02 Jun 2015 | Sven Egenter

Must combine climate action and competitiveness - Merkel ally

Europe must deliver on its own targets for a successful climate summit in Paris at the end of this year, the head of the German Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, told a business conference on Tuesday. At the same time, he stressed that the transition to a low carbon economy had to be an economic success, too.

The German government was committed to the Energiewende – the transition to an energy system mostly based on renewable energy sources -- and to the country's climate goals, Altmaier told the annual conference of the European association of electricity producing companies Eurelectric in Berlin.

At the same time, the country had to maintain its competitive edge, Altmaier said. “The Chancellor, myself, this government, we are wholeheartedly convinced that this energy transition will be a success only if it can be implemented as a business case,” he said.

Meeting the challenge of combining urgent climate action with economic success was also important with regards to the Paris summit. “In December of this year when the leaders of this world will come together to discuss legally binding instruments for climate protection, then of course the Chinese and the Americans will carefully watch what the Europeans are doing and whether the Europeans and the Germans will stick to their own commitments and announcements,” said Altmaier, who is a member of Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

“It is our vital interest to raise awareness for climate protection around the world. But at the same time we are aware of the fact that we have to present a business case and we have to present solutions that can work for emerging countries as well as industrialised countries,” he said.

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has put climate action firmly on the agenda for the summit of the heads of governments and states of the G7 leading industrialised countries, taking place in Southern Germany on June 7 and 8.

At the same time, the coalition government of Merkel’s CDU and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel’s Social Democrats faces a debate about plans to redesign the power market to accommodate an increasing share of renewable energies as well as intense discussions about a proposed climate levy in order to meet the country’s goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2020.

Business leaders criticised a lack of European solutions and market orientation during the two-day conference in Berlin, taking particular aim at the proposals made by the ministry for economic affairs and energy for a climate levy on old coal fired-power plants in Germany. The CEO of Germany’s largest utility E.ON, Johannes Teyssen, called the plans "fundamentally flawed" and "non-compliant" with the European emissions trading system ETS.

However, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the head of state-owned EnBW, another one of Germany’s four largest utilities, has come out in favour of the proposal.

With regards to the ongoing debate, Altmaier said that the government was looking for a way to achieving the climate goal while leaving room for manoeuvre to electricity producing companies. He also stressed the need for close European cooperation in the field of energy policy, echoing views expressed by energy state secretary Rainer Baake at the same event on Monday.

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