Germany’s government agrees controversial reform of climate action law
Clean Energy Wire
Germany’s coalition government has greenlighted a controversial reform of the country’s climate action law, which is set to effectively weaken ministerial responsibility for excessive emissions in specific economic sectors such as industry, transport, or buildings. At the core of the proposed reforms is a shift away from Germany’s current focus on annual emissions reduction targets for each sector, and obligatory short-term measures by the responsible ministry if the targets are missed – to a cross-sectoral view and a focus on 2030 projections. This means if emissions reduction in one sector is lagging, another sector can compensate for it – a move heavily criticised by climate activists. The reform still requires parliamentary approval to take effect. Finance minister Christian Lindner from the Free Democrats (FDP) welcomed the proposed changes, arguing that the "rigid" climate law from the past federal government would become "more market-based, flexible and efficient."
A report by the environment agency UBA earlier this year showed that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased slightly last year (-2% compared to 2021), but not enough to put the country on track for its 2030 climate target. Deputy head of the Council of Experts on Climate Change Brigitte Knopf then said that there is no scope in any of the sectors to compensate for a lack of emissions reduction in another area.
The shift away from a sector-focused approach was heavily pushed for by the three-party coalition’s smallest member, the Free Democrats (FDP), who head the ministry for transport. Transport has long been considered the energy transition’s “problem child” as emissions in the sector have remained high over the last two decades, partly due to insufficient policy action. Climate NGO umbrella organisation Climate Alliance called on parliament to tighten the law to ensure climate targets can be met. "By removing the binding sectoral targets, the FDP is buying off its transport minister from making his contribution to climate protection,” said the group’s director Stefanie Langkamp. "If the government submits inadequate climate protection programmes, tangible mechanisms must take effect to get emissions reductions underway.”