04 Dec 2023, 13:50
Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany’s econ min calls off COP28 trip over budget crisis as Scholz calls to end fossil fuels

Der Spiegel / Clean Energy Wire

Economy and climate minister Robert Habeck has called off a planned trip to the UN climate conference COP28, due to the ongoing budget crisis that has upset the climate action funding plans of Germany’s government. Chancellor Olaf Scholz had asked Habeck to stay in Berlin and try to achieve progress in the coalition party talks about closing a funding gap resulting from a court ruling that declared 60 billion euros in funds earmarked for climate and transformation projects void, news magazine Der Spiegel reported. Habeck had planned to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday (5 December) and would now “postpone it to the closest possible date,” a spokesperson for the minister told the magazine. “His presence in Berlin is needed in order to make progress on the 2024 budget talks after the ruling by the constitutional court,” the spokesperson added. Green Party minister Habeck, together with Social Democrat (SPD) Scholz and pro-business Free Democrat (FDP) finance minister Christian Lindner are still debating over the 17 billion euro gap in the 2024 budget, which could be made available by cutting expenses elsewhere or by finding new ways of income for the state, after the court ruled out the possibility to take on new credit.

On Saturday (2 December) during a speech at the conference, Scholz called for a resolute worldwide push to end the use of coal and gas, and for a tripling of renewable power capacity by 2030. A total of 118 states present at the COP signed a declaration in which they vowed to work towards these goals. Germany’s government has said it “ideally” wants to end coal fired-power production by 2030, while some of its states have said they will stick to the technology until 2038. There is so far no official plan for ending the use of natural gas in Germany. However, the chancellor said at a press conference that Germany’s climate neutrality goal for 2045 meant that the country will no longer burn gas for heating or transportation by that time. Yet, gas continued to be important as a “bridge technology” to allow the phase-out of other technologies before renewable energy, including green hydrogen, are brought to scale. He stressed the importance of the Climate Club initiative that was officially launched at the beginning of the conference. The group of 36 countries has agreed on closer regulatory cooperation to establish rules and guidelines for rapid decarbonisation. “We must halt human-made climate change and at the same time manage to remain successful industrialised countries, safeguard prosperity and enable further growth,” Scholz added.

Development cooperation minister Svenja Schulze, meanwhile, called on emerging economies, such as China, Qatar or Saudi-Arabia, to voluntarily contribute to a loss and damage fund for covering climate-related costs. Funding the response to global warming could not be a task for the traditional industrialised countries alone, Schulze said. The current UN mechanism classifies states like China or Saudi-Arabia as developing countries. However, many states “that were developing countries 30 years ago are today able to take on their share of responsibility for worldwide climate damages,” she argued.

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