14 Mar 2017 | Julian Wettengel

Germany “stands by existing climate targets” – chancellery chief

The Chief of the Federal Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, threw his weight behind Germany's self-imposed plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, after calling national climate targets the "wrong path" last week. Germany will stand by its emission goals, Altmaier told the Clean Energy Wire in an interview. Newspaper commentators said Altmaier's controversial remarks from last week marked the start of climate policy election campaigning. Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany should specify its 2050 CO₂ target soon after the autumn federal election.

"We have defined different goals in the past, such as the 2020 and 2050 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 2050 target is the same as in the EU. We stand by the existing targets,” Altmaier told the Clean Energy Wire.

With his statement, Altmaier clarified controversial remarks he made last week at a meeting of the Christian Democrats' (CDU) Economic Council, a CDU-affiliated business association, where he said: “I am completely convinced that the path of national targets is wrong.” 

German newspaper Die Welt had reported from the event in an article entitled “Federal government gives up solo runs in climate protection”. Altmaier called for “European and international targets” instead, Die Welt wrote.

The chancellery chief later sent out a message on Twitter saying “Please quote fully: I called for ‘ambitious’ EU targets instead of special national goals. #MyOpinion”

Altmaier now told the Clean Energy Wire he had only voiced his own personal opinion and did not question current targets. “This is not a departure from government policy."

Bringing climate change under control requires a deep transformation, affecting each and every part of the economy. Germany woke up to these challenges in earnest when the government began to translate the Paris Climate Agreement into its Climate Action Plan 2050, detailing steps to wean the world’s fourth largest economy almost entirely off fossil fuels by mid-century, in line with its climate targets.

The Climate Action Plan 2050 did not introduce new targets, but put existing ones in concrete terms, Altmaier told the Clean Energy Wire.

The German government would stand by the plan and the overall goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, he said. As stated in the plan, the individual sector targets will be reviewed in the future and - if necessary - changed in accordance with altered technological, political or social conditions, Altmaier said.

Left-wing daily tageszeitung (taz) wrote that Altmaier’s comments had started the federal election campaign in climate policy.

State secretary in the environment ministry (BMUB) Jochen Flasbarth criticised the chancellery chief in a message on Twitter. “It is not convincing to talk against national climate targets at the Economic Council and then backpedal later,” he wrote.

Specifying the European Union target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80-95 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, mentioned by Altmaier, could be a topic of dispute in the election campaign, as views differ over what targets Germany should set itself.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany needed to specify its mid-century climate ambitions soon. “From my point of view, this must be decided at the start of the next legislative period,” she said at a conference by local utility association VKU. The official target is a cut of 80 to 95 percent by 2050. “But obviously, there is a huge difference between the two […] clarification is needed.”

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)”. They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.