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15 Nov 2021, 12:10
Kerstine Appunn Julian Wettengel

German reactions to the COP26 climate summit results

Photo: CLEW/Dirkx.
Photo: CLEW/Dirkx.

The UN climate summit COP26 in Glasgow has heralded in the end of the fossil fuel era, said German environment minister Svenja Schulze shortly after the conference. However, not everyone saw the two-week meeting in a similarly positive light. Many observers criticised that COP26 was a disappointment especially for the poorer and most vulnerable nations, which had called on wealthy countries to take responsibility for decades of human-caused climate change and for more funds to deal with its effects. Clean Energy Wire has collected reactions from German and European politicians, NGOs, businesses, media and researchers to the outcome of the climate summit. [Update adds BDI, Lindner, Miersch, Rockström]

Reactions from Germany to the UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow are mixed, as the agreed deal between 197 nations "makes everyone a little unhappy". A Glasgow Climate Pact, including the notion that climate action needs to be accelerated within this decade to keep global temperature from rising more than 1.5°C as well as a historic reference to the phase-out of climate damaging subsidies to fossil fuels, was decided after two weeks of negotiations.

Read the full story about the COP26 outcome here.

 

Politicians

Svenja Schulze, environment minister

"Glasgow brings a clear acceleration for climate protection, and more speed is also needed. The 2020s is the decade in which the global community can and must make decisive progress," German environment minister Svenja Schulze said on Saturday evening in Glasgow. "The fossil fuel era is coming to an end, the energy transition is becoming the guiding principle worldwide," she said, adding that she would have liked the statements on the coal phase-out to be clearer, "but the path is now mapped out and will be irreversible". The agreement on the energy sector opens the door to "the concrete abandonment" of fossil energies in other areas at future world climate conferences.

Annalena Baerbock, Green Party co-head

“This climate conference has acknowledged the severity of the crisis, but has not yet averted it,” Baerbock told public broadcaster ZDF. This is also because the German government stood on the sidelines, notably with regard to the internal combustion engine. Germany did not sign the initiative at the COP. Getting the phase-out of the internal combustion engine underway is one of the major projects that the next government must tackle.” Another such project is the coal exit which would definitely come earlier than planned should the Greens enter government, said Baerbock.

Christian Lindner, head of the FDP

“Glasgow is another step in the right direction, but not the final destination,” Lindner told Süddeutsche Zeitung. He would have liked to see "even more progress" on the possibility for states to trade climate action measures among themselves, wrote SZ. The results in Glasgow confirmed "the very ambitious efforts we had already agreed on in the exploratory paper in the traffic light talks". These would now be fleshed out.

Matthias Miersch, SPD MP and coalition negotiator

“Glasgow has sent an important signal, but the real work only starts now,” Miersch told Süddeutsche Zeitung. “Abstract declarations of intent” now had to become “concrete action,” he said.

Gerd Müller, development cooperation minister

"From the perspective of developing countries, the results are absolutely inadequate, too small-scale and too slow,” Müller told Funke Mediengruppe. “We need more speed. Many developing countries have no more time to lose; climate change is already a bitter reality for them. Glasgow did not provide a satisfactory answer to protect poorer countries from the consequences of climate change. "The damage and consequences of climate change and urgently needed adaptation measures, the development of renewable energy structures are insufficiently supported.”

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president

“COP26 is a step in the right direction,” said von der Leyen. “1.5 degrees Celsius remains within reach; but the work is far from done. The least we can do now is implement the promises of Glasgow as rapidly as possible and then aim higher.” She added: “COP26 is sending a clear message that time is up for fossil fuel subsidies and unabated coal.”

Michael Bloss, Green Party MEP

“We have once again failed to embark on a concrete 1.5-degree climate course. The current climate pledges are not enough, even if there has been some progress. We must now negotiate and strengthen the Fit For 55 climate package in the EU all the more quickly and ambitiously so that this path remains within reach. [...] It is disappointing that the EU has not done more to compensate for the damages and losses in the most vulnerable countries. The European Commission has missed the opportunity to build a bridge between the Global North and the Global South for more climate justice and to provide answers to the consequences of climate change where people suffer the most.”

 

Industry and business

Siegfried Russwurm, BDI president

Industry association BDI president Russwurm said “the urgently needed big breakthrough has not been achieved” in Glasgow. “In the fight against global warming, stronger international cooperation and binding climate goals of practically all countries are indispensable. What was achieved in Glasgow is not enough,” he said. States showed very different levels of ambition, which would in the end shift Emissions to countries with less strict climate policies and burdens businesses in more ambitious regions such as the EU. “The watered-down final text on the global coal phase-out makes it very clear that German industry will not be able to operate in a level playing field in the future.”

Russwurm criticised that wealthy nations had not yet lived up to their promise to provide 100 billion USD annually in climate finance to poorer nations. “This further gambles away trust in the common fight against climate change.”

 

Michael Ebling, president of German Association of Local Utilities (VKU)

“The climate conference has once again made it clear that solidarity is a fundamental value - especially in combating climate change and overcoming its consequences. This applies globally as well as locally. We are all in the same boat, the battle can only be fought together. And: We have to become much faster, especially in the energy and heat transition, which has to work locally in the municipalities. […] The second important message sent from Glasgow: We don't have a single second to lose in the fight against climate change. Time is the decisive currency in climate action. This must also be the premise of the new German government's climate policy. We need an energy transition acceleration programme. The tasks ahead for this legislative period are enormous.”

 

Analysts and researchers

Johan Rockström, PIK director

“We came to Glasgow following a path to Disaster (2.7°C). We leave Glasgow on a path to Danger (just below 2°C),” wrote Rockström in a message on Twitter. However, in an interview with the Guardian, Rockström warned that the 1.5°C target is not like other political negotiations, which can be haggled over or compromised on. “A rise of 1.5C is not an arbitrary number, it is not a political number. It is a planetary boundary,” he said. “Every fraction of a degree more is dangerous.”

 

Jennifer Tollmann, E3G

”Despite committing to high ambition, the EU struggled to build bridges with the US, China or small island states across North-South divides. A handful of EU countries worked closely with small island nations and least developed countries in the High Ambition Coalition. In the final moments, the EU benefited from the responsible action of small island states, joining them in holding the line on an outcome that keeps 1.5 in reach. […] The EU must decide whether its ‘Global Gateway’ will be part of the solution, and whether they can invest in diplomacy to see international partners develop their own green transitions. Rebuilding relationships and trust with climate vulnerable countries will be harder. The EU must be willing to be part of the solution on supporting partners dealing with the devastating losses and damages from climate change.”

Brick Medak, E3G

Glasgow has put “massive pressure” on the prospective next government coalition to get the country on a 1.5-degree path, said Medak. For the future coalition partners, the conference outcome means they must quickly agree on a coal phase-out by 2030, the initiation of the gas phase-out and the end of the combustion engine by 2035, he said.

Jan Steckel, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC)

A global phase-out of coal-fired power generation, which is particularly damaging to the climate, is slowly coming into sight, said Steckel. COP26 provided “important impulses” for the issue. The pact by several countries to support South Africa in its move away from coal had sent an important signal to other countries. “Emerging countries with a high share of coal now know: The West will not leave us alone in the difficult mission of implementing a political and economic phase-out.”

 

Environmental NGOs and activists

Christoph Bals, Germanwatch

"Despite the momentum this climate summit has built for a global phase-out of coal and more climate protection, the 1.5-degree limit is not within reach without rapid improvements in the targets of the largest emitters. In retrospect, this climate summit could one day be seen as a turning point for phasing out coal worldwide. And this despite the fact that China, India, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba watered down the coal text from 'phase out' to 'phase down' at the last minute."

Jan Kowalzig, Oxfam Germany

"The small steps that COP26 has taken forward must not lead us to the illusion that we are going home with a real success. Once again, the poorer countries of the Global South, which are particularly affected by the climate crisis, have been marginalised. [...] This colossal injustice is the ugly stain on the outcome of Glasgow. [...] In the final document, the industrialised countries are called upon to double their support for adaptation to climate change. This leaves the conference well short of the demands of low-income countries.”

“Nevertheless, this is a step forward that the next German government must now also take by significantly increasing climate aid from Germany in the coming years beyond the current pledges of the previous German government. The conference's appeal to all countries to improve their climate targets will only be a success if the G20 countries in particular follow suit. No one should sit back now. None of the major economic nations is currently prepared to contribute sufficiently and fairly to the globally necessary climate protection, not even Germany. Glasgow thus sends an unmistakable signal to the ongoing coalition negotiations in Berlin: the next federal government must immediately present a robust plan that puts Germany on a path compatible with the 1.5°C limit of the Paris Agreement."

Luisa Neubauer, Fridays for Future Germany

"This is not about some interesting diplomatic game of patience, it is about climate catastrophe. This COP has failed to initiate the structural changes we so urgently need. The heads of state and government have not delivered, but the climate movement is growing and more and more people are joining in. When we say '1.5 degrees is non-negotiable', we mean it."Germany in particular now has to act. The pressure from the global community and the climate movement is massive. We are one of the richest nations in the world and we are always good at making big promises. The new German government must stop the climate betrayal of young people and future generations. If Germany doesn't deliver, who else can we expect it from?"

Michael Schäfer, NABU

"In Glasgow, some countries tacticked, blocked, played for time - instead of doing what was necessary in the face of the climate crisis. And the situation is similar in the coalition negotiations in Berlin. With its many pioneering alliances, however, Glasgow has brought new momentum to international climate policy despite the meagre conclusion. Momentum is also needed in Berlin so that Germany does not continue to remain a guest on the fence in international climate policy. Obviously, the CDU/CSU has not even managed to back up the climate targets of the grand coalition with measures, let alone go beyond them. Olaf Scholz (SPD) must now overcome these blockades, because global warming is too dangerous and time is too short for tactical games."

Sven Harmeling, CARE

"It is positive that the signatories have been given the homework for 2022 to revise their emission reduction targets in the course of the coming year. But if negotiations continue to be slowed down by oil, gas and coal countries, we must state clearly: The 1.5°C limit on maximum warming needs more political speed."

 

Media

Susanne Ehlerding, Tagesspiegel

“With the final declaration of the climate conference in Glasgow, the public and countries particularly affected by climate change now have a few more opportunities to hold climate sinners up to account,” writes Susanne Ehlerding in Tagesspiegel. However, “enough work remains for the next climate conference in Egypt”, because it remained unclear how rich countries would pay for losses and damages caused by climate change in poorer countries.

Michael Bauchmüller, Süddeutsche Zeitung

“The world is moving on climate action. Unfortunately, it is still moving far too slowly,” writes Michael Bauchmüller. “Real climate action demands a lot from a society - but ultimately it is a question not only of will, but of reason. And it is already clear that without pressure from those who want change, whether from academia, business or those who take to the streets on Fridays, the gap will not shrink and the 1.5 degrees will not come within reach. This goal will not be achieved at big summits, but only through very real policies, very real investment decisions, very real behaviour. Every day, everywhere.”

Jens Thurau, Deutsche Welle

“The goal of not increasing global warming by more than 1.5 degrees by the end of the century is now the measure of all things,” writes Jens Thurau for Deutsche Welle. “Compared to the resolutions of previous climate meetings, this is almost breathtaking progress. But not when measured against the realities.” He adds that a real alternative to “the annual, tedious and nerve-racking climate meetings is simply not in sight. Only here do all UN states talk to each other.”

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