04 Nov 2022, 14:03
Sören Amelang

Germany unlikely to reach climate targets without policy “paradigm shift” – govt advisors

Clean Energy Wire

Germany might need to drastically rethink its climate policy if it wants to reach its emission reduction targets, government advisors have warned. It is “questionable whether future climate goals can be achieved without a paradigm shift on climate policy," said the chair of the country’s Council of Experts on Climate Change, Hans-Martin Henning, during the presentation of the supervisory body’s first overall climate policy assessment. Current emission reduction rates are far from sufficient to reach Germany’s target of reducing emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, neither in total nor in the individual sectors, the council warned. Current expansion rates of solar and wind power, heat pumps, and electric cars are also far too low to reach government targets, the report stated.

To implement this paradigm shift, the council proposed a hard cap on permissible emissions, instead of the current strategy of addressing emissions only indirectly, for example by boosting the use of renewables. This approach would require new policies to avoid social hardships and harm to the economy. "Climate policy would then no longer be predominantly an emissions reduction policy, but increasingly an economic and social policy under the new framework which imposes a hard limit on quantities," says Henning. The council pointed to the existing European emissions trading system ETS, which resulted in massive emissions reductions in the energy sector. Germany already has a CO2 price for the buildings and transport sector, but the system doesn’t include an emissions cap, the experts pointed out. Without a hard cap on emissions, policymakers would have to focus much more on dismantling fossil fuel technologies and behavioural changes to improve the prospect of achieving climate goals.

In a first reaction to the report, Greenpeace said the expert council had exposed a “gaping hole” in the toolbox of German climate policy. “Incentives alone do not advance the transformation towards emission-free technologies fast enough. The German government must concentrate more on removing anything that has caused the climate crisis, without neglecting the faster expansion of renewables,” Greenpeace said, adding that fossil fuel heating systems and cars must be phased out more rapidly. NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) said the report was an “impressive testimony to the complete failure” of the government’s climate policy. DUH added it would sue the government for violating existing laws if it doesn’t respond adequately to this “slap in the face.” 

The council had already slammed Germany’s plans to cut emissions to the transport and buildings sectors in separate assessments. The country’s emissions are set to rise slightly this year because it has increased the use of coal power in response to the war in Ukraine.

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