29 Jun 2016 | Kerstine Appunn

CO2 targets and coal deadline omitted from Climate Action Plan draft

The energy industry and transport sector may escape specific greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to a new draft version of Germany's Climate Action Plan 2050. The proposal also omits an end date for power production from coal. Environmental NGOs criticise the draft as insufficient to fulfill Germany's climate ambitions.

Germany might get a Climate Action Plan without a clear timeline for a coal exit or specific emission targets for each sector, a new leaked draft of the paper shows. The plan aims to decarbonise the German economy by the middle of the century and is currently for consultation purposes at the Chancellery.

The latest draft version of the Climate Action Plan 2050 which was drawn up by the Ministry for Environment and consulted in detail with the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has experienced some major changes since the first outline was leaked in the beginning of May.

The Climate Action Plan 2050 is to be the framework for government policy in all important economic sectors over the next 30 years, to ensure that Germany fulfils its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050.

The new version (seen by the Clean Energy Wire) does not include emission reduction targets for each sector anymore (energy, transport, industry, buildings, agriculture). The energy sector, which was previously listed to make a “considerable” contribution to the 2030 reduction target of minus 178-188 million tonnes CO2 equivalents, is now tasked with contributing “adequately” to the overall reduction target.

No timeframe for a coal phase-out

Unlike the former draft, the new plan doesn’t pledge a timeframe for a coal phase-out. Instead of saying that coal-fired power production must “end well before 2050”, the document states that “the importance of power production from coal will decrease” and that there will be a “step-by-step reduction” of coal power generation. The setting-up of a commission on climate protection, growth and structural change is still included in the plan, albeit without the specific assignment to propose a roadmap for a coal phase-out.

The previous draft also stated that the transport sector would have to deliver a “disproportionately high” CO2 reduction in the future because it had not cut emissions at all so far. Yet, the new version says the transport sector has to deliver an “ambitious” contribution. The latest version no longer contains the demand that transportation cuts emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 2005.

Other suggestions of the first draft remain, including the plan for an ecologic tax reform. The plan also still includes the targets for modernising the heating and cooling systems in buildings (e.g. no new fossil heating systems in houses after 2030).

The changes to the Climate Action Plan 2050 come after industry associations repeatedly voiced their criticism about the sector targets and the listed measures which they feared would harm Germany’s economy and competitiveness. The plan was also “debated intensively” with the energy ministry, resulting in the new proposal which is now “lying on Angela Merkel’s desk”, according to a magazine report.

Holger Lösch from the Federation of German Industries (BDI) remained critical of the new plan, saying that industry was still seeing many discrepancies. “We think it is wrong to determine single instruments and technologies this early,” he said. Processes had to be technology neutral and climate targets and economic development had to be in line with European efforts.

Christoph Bals, policy director at environmental NGO Germanwatch said the new draft was clearly failing to be the central guideline for future climate policy in Germany. “Seven months after the Paris climate summit, the government is surrendering to the interests of the fossil industry and is missing the chance to give the economy a modernisation impulse by presenting clear plans.”

"We are very disappointed that the government isn't presenting a clear phase-out scenario for coal power. Such an exit must start with brown coal which is particularly harmful to the climate and must be completed by 2035 at the latest in order to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement," Jan Kowalzig, climate expert at NGO Oxfam said.

"A climate action plan that doesn't take a clear stance on coal is a paper tiger," Green Party politician Oliver Krischer told the dpa.

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