Germany seeks to prove climate credentials with last-minute plan

After months of dispute, the German government has reached a tentative agreement on a roadmap to wean the world’s fourth largest economy from fossil fuels almost entirely by 2050, according to press reports. A last-minute Climate Action Plan 2050, which is to be approved by cabinet on Wednesday, would save Germany the embarrassment of arriving at the climate summit in Marrakesh empty-handed. The Green party warned the draft fell well short of the targets agreed on at the Paris Climate Conference, while industry rejected its detailed emissions targets.

Unnamed government officials told Reuters the relevant state secretaries had agreed on a draft of the Climate Action Plan 2050. They added it had not yet been formally approved by the ministries, but said a veto was unlikely.

An environment ministry spokesperson told the Clean Energy Wire it was likely the plan would be ready for a cabinet decision on Wednesday.

Contrary to earlier versions of the environment ministry’s Plan, which had been watered down by resistance from other ministries, the current draft contains CO2 reduction targets for individual economic sectors, meeting a key demand from environmental activists.

The power sector will have to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030, compared to 2014 levels, and transport is meant to cut emissions by 45 percent, according to the Reuters report.

But the final shape of the document remained unclear due to different drafts in circulation. In a version seen by the Clean Energy Wire, the emissions target for the power sector was a cut by 61 to 64 percent compared to 1990 levels.

The Federation of German Industries (BDI) called the agreement “overly hasty”, adding there was no obligation for Germany to present a roadmap for decarbonisation in Morocco. BDI head Ulrich Grillo called the plan “patronising” and rejected separate targets for various industry sectors, as they impaired international competitiveness.

The drafts also lacked a clear date for the phase-out of coal-fired power generation in Germany, which is considered essential to reach longer-term climate targets.

The Green party’s climate spokesperson Annalena Baerbock warned the current draft put Germany’s credibility at risk, because it did not do justice to the Paris Agreement. “The Plan is now totally unspecific and misses the German and international climate targets,” Baerbock said in an emailed statement. “Almost all climate-relevant passages have been deleted.”

Greenpeace Programme Director Martin Kaiser also saw German credibility at risk in Marrakesh. “Germany has long been regarded as a role model and it might lose its standing if it does not submit detailed and substantial schemes on how it will bring down emissions in the transport sector, in heating, in agriculture, and many other areas,” he told the Clean Energy Wire.

Members of both Hendricks’ Social Democrats (SPD) and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) had voiced concerns that the environment ministry’s draft for the Climate Action Plan 2050 placed too much of a burden on the industry’s competitiveness, or was too intrusive by suggesting a reduction of meat consumption.

Kristin Reißig, from WWF Germany, also said Germany’s current climate policies were inadequate, particularly the lack of a roadmap for exiting coal-fired power production.

But she added that she did not believe the country’s diplomatic standing was gravely impaired, even in the absence of a Climate Action Plan: “International negotiations for filling the Paris Agreement with regulations have just begun.”

Reißig said Germany would “focus on the technical level of implementing the Paris Agreement”, rather than prodding other countries into action.

Germany’s priorities for Marrakesh

In Paris, signatories committed themselves to establishing so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which lay down how they plan to achieve individual emission reduction goals. These targets will become mandatory only from 2020 onwards, but Germany’s difficulties with framing national ambitions in the Climate Action Plan cast a damning light on its role in the process.

“Marrakesh is about commonly achieving the climate protection goals set in Paris,” according to the environment ministry (BMUB). Its priorities include establishing a commonly accepted framework that brings “transparency” into the agreement, Hendricks said. “The real work only begins now,” she added.

A rulebook formulated in Marrakesh will have to close national loopholes and outline binding standards for measuring emissions over the next two years. These indicators will then form the basis on which NDCs become comparable and verifiable, according to the German government.

Germany’s delegation also plans to provide support for NDC implementation through a “Multi-stakeholder Collaborative Initiative” for countries struggling to devise emission reduction schemes. The initiative carried out by German development aid agencies could prove valuable, since “an estimated 140” of the Paris Agreement’s signatories “never had anything like a climate protection plan before”, Hendricks said.

Making sure that a 100 billion dollar annual climate adaptation fund is set up by industrialised countries as promised is another priority for Germany in Marrakesh. Germany would have to double its latest contributions to around four billion dollars by 2020 in order to fulfil its own share, says Jan Kowalzig in a report for Oxfam Germany.

“The draft of the 2017 budget indeed envisages an increase in bilateral climate funding,” Kowalzig explained “However, this increase is not sufficient as a first step to double climate funding until 2020 as promised.” He also urged the government to abandon its practice of counting interest rebates granted to developing countries for climate protection goals as net contributions to the fund. Only donated budget resources should be counted. “Everything else would be trickery,” he added.

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