06 Dec 2023, 13:31
Julian Wettengel

Germany bolsters climate foreign policy with new strategy

Photo shows view of Dakar, Senegal, with ocean. Photo: CLEW/Wettengel.
Germany's strategy will guide the government's efforts, also on bilateral partnerships with countries like Senegal. Photo: CLEW/Wettengel.

To help the world get on a path that ensures the global temperature rise is limited to 1.5°C, Germany has presented a new strategy to coordinate its climate foreign policy efforts across all ministries. The government unveiled the long-anticipated document as the UN climate change conference COP28 is taking place in Dubai, in what international climate envoy Jennifer Morgan called a “timing that could not be better.” The strategy means to ensure that the entire government speaks with one voice to international partners. NGOs welcomed the strategy, but criticised it is too vague on implementation.

The German government has presented its first-ever climate foreign policy strategy, meant to ensure that the country can make the most of its efforts to help limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It unveiled the long-anticipated document as the UN climate change conference COP28 is taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). [You can find a summary in English here.]

“The timing could not be better,” said climate envoy and state secretary Jennifer Morgan during a briefing in Dubai. Morgan highlighted that the strategy is meant to guide and coordinate the work of all government ministries. “Climate policy is security policy, food security, energy policy, economic policy and geopolitics, and this strategy concerns all these fields,” she said.  

Key goals of the strategy include Germany playing its part in ensuring that global emissions are halved by 2030 (over 2019 levels), the world triples renewables capacity by 2030 and phases out unabated fossil energies step by step, and that other countries introduce more ambitious climate plans. Germany also aims to “remain a good and reliable partner in international climate finance.” A group of state secretaries is meant to meet regularly to coordinate key cross-ministerial climate foreign policy issues.

[Read a factsheet summarising key content of the strategy here.]

The strategy has been long in the making, with coordination among all ministries involved delaying the process. It is also closely intertwined with Germany’s first National Security Strategy, and the China Strategy, which the government presented in summer 2023.

“In these geopolitically challenging times, climate policy is also an opportunity to overcome old rifts in power politics,” said foreign minister Annalena Baerbock in a press release. “We are joining forces with those who we hope will want to prevent the climate crisis and thus create more justice in the world,” she said.

The strategy highlights that the UN climate change conferences are key for international climate policy as they allow countries to agree universal rules for climate protection, as a forum to increase political pressure for more ambitious policy by governments, and as a key moment for civil society involvement.

However, "climate foreign policy is more than just a UN climate change conference,” said state secretary Jochen Flasbarth in Dubai. “It is focussing – in a strategic way – on how to reach international climate goals and using the strengths of our different ministries to support this."

Strategy lacks on implementation – NGO

Christoph Bals, policy director at NGO Germanwatch, welcomed the strategy as an “important step forward” as it defined common goals and approaches for all ministries. However, Bals criticised that “the means by which the strategy is to be implemented and how its success is to be monitored remain too vague.” He called on the round of state secretaries set up under the strategy to work out “a concrete implementation plan.”

The head of environmental NGO Greenpeace Germany, Martin Kaiser, said the strategy rightly places the safety of people in times of the climate crisis and the values of cooperation at the centre. “Foreign minister Baerbock can and must use this to support CO2 reduction and climate adaptation strategies in other countries,” said Kaiser.

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