18 Mar 2024, 13:03
Sören Amelang

Germany needs concrete plans to make green hydrogen imports fair and sustainable, NGOs say

Clean Energy Wire

An alliance of social and environmental NGOs has called on the German government to include concrete and binding sustainability and justice standards in its hydrogen import strategy to enable a fair trade. “If hydrogen import projects are organised accordingly, win-win cooperation and opportunities can be created in the exporting countries,” the alliance said in a position paper. “If these dimensions are not sufficiently taken into account, serious social and environmental impacts may result, and hydrogen projects may represent a new form of raw material exploitation.”

The alliance said that green hydrogen (produced using renewable power) and its derivates are a central element for a global energy transition and climate neutrality, and that many potential export countries see them as an economic opportunity. “The fair participation of partner countries in the benefits of the projects is part of a partnership of equals,” the NGOs said, adding that import projects should be designed in such a way that they promote the transformation in sectors that are dependent on hydrogen for climate neutrality, while also promoting the energy transition, value creation and sustainable development in the exporting countries. The NGOs warned that local acceptance can be jeopardised if these aspects are neglected, even for projects with sustainable aspirations. They point to Namibia, where civil society representatives have complained about inadequate participation, transparency, and nature conservation in a green hydrogen export project, according to the paper.

Green hydrogen is set to play a crucial role in the decarbonisation of many hard-to-abate sectors, such as steelmaking and the chemical industry. But neither Germany nor Europe as a whole will be able to meet the entire projected demand with local production. Importing from world regions with better potential for renewable electricity production, such as Australia, Africa or South America, is therefore going to be key for a reliable supply. The German government assumes that only 30 percent of the country’s future need for green hydrogen can be produced domestically. Green hydrogen is made in a process called electrolysis, where water is split into its constituent parts, oxygen and hydrogen, but it requires large amounts of renewable electricity.

Germany aims to combine the strength of all its government departments to foster a socially just and economically successful move to climate neutrality worldwide, including the hydrogen martket ramp-up, with the help of its climate foreign policy strategy.

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