26 Apr 2024, 14:01
Sören Amelang

German parliament approves climate law reform lambasted by NGOs

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s parliament has approved a controversial reform of the country’s key legislation for reaching climate targets, to the outrage of many NGOs who say the changes will delay emission cuts and are therefore “unconstitutional”. The government’s reform of the climate action law weakens the responsibility of individual ministries for emission cuts in their sectors, by focussing exclusively on the country’s overall ambitions to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “With this legislative amendment, the German government is shirking its climate policy responsibilities and postponing climate protection to the distant future,” said Stefanie Langkamp, head of policy at Climate-Alliance, a network of about 150 organisations including environmental groups, development groups, churches, trade unions and consumer associations. “This is unconstitutional and violates the 2021 ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court because it restricts the freedom of future generations,” Langkamp added.

Germany’s three-way government coalition of Social Democrats, Greens, and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) has a comfortable majority in parliament, and approval was expected. Germany's climate action law stipulates that the country must reach greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045 and meet interim emissions reduction targets: 65 percent by 2030, and 88 percent by 2040, in comparison to 1990 levels. For the years until 2030, Germany until now had annual emission limits for individual economic sectors, in addition to the overall targets. With the reform, an overshoot in a specific sector would no longer mean that the responsible ministry has to come up with an immediate programme to put the sector back on track. Especially the FDP-led transport ministry is lagging far behind in making the sector more climate-friendly, and critics say the reform is mainly designed to take the pressure off the sector. “Although we urgently need climate protection measures in the transport sector in order to become climate-neutral by 2045, the coalition is buying their way out of further measures with this legislative reform, under pressure from the FDP,” Langkamp said.

Proponents have argued the reform ensures that emissions can be reduced where it is most efficient to do so, and that “not a single gram of CO2 more may be emitted" following the changes,because the overall targets remain. But environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) said Germany was “now without an effective law to ensure the necessary level of climate protection.” Climate youth organisation Fridays for Future said the reform “endangers our future” and accused the government of “willingly jeopardising the rights of future generations.” Several NGOs have said they would take legal action against the reform, which still needs to be debated by the council of German state governments (Bundesrat).

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