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15 Nov 2021, 13:48
Sören Amelang

COP26 results increase pressure on prospective German government to deliver on climate

NGOs have said COP26 result means Germany's coal exit must be pulled forward. Photo: RWE/Laaks
NGOs have said COP26 result means Germany's coal exit must be pulled forward. Photo: RWE/Laaks

The results of the UN climate conference in Glasgow (COP26) add pressure to Germany's ongoing negotiations to form a new government coalition that needs to agree on ambitious steps to cut emissions. As the coalition negotiations entered a higher level involving party leaders, representatives from the three parties involved said that the country now must translate ambitions into concrete actions. An NGO alliance and the Green Party said the Glasgow conference had delivered a clear mandate to the prospective government to step up its climate targets and significantly pull forward its coal coal exit date.

As Germany's negotiations to form the next government entered a higher level involving leaders of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP), the prospective coalition partners said the Glasgow climate conference underlined that the country must step up its fight against climate change. "The international community has recognised the threat of the climate crisis, but is far from having averted it," Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock said on Twitter. "After COP26, a new dynamic of action is needed. The task of the next federal government must be to move forward together with other industrialised countries and business actors." She added Germany should form a global alliance for the transition to a climate-neutral economy with fellow European and other industrialised nations.

The SPD's climate and energy negotiator Matthias Miersch said abstract declarations of intent had to be turned into concrete action. "Glasgow is an important signal, but the real work starts now," he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Christian Lindner, head of the pro-business FDP, said "Glasgow is an important step in the right direction, but not the goal."

Coalition talks enter new round

Germany's coalition negotiations entered a new round on Monday, as remaining differences from previous discussions in 22 working groups are to be ironed out in new negotiations involving party heads. The prospective "traffic light coalition" partners, dubbed after the parties' respective colours, want to conclude discussions by the end of this month, so acting finance minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) can take over from Angela Merkel (CDU) as the new chancellor and the new government can be sworn in during the week starting on 6 December.

Lindner said the Glasgow results confirmed "the highly ambitious efforts" the parties had already agreed upon in informal preliminary negotiations last month. "I'm very confident that we will have a highly effective climate protection package that will also take into account social sensitivities and strengthen economic competitiveness in the long term." 

Glasgow puts spotlight on coal exit date

Green Party co-leader Baerbock said she considered the climate conference results a mandate for the future German government to "exit fossil energies earlier and get technologies for clean industry on track." Asked on public television whether Germany's coal exit will happen significantly earlier if her party was part of the next government, Bearbock replied "Yes."   

In a paper outlining preliminary negotiation results, the parties had said the new government's "central task" is to bring the country on a 1.5°C path. They also said it was necessary to speed up the coal phase-out from the current target date of 2038, "ideally" to 2030.

An alliance of 13 major social and environmental NGOs appealed to the likely next chancellor Scholz and his prospective new government to step up climate ambitions in the wake of the Glasgow conference. "The turning point to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit within reach has not yet been passed yet," the NGOs said. "This is why we appeal to the [prospective government] parties to conclude a coalition agreement with the goal of reducing emissions by 70 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. To achieve this, the coal phase-out must be implemented by 2030." Germany has set the preliminary target of cutting emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030.

The NGOs also called for an end to climate-damaging subsidies, a faster rollout of renewable energies, a doubling of climate financing, and increasing international climate partnerships. "The ambitious implementation of the Glasgow resolutions must begin in Germany today," their appeal said, adding the coalition agreement will be "the key instrument against which we will measure the SPD, the Greens and the FDP."

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