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15 Nov 2019, 15:20
Julian Wettengel

Germany's parliament greenlights first major climate law

[Update adds opinion piece by Süddeutsche Zeitung]

The German parliament (Bundestag) has decided the country's first major climate law, less than two months after the coalition of chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) agreed to introduce it as part of an extensive climate package to reach 2030 climate targets. The parliament also agreed on the introduction of a CO₂ pricing system for transport and buildings. The laws must now be debated by the Bundesrat, the federal council of state governments. While the climate law itself is not subject to final state approval, consent to other elements of the climate package – such as a package of tax reforms – could be tied to the law. The Green Party, which is in opposition at the federal level, is part of many state government coalitions and has vowed to try and amend the package.
Environment minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) said today's decision was only part of implementing the climate package. "I am very happy that the centrepiece of the package – the climate action law – has now been decided. It is the central point, the heart, with which climate policy in Germany will really change."
By contrast, Greenpeace Germany managing director Martin Kaiser said the government lacked the courage to actually use "the tracks to a climate-compatible future" it is laying down with the legislation. The "ridiculously low" CO₂ price would not improve Germany's "fatal climate footprint."
In an opinion piece in Süddeutsche Zeitung, Michael Bauchmüller writes that after months of debates and pleas by science regarding gravity of the situation "this law seems like the pretty packaging of nothingness". The climate law stipulates ambitious targets, but "others have to deal with reaching these," he writes. "The message of the first German climate law is: We haven't succeeded this time. But we will next time. Promise."

As part of a far-reaching climate package, the government decided on 20 September 2019 to introduce Germany's first major climate action law. It will enshrine the 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of 55 percent (over 1990 levels) in law, and divvies this target up between economic sectors with annual emissions budgets in the 2020s. It also sets up an independent expert commission to assess the climate effects of measures proposed by the government and to evaluate emissions data.

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