02 May 2023, 13:39
Julian Wettengel

German foreign minister calls for global renewables and efficiency targets

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and European Commissioner Frans Timmermans talk with other government representatives at the sidelines of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. Photo: CLEW/Wettengel.
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock (2nd from the left) and European Commissioner Frans Timmermans (2nd from the right) talk with other government representatives at the sidelines of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. Photo: CLEW/Wettengel.

Internationally agreed targets to expand renewable energies and increase energy efficiency are needed to put the global economy back on a path towards limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, Germany's foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. At the two-day climate talks, Baerbock also said that donor countries are finally on track to live up to their promise of providing 100 billion U.S. dollars in climate finance to poorer countries. A three-year delay had eroded trust between richer and poorer nations and held up international progress, designated UN climate conference COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber said at the same conference, calling for a “definitive assessment” by donor countries ahead of the UN climate talks in December.

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has come out in support of the push for global targets to expand renewables such as wind and solar energy, which European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen launched in April.

“I am advocating that we agree on a global target for renewable energies and energy efficiency,” Baerbock said at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates "that we need to triple global renewable energy capacity, otherwise the pain threshold of 1.5°C will be significantly exceeded," Baerbock added. With the Paris Climate Agreement, countries had said that global warming should be limited to 2°C, aiming to stay below 1.5°C.

As a key stepping stone on the way to the UN climate change conference later in the year, Germany has invited government representatives to the annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue for the past 13 years. This year, government representatives from about 40 countries meet in Berlin in what the German government portrays as an atmosphere that allows more open talks and enables building ambitious alliances ahead of COP28 in Dubai in December.

Agreeing renewables targets at the global level is “something new,” Baerbock added, “which is why we are sitting here in such a special setting. We don't want to describe what we have already done or what is not possible." The conference should help find agreement on “what more we can do to get on the 1.5°C path.” G7 energy and climate ministers had also agreed on expansion targets at a recent meeting.

As president of the 2023 UN climate change conference COP28, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) co-hosts the informal talks in Berlin. German chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to address participants the second day of the conference (3 May).

Donor countries on track to fulfil USD 100 billion in climate finance this year – Baerbock

Baerbock also said industrialised nations are set to finally make good on their promise to annually supply poorer countries with 100 billion U.S. dollars in climate finance this year. “As it stands now, we are on track to finally be able to reach the 100 billion U.S. dollar mark this year,” Baerbock told an audience of ministers hailing from dozens of countries.

Richer countries had failed to make good on their promise to come up with these funds by 2020. At the 2009 UN climate change conference COP15 in Copenhagen, many wealthy economies committed to mobilising 100 billion U.S. dollars from public and private sources per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries. The money should help poorer countries to reduce their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. The goal was formalised at COP16 in Cancun, and at COP21 in 2015 in Paris it was reiterated and extended to 2025. Ahead of the UN climate talks 2022, developed countries postponed their pledge to provide 100 billion U.S. dollars per year in climate finance to support developing nations by 2023. Germany provided a record 5.34 billion euros from the federal budget for climate action in developing and emerging countries in 2021.

Designated COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber – who is also the UAE's industry minister and chief executive of national oil company ADNOC – called on donor governments to step up to their pledge. The lack of trust between richer and poorer countries caused by the delay are holding up progress, he argued. “I am requesting donor countries to provide a definitive assessment on the delivery of this commitment before COP28,” Al Jaber said. He did not provide further detail on what this assessment would have to include. He said it was "vital to the political credibility" of UN climate action negotiations that donors step up to this long-overdue obligation ahead of December's conference, he added.

“If the world doesn’t come up with effective mechanisms to deliver climate finance to developing and emerging economies, they will have no choice but to choose a carbon-intensive development path,” Al Jaber said.

Disputes about the role of emerging nations, their responsibility in combatting climate change and whether they should receive support or grant it to poorer countries are ongoing at the UN climate talks.

Designated COP28 president dampens hopes on fossil fuel phase-out

Meanwhile, Al Jaber dampened hopes by many countries and civil society that COP28 could be the climate conference that agrees on a fossil fuel phaseout. Instead of calling for this, Al Jaber said:

“In a pragmatic, just and well-managed energy transition, we must be laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions while phasing up and scaling up viable, affordable zero-carbon alternatives.”

Merely avoiding emissions – instead of avoiding the use of fossil fuels altogether – opens the door to technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). While most experts see the need for CCS to tackle emissions that are difficult to avoid, for example from certain industrial processes, many argue it not should be used to prolong fossil fuel use. Al Jaber said his government would “jump-start the hydrogen economy and make carbon capture commercially viable.”

At last year’s COP27, governments did not express a clear intention to phase out fossil fuels in their final agreement. European Union governments decided to make a renewed push ahead of this year’s climate conference.

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