2019. Photo: CLEW/Mohn.
Dossier
13 Sep 2019, 10:54
Chancellor Merkel's coalition government aims to agree on steps and climate action law

Climate cabinet to put Germany back on track for 2030 targets

Chancellor Angela Merkel's so-called "climate cabinet" is racing to put together the bedrock for climate action legislation by 20 September, just in time for UN Secretary-General António Guterres' Climate Action Summit in New York (23 September). In what could constitute a watershed moment for German efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the shaky grand coalition government of conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) is aiming to decide how to bring the country back on track to reach 2030 climate targets. Rising public pressure following heat waves and the Fridays for Future protests has prompted "climate chancellor" Merkel to call for greater action and an end to the government's piecemeal approach. While published and leaked plans indicate the government partners agree on many measures, key differences remain, such as how to implement a CO₂ price in transport and buildings and whether or not to decide a single big framework Climate Action Law to make climate targets binding – and hold ministries accountable for reaching them. [Update adds preview "German climate policy faces pivotal moment on 20 September"]

After years of booming renewables, Germany's planned transition to a low-carbon, nuclear-free economy – the famed Energiewende – has recently run into some major hurdles. Emissions remain too high to reach climate targets, renewables expansion has slowed, and initiating changes in sectors such as transport has proven to be extremely difficult. Chancellor Merkel has therefore set up the so-called climate cabinet – a group of ministers with responsibilities in key climate policy fields – to decide necessary legislation to reach the country’s 2030 climate targets, as promised in the 2018 grand coalition government treaty. The cabinet has announced it will make key decisions in a meeting on 20 September.

Clean Energy Wire has followed the debate on key issues such as CO₂ pricing for transport and buildings, the introduction of the Climate Action Law, a major legislative framework, and packages of measures for individual economic sectors. This dossier provides an overview and will be updated regularly.

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THE LATEST

The climate cabinet will meet on 20 September and has promised key decisions for that day. The German government has thus entered crunch time on dealing with the climate challenge. Grand coalition parties CDU, CSU and SPD have each worked on their own climate plans, which show large overlap, but also dissent on key issues. Among these are how to design CO₂ pricing for the transport and buildings sectors, and whether or not to introduce a single big framework Climate Action Law to make climate targets binding and hold ministries accountable for reaching them.

At the same time, state secretaries from relevant ministries have met several times to prepare the 20 September climate cabinet meeting, taking into account the sets of proposals each ministry had to deliver. All proposals now have to be moulded into the climate policy cornerstones the government aims to present that day. A meeting of the grand coalition parties' leadership on 13 September could be used to resolve major remaining sticking points.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler.

German climate policy faces pivotal moment on 20 September

One week before the decisive climate cabinet meeting, this preview provides an overview regarding the government's plans and yet unresolved points of contentions. Mere days are left for the shaky grand coalition of Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) to mould a myriad of party and ministry proposals on how Germany can reach 2030 climate targets into a joint strategy that can be agreed upon in the 20 September "climate cabinet" meeting.

German government enters crunch time on climate challenge

CLEW looks at the state of affairs in German climate politics in the weeks leading up to the climate cabinet meeting on 20 September, and how the climate debate was pushed to the centre of the public focus by heat waves and the Fridays for Future protests.

 

Tracking the CO2 price debate in Germany

After shying away from the debate for a long time, Germany's political leaders are finally considering putting a price on CO2 to help reach the country's climate targets. Ministries, major parties and research institutes are all pitching their ideas for how a carbon price could be designed. CLEW follows the debate and regularly updates this article with the latest developments.

THE FACTS

Germany's Climate Action Law takes shape

Germany's environment ministry wants to enshrine the country's climate targets in a new comprehensive Climate Action Law. A first draft was sent to the chancellery for early coordination in February 2019, and was met with heavy criticism from several members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. They oppose the idea of a major climate law and want only laws specifying climate action measures for individual economic sectors. To overcome the climate action impasse, Merkel set up the so-called climate cabinet, a round of ministers with responsibilities relating to climate issues, such as the environment, transport, buildings and energy ministers. They are now tasked with deciding the "legally binding implementation" of Germany's climate targets for 2030. The timeline has already been pushed back, but Merkel said her cabinet would decide "one or several climate action laws" before year-end.

 

Putting a price on emissions: What are the prospects for carbon pricing in Germany?

There are several ways a price on carbon in transport and buildings could be implemented, and different stakeholders favour different models, such as a cap-and-trade approach or a carbon tax. This factsheet gives an overview of the carbon pricing options on the table and who backs which model.

 

Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets

This factsheet provides an overview of Germany's greenhouse gas emissions and the government's energy transition targets. 

 

German commission proposes coal exit by 2038

Germany's planned exit from coal will play a major role in reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions. This factsheet looks at the final report of Germany's coal exit commission, which sets out a pathway for the country to phase out the fossil power source and make progress on its slow emissions reductions.

 

The story of "Climate Chancellor" Angela Merkel

German leader Angela Merkel has been nicknamed "Climate Chancellor" for her long-standing international engagement for emissions cuts. Many wonder if Merkel can still live up to that reputation in her fourth term as chancellor, now that she has announced to step down as conservative party leader and doubts about the ability of her stumbling government coalition to drive key energy and climate policy decisions persist. 2019 could be a decisive year, as the German government has promised to present key climate action legislation before the end of the year. This factsheet provides a timeline of Merkel's climate involvement.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Energy and climate in the 2018 coalition treaty

Re-elected chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition government of Conservatives and Social Democrats has said it wants to continue the Energiewende in a "clean, secure and affordable manner," and make sure Germany remains a pioneer in climate protection. In its 2018 coalition treaty, the partners promised to introduce legislation in 2019 to ensure that the 2030 climate targets are reached.

 

Germany’s Climate Action Plan 2050

Germany’s new government also decided to fully implement the Climate Action Plan 2050, decided in 2016. The government agreed on a basic framework for largely decarbonising its economy to reach 2050 climate goals. It includes target corridors for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in individual economic sectors and emphasises the need to ensure economic competitiveness throughout the transition. This factsheet gives an overview of the agreed plan.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

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