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06 Jul 2021, 13:20
Charlotte Nijhuis

Long-term climate strategies should be key focus of COP26 – German govt advisors

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) calls on countries to focus their long-term climate protection strategies beyond climate neutrality on "climate stabilisation" and to make such strategies a main topic at the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. This is the central message of the policy paper "Beyond Climate Neutrality”, which WBGU handed over today to research minister Anja Karliczek and state secretary at the environment ministry (BMU) Jochen Flasbarth in Berlin. According to the WBGU, long-term strategies should contain three separate focal points: first, the complete and rapid phase-out of fossil fuels; second, the protection, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems; and third, strategic preparations for the use of CO2 removal from the atmosphere. The strategies should be mandatory and go beyond the goal of achieving ‘climate neutrality’ and aim for ‘climate stabilisation’ instead, because “it will very likely be additionally necessary to permanently remove further CO2 from the atmosphere beyond climate neutrality in order to compensate for previous high emissions and remaining warming trends,” the WBGU writes.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries must present long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies. Countries are expected to have handed in their strategies by the time of COP26 in November. Germany and the European Union have already done so. Technologies to remove unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, for example from agriculture or certain industry processes, will become more and more important. In Germany, the debate about carbon capture and storage (CCS) is slowly gaining speed again. Years of protest against industry plans to use CCS as a lifeline for coal power made the technology a no-go issue for German politicians. But the new goal of climate neutrality by 2045 forces the country into a fresh debate about dealing with unavoidable CO2 emissions.

Minister Karliczek welcomed the policy paper and said major investments in nearly every economic sector are needed. “I want Germany to become the number one export country for climate action innovations. In this way, we can preserve our natural resources and at the same time secure prosperity and jobs,” she said. The minister also emphasised that although Germany prepares for the use of methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, these techniques should not be seen as a replacement for lowering emissions. State secretary Jochen Flasbarth pointed out that Germany has made carbon removal through natural sinks, such as forests and moors, a binding part of the amended Climate Action Law, in line with the country’s goal to achieve negative emissions after 2050. Flasbarth added that he supports the WBGU’s call to make long-term climate strategies a main topic during the COP26. “Many more countries need to submit strategies for greenhouse gas neutrality and show that their medium-term climate targets are also in line with this. The BMU is therefore supporting partner countries worldwide in developing both increased climate targets and climate long-term strategies."

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