Merkel calls for honouring Paris deal as German climate action falters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a resolute implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement to curb global warming and prove that international accords can effectively tackle worldwide challenges. The chancellor said hard-won international deals such as the Paris Climate Agreement or the UN’s Agenda 2030 showed that the international community is capable of making far-reaching agreements. “Now we have to prove that they can be implemented, too.”
In her speech to an audience at the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin - a forum launched in the framework of last year’s G20 summit in Hamburg that brings together think tanks, businesses, policymakers and international organisations from around the world - Merkel praised multilateralism and the rule of international law as the only viable tools for tackling problems such as “humanity’s challenge” of climate change or rapid digitalisation. “Seizing the opportunities of globalisation and limiting its risks – this is best done together,” she said.
Germany’s former role as a climate action pioneer has suffered internationally during the previous term of “climate Chancellor” Merkel as it struggles to achieve self-imposed climate targets and to adequately support European emissions reduction efforts. Its efforts to reduce CO2 output have faltered in recent years and it might have to buy its way out of EU climate goals.
Although Merkel sticks to a rhetoric of resolute climate action, critics say Germany’s coalition treaty between Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democrats (SPD) lacks ambition and detailed measures to fulfil to Paris Agreement’s targets and further the Energiewende, Germany’s dual effort of replacing fossil and nuclear power with renewable energy sources.
Climate action "best economic policy"
At the summit in Berlin, Merkel warned that “global thinking and solution seeking are being challenged by some, to say the least”, arguing that multilateral approaches are always more tedious and less enthralling than national solutions. “However, there’s nothing better than the multilateral approach,” Merkel said. She argued that international law and institutions are weakened if completed agreements are no longer supported. She insisted that it is of paramount importance for the whole world if a country like China abides by the rules of the global economy. “It takes optimism to surmount the global problems of our time,” she added.
Merkel said that, despite all its flaws and criticism, the Hamburg summit had been a success. While not bringing complete unanimity on climate action, negotiations in Hamburg achieved that all member states except the USA remain in the Paris Agreement. The 19 other countries were “determined to implement the Paris Agreement”.
At the same event, German environment minister Svenja Schulze from the SPD said the G20 had originally started as a gathering to discuss financial affairs but now “could not be thought of without climate action and sustainability” as core agenda topics.
She said investments in climate protection and sustainability now had become “the best economic policy” and that the private sector had to be encouraged to ramp up its activities. “We need to break new ground. Market mechanisms like the emissions trading system accompanied by social security measures,” Schulze said.
Cars and coal weigh heavily on German climate record
In an answer to a recent parliamentary inquiry by the Green Party on Germany’s willingness to pick up a demand by the European Parliament to increase the EU’s 2030 targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy share from 27 to 35 percent compared to 1990 levels, the government said it has to “examine” how much it can “make concessions to the European Parliament’s proposal”. Germany is currently on track to widely miss its own 2020 climate target of reducing emissions by 40 percent.
The new government has said it will ensure that the 2030 target of reducing emissions by 55 percent is reached. Environmental NGOs say a rapid phase-out of coal-fired power production is central to achieving the cut - but the commission in charge of managing the “coal exit” is likely to emphasise economic stability and jobs over emissions reduction.
Moreover, Germany’s emissions in the transport sector have actually increase since 1990. The country has been heavily criticised for preventing tighter vehicle emissions limits at the EU level to protect its mighty car industry.