25 Jun 2021, 13:40
Charlotte Nijhuis

Germany passes new Climate Action Law, pulls forward climate neutrality target to 2045

Clean Energy Wire, ZEIT Online

In its last session before the summer recess, the German parliament passed a bill that amends the federal Climate Action Law. The new law brings forward the deadline for achieving climate neutrality by five years to 2045 and tightens the interim target for greenhouse gas emission reduction from 55 to 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. For 2040, a new interim target of 88 percent reduction applies. The amendment was needed after Germany’s highest court ruled in April that the government’s climate policies were insufficient because they lacked emission reduction targets beyond 2030. Federal environment minister Svenja Schulze said the amended law “creates more intergenerational justice, more planning security and determined climate protection that does not stifle the economy but rebuilds and modernises it.” The law prescribes tougher emission budgets for the various sectors up until 2030. The lion’s share of additional reduction will be borne by the energy sector and industry. The law also sets specific climate targets for each year after 2030. Another new addition to the law is the inclusion of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and peatlands, which are instrumental for achieving negative emissions after 2050 in Germany. It also aims to strengthen the role of the Expert Council on Climate Change by extending its responsibilities. As for renewable energy, the government has not been able to agree on higher expansion targets for the next years.

In total, 352 members of parliament voted in favour of the bill, 290 voted against and 10 abstained, ZEIT online reports. All opposition parties rejected the bill. The FDP, Greens and Left party rejected the law for being too unambitious and inefficient, while the far-right AfD denied that there was CO2-induced climate change. Never before has a federal government had so many options open to it in the area of climate protection, said Anton Hofreiter, leader of the Green Party parliamentary group. But the federal government had not made sufficient use of them. "For four years, in a mixture of timidity and overexertion, they have fallen far short of this country's possibilities," Hofreiter said. Left party transport politician Sabine Leidig said it was quite clear how CO2 emissions could be reduced more significantly. "And this definitely includes a real mobility transition with significantly less motorised traffic." FDP MP Lukas Köhler called the law a "tragedy" and not very efficient, as Germany was not pursuing climate policy in coordination with its European partners. For the AfD, MP Karsten Hilse declared: "There is no climate emergency due to CO2, not now, not tomorrow and not the day after tomorrow either."

Ingbert Liebing, head of the German Association of Local Utilities (VKU), welcomed the amendments to the law, but warned that “without a clear, reliable and resilient political framework, there is a risk of investment restraint.” He called on the country’s future government to “finally and from the outset think bigger and in the long term.” Kerstin Andreae, head of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), said: “It is crucial to translate the targets into concrete instruments that actually enable the achievement of the ambitious goals.” She also called for an increase in the expansion paths of the renewables levy (EEG) and in grid infrastructure investments.

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