12 Jan 2018, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

German party leaders agree energy policy blueprint for coalition talks

The parties currently in talks to form Germany’s next government have agreed to speed up the roll-out of renewable energies and start the phase-out of coal-fired power generation. Contrary to a draft leaked earlier this week, the blueprint agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democrats (SPD) no longer explicitly postpones Germany's 2020 climate target. The parties now have to decide whether to enter formal negotiations on a renewal of the grand coalition, which are likely to last many weeks.

Following a 24-hour negotiating session focused largely on migration and taxes, acting Chancellor Angela Merkel and SPD head Martin Schulz on Friday praised the compromise.

“I think we have come to an excellent result,” Schulz said at a press conference to announce the agreement. Merkel said that both camps had worked in earnest to find compromise: “It’s a paper of give-and-take.”

Based on the agreement, the parties will now decide whether to enter formal negotiations on renewing the grand coalition that has governed the country since 2013. SPD party members will vote on the agreement at a party convention on 21 January, a move that is likely to still require a lot of effort by party leader Martin Schulz.

[Read the item First reactions to energy policy in parties' coalition talk blueprint to see what NGOs and business associations have to say about the agreement]

Agreement no longer explicity postpones 2020 climate target

Contrary to a leak earlier this week, the agreement seen by Clean Energy Wire no longer explicitly postpones the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. “We commit to the climate targets 2020, 2030 and 2050," states the paper. "We want to close the action-gap to reach the 2020 climate target as fast as possible," the parties continue. The document also states the intention to "reduce the gap as much as possible," admitting only indirectly the target will not be reached.

The earlier phrasing that Germany will only reach the 2020 target a few years later was broadly covered by national and international media. Many reports suggested the decision meant Germany was no longer a climate leader.

Conservatives and the SPD now emphasise the target year 2030 and write that they "want to reach the reduction goal 2030 by all means". A commission will be tasked to set an end-date for coal-fired power generation for the first time by the end of this year .

Germany's energy transition ("Energiewende") - the decarbonisation of the country's economy and shift away from nuclear and fossil fuels to a renewables-based energy system - will continue under the next government, as Germany's political system ensures continuity beyond legislative terms. However, the Energiewende's ambition under the new coalition could change.

Every German government since 2007 has committed itself to the country’s climate targets and shortly before September’s election, Chancellor Merkel had promised voters that the government “will find ways” to still achieve a 40 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020.

Fast agreement on climate and energy

Conservatives and SPD quickly agreed on climate and energy issues as well as transport after talks started last Sunday. These topics had been among the most contested in the ill-fated Jamaica coalition talks between Conservatives, pro-business FDP and the environmentalist Green Party after the election in September 2017, and contributed to a collapse of the talks late November.

In the Jamaica talks, the Green Party initially insisted on an end to combustion engines by 2030 but later softened its position. A ban for new registrations of cars with combustion engines is now not even mentioned in the Conservatives’ and SPD’s agreement. 

The parties instead favour strengthening e-mobility and public transportation systems financially and to achieve “more efficient and cleaner combustion engines”. The possible coalition partners might also seek to prevent looming driving bans for heavily polluting diesel cars by “retrofitting” the car fleet, though it remains unclear whether buyers or carmakers will be financially responsible.

The agreement on energy and climate:

  • Setting up a commission "Growth, Structural Change and Employment" to work out an action programme with the following elements by the end of 2018:
    • Measures to close the 2020 climate goal gap "as much as possible"
    • Measures to ensure that the 2030 energy sector targets are met
    • A plan on the step-by-step reduction and termination of coal-fired power production, including an end-date for coal power
    • A federal fund for structural change in coal mining regions
  • Using additional 1.5 billion euros for "regional structural policy/structural change coal policy" in 2018-2021
  • A climate protection law to ensure that 2030 climate targets are met (to be passed in 2019)
  • Increasing the share of renewable power to 65 percent by 2030 (the previous government target was 50% by 2030 and 65% by 2040). "The expansion of renewable energies must be increased substantially, also to cover the additional power needs to reach climate targets in transport, buildings and industry."
  • Holding additional auctions for 4 gigawatt (GW) onshore wind and 4 GW solar PV to be built in 2019 and 2020, as well as additional offshore capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8-10 million tonnes CO2 in aid of the 2020 target – provided the necessary grid capacity is available (for the current renewable deployment volumes see this factsheet)
  • Introducing additional measures to expand and modernise energy grids (law to speed-up the electricity grid expansion)
  • Advancing sector coupling in connection with storage technologies
  • Developing and modernising combined heat and power
  • Using the potential of agriculture for climate protection

The agreement on transport:

  • "We want to avoid driving bans and improve air pollution control"
  • We need "efficient and clean combustion engines, including retrofitting"
  • Mobility policy is committed to Paris Climate Agreement; "We want to reach the Paris climate targets and account for social concerns, ensure the competitiveness of the industry and provide affordable mobility."
  • Perpetuating funds in the “national diesel forum”
  • Supporting e-mobility, public transport and rail transport
  • Organising "modern, clean and affordable mobility" for all people in Germany
  • Modernising and developing infrastructure
  • Using possibilities of digital innovations, like automated and connected driving, and alternative drives for all transport carriers


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