10 Aug 2021, 13:00
Julian Wettengel

“No more time to lose” to keep 1.5°C within reach – German reactions to IPCC report

Photo shows man with bicycle over shoulder wading through flooding in city of Altena in Germany 2021. Photo: Land NRW / Ralph Sondermann.
The IPCC report says extreme weather events and floods like recently in western Germany will become more frequent. Photo: Land NRW / Ralph Sondermann.

German politicians and other stakeholders said the latest major report on climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an urgent warning that rapid emission cuts are needed to keep the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C within reach. “We have no more time to lose,” said Green Party chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock. In the report, the IPCC said that fast and large-scale CO2 reductions are necessary to avoid a desastrous rise in temperatures. The report showed that global surface temperature is already about 1.1°C higher today than in the period 1850-1900. The report was published just weeks after devastating floods shook western Germany and neighbouring countries, and put climate action front and centre of the ongoing national election campaign. Clean Energy Wire compiles reactions from German stakeholders. [Updates with more media commentaries]

Climate change is widespread across the globe and rapidly intensifying, with some of the changes already set in motion – such as continued sea level rise – irreversible for hundreds or even thousands of years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its latest report.

“Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach,” said the IPCC in a press release.

It added that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed the lower 1.5°C limit. Effects of a changing climate include more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions, sea level rise and melting glaciers and ice sheets. In Western and Central Europe, scientists expect an increase in severe storms, more coastal flooding and a further increase of flooding caused by rainfall, and increases in droughts. Germany and neighbouring countries recently experienced devastating floods, which made climate action a central issue in the current national election campaign.

The global surface temperature is already about 1.09°C higher today than in the period 1850-1900, and the largest part of the warming can be attributed to human influence, the IPCC report said.

“We have no more time to lose,” wrote Green Party chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock in a message on Twitter. She said the German government together with the EU, the UK and the U.S. had to do everything to make the COP26 climate change conference in November a “turning point” to get on the 1.5° path.

While the report showed that 1.5°C is still within reach, “we are running out of time,” said development cooperation Gerd Müller. He ccalled for a Global Green Deal “with huge private investments for the expansion of renewable energies as well as technology transfers and an investment offensive of the industrialised countries in emerging and developing countries.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report “a code red for humanity” and called for “decisive action to keep 1.5° alive”. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” he added.

The IPCC is an intergovernmental United Nations (UN) body for assessing the science related to climate change. Its reports assess available scientific research on the issue and thousands of people from all over the world contribute. Today’s report on the physical science basis is the first of three working group reports coming out by March next year, with a synthesis report expected in September 2022. 234 authors from 66 countries wrote the report, which contains over 14,000 cited references.


German reactions to the report:

Government and politicians

Annalena Baerbock, chancellor candidate of the Green Party

The IPCC report shows the climate is changing faster and faster – from ocean warming to weather extremes in all regions of the world – wrote Green Party chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock in a message on Twitter. “We have no more time to lose.” Effective climate action would include the faster roll-out of renewables and “the commitment to become the first industrialised nation to become climate neutral,” she said. She said the German government together with the EU, the UK and the U.S. had to do everything to make the COP26 climate change conference in November a “turning point” to get on the 1.5° path.

Olaf Scholz, chancellor candidate of the Social Democrats (SPD)

SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz said the next government would have to reform laws right at the beginning of the next legislative period – without giving details. “We know how to accomplish the major industrial transformation needed for climate action. We don't just formulate targets, we implement them,” he said in a message on Twitter.

Svenja Schulze, environment minister

The IPCC report “sends a clear and unambiguous signal that the planet is in mortal danger – and its inhabitants with it,” said environment minister Schulze. “But we can still take countermeasures.” Every gramme of saved CO2, every tenth of a degree warming counts, Schulze added. She also said the report dissolves any doubt about man-made climate change. Current extreme weather events and their effects, including the floods in central Europe, record temperatures across the globe or the fires in the Mediterranean “show clearly that climate change is not a scenario of the future,” she said.

Gerd Müller, development cooperation minister

While the report showed that 1.5°C is still within reach, “we are running out of time,” said development cooperation Gerd Müller. He said the effects of climate change have long been here and will continue to increase. “Especially developing countries, which have contributed least to climate change, suffer from these disasters - like currently in Madagascar, where more than one million people do not have enough to eat because of a drought.” Müller called for a Global Green Deal “with huge private investments for the expansion of renewable energies as well as technology transfers and an investment offensive of the industrialised countries in emerging and developing countries.”

Lorenz Gösta Beutin, energy policy spokesperson of Left Party parliamentary group

Governments across the world have so far failed to act in line with science in climate action and are thus irresponsible and grossly negligent, said Left Party MP Beutin. “The climate report thus also gives the German government a certificate of failure; after all, Germany is the country that ranks fourth in the world for having emitted the most of the CO2 climate killer into the atmosphere since the fossil industrialisation.” He added the Left Party in parliament demands the orientation of German climate policy towards science and the CO2 budget approach “instead of the share price of VW, Lufthansa and RWE.”

Marie-Luise Dött, environmental spokesperson of CDU/CSU parliamentary group

"The consequences of climate change are depicted in unsparing detail and this increases the pressure on the international community to act. The next UN climate conference in Glasgow must therefore be a success and the final details of the Paris Climate Agreement must be unified. Germany and the EU have once again tightened their climate targets under the climate agreement and are thus making a fundamental contribution to limiting the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees. I now expect the same approach from our international partners, especially the G20 countries. Only together can the world solve the global challenge of climate change."

Matthias Miersch, deputy head of the SPD parliamentary group

The report shows that “we have to increase speed of our climate action,” said Social Democratic MP Miersch. A new government without the conservatives is necessary after the September election to implement necessary renewables expansion, as CDU/CSU impedes renewables development, he said. “Immediately after the election, we need a binding pact between the federal, state and local governments to give the expansion of renewable energies a further boost. The construction of wind turbines, solar parks and power lines must become faster and easier.”


Industry, business, farming

Holger Lösch, deputy managing director of Federation of German Industries (BDI)

The interim report published by the IPCC increases the pressure on politicians worldwide to act, said BDI deputy managing director of industry association BDI. “Effective monitoring, transparency rules and a decision on international cooperation opportunities are key for the climate and for German industry.” Lösch added that Germany accounts for two percent of global CO2 emissions. “The Paris Agreement can only work in international cooperation, as the IPCC has repeatedly stated. This required the rules that must finally be adopted at COP26 in Glasgow, he said.

Kerstin Andreae, head of German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW)

The report makes clear that greater speed to transform societies is necessary, said energy industry association BDEW head Kerstin Andreae. “First and foremost, we must now loosen the shackles on the expansion of renewable energies. Without green energy, there can be no climate neutrality.” Andreae said the next German government had to quickly implement first decisions within the first half year, such as speeding up planning and permit procedures, making land available for renewables installations, and facilitating repowering of older installations.

Simone Peter, president German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE)

"A sharp reversal in the emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases and the increased use of clean technologies are necessary to bring the climate back into balance. Renewable energies are available in a wide range of technologies for all needs, reliably and affordably. We want to make our contribution to climate protection. To this end, policy hurdles must be removed and a programme for accelerated expansion launched in the first 100 days of the new federal government. This will enable Germany to build on its former successes as a pioneer in the energy transition."

Elisabeth Fresen, Federal Chair of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) (Working Group for Rural Agriculture) and farmer in Lower Saxony

"The report once again shows the urgent need for action: every tenth of a degree counts, every year counts, every measure to reduce emissions counts,” said Elisabeth Fresen of the AbL. Farmers were already experiencing droughts, heavy rains, floods and fires which pose a large threat to them and their harvests. The IPCC report emphasises the importance of natural sinks, such as agricultural soils, Fresen said. These can store large amounts of carbon and thus actively contribute to climate action. “The prerequisite is that we manage the sinks carefully and sustainably, because they also suffer from climate change.”

Analysts, research and science

Oliver Geden (SWP), lead author for Working Group III & member of the Core Writing Team for Synthesis Report IPCC

The report shows an about 10%-larger remaining carbon budget to reach climate targets, compared to the 1.5° special report, said Oliver Geden. This does not contradict the urgency of emission reductions, he said, “but it is an argument against declaring the global budget figures sacrosanct, which is done quite often in the German debate, for example by "Fridays for Future" or the "German Council of Environmental Experts" (SRU).” The SRU now has to readjust their CO2 budget calculations upwards, he added, but cautioned that a budget approach broken down by country “cannot be implemented politically.” Geden said the report could mean that the net-zero target years for CO2 (2050) and overall greenhouse gases (2067) change.

Antje Boetius, director of the Alfred Wegener institute (AWI)

The report is “a last wake-up call,” said AWI director Boetius. “We no longer have a choice, but as a society must do everything in our power to stop global warming and prepare ourselves as best we can for unavoidable risks and dangers.”

Mojib Latif, head of marine meteorology at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel

“Mankind is about to leave the climatic comfort zone it has enjoyed over the last millennia,” said Latif. “It has become very likely that the world will already miss the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2040.” Even the 2-degree target would only be achievable with “very profound global action, which is currently not in sight.” He added that the report showed that scientists correctly predicted the main climate change developments already 30 years ago.

Andreas Kuhlmann, head of the German Energy Agency (dena)

While the previous report from 2013 was still considered by many to be a glimpse of a distant future, today’s report “seems like a proof of concept for the current climate change catastrophes”, especially in view of the current flood, fire and drought disasters, said dena head Kuhlmann. It will receive much more attention and “wise, timely and effective decisions at all levels are hopefully the result of this reading,” said Kuhlmann. “Ideally already at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.”

Environmental NGOs and activists

Fridays for Future

The Working Group 1 report “makes it unmistakably clear how dramatic the situation is,” said student activists group Fridays for Future. “The amount of emissions that may still be emitted in order to avoid dangerous tipping points is small, the time pressure is enormous.” This should lead to a re-write of election manifestos in Germany’s current national campaign, said spokesperson Luisa Neubauer. “We are a few weeks away from the federal elections in one of the main countries causing the climate crisis and none of the parties has an adequate response to the drastic nature of the situation,” she said. “Compliance with the Paris Agreement has so far failed not because of physics but because of political will.”

Sascha Müller-Kraenner, managing director of Environmental Action Germany (DUH)

“The climate crisis is coming even faster and more violently than previously predicted,” said DUH managing director Müller-Kraenner. “But we have it in our own hands how much worse it will get.” The German government had to act even before the national election in Germany in September, and a new government had to introduce an ambitious climate action programme for the first 100 days in office. “What this must look like is absolutely clear: there must be no more new fossil infrastructure projects, Nord Stream 2 and liquefied natural gas terminals must be stopped, we need an end to combustion cars in Germany by 2025, a speed limit, an immediate programme for building renovation and much more,” he said.

Christoph Thies, Greenpeace Germany

The report is shocking, because the described effects of climate change were foreseeable, and still governments and companies “are still moving at a snail's pace on climate action,” said Thies. It is an enormous challenge for society to combat climate change, he added. “But the effects of an unchecked climate crisis confront the world with disproportionately greater challenges that hit the poorer people first. More and more fires, more frequent floods and droughts are costing human lives, destroying natural and living spaces and causing immense economic damage,” said Thies.

Malte Hentschke-Kemper, deputy managing director of Climate-Alliance Germany

The findings of Working Group I on the 6th Assessment Report “relentlessly show us that the climate crisis is worsening ever faster,” said Malte Hentschke-Kemper of NGO umbrella group Climate-Alliance Germany. Over the last four years, the German government had failed to give climate action the priority it needs. While the technical and economic possibilities for effective measures were available, “what is missing is the political will to implement them,” said Hentschke-Kemper. “What is needed now in the election campaign is an objective competition for the best overall concept. The new federal government will have to work at high speed on climate action.”



Marlene Weiß, Süddeutsche Zeitung

The world needs real global cooperation to get climate change under control, writes Marlene Weiß in an opinion piece in Süddeutsche Zeitung. “In fact, we, the international community, have not yet found a way of international cooperation that would be suitable for countering climate change or the loss of biodiversity in the way that is called for,” she writes. “If we do not learn to deal with the planet and with each other differently, man's time here will eventually run out.”

Michael Bauchmüller, Süddeutsche Zeitung

The world is heating up, but the German government is clinging to its coal phase-out date in 2038, writes Michael Bauchmüller in a commentary for Süddeutsche Zeitung. The coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Conservatives (CDU-CSU) are shying away from resolving the big contradiction of increased climate action and sticking to the late end date for coal because they don’t want to alienate trade unions or break their promise to coal workers. “But anyone who takes the findings of the IPCC and their own climate targets seriously will correct the phase-out date quickly and in a socially acceptable manner - or risk all credibility in climate politics,” Bauchmüller writes.

Klaus Stratmann, Handelsblatt

The IPCC report presents the next German government with major challenges, writes Klaus Stratmann in an op-ed for Handelsblatt. “Politicians must now convince people to completely change course in all areas of life,” he says. The German way has long been to spend many billions on climate action without paying attention to the effects achieved, Stratmann writes, citing the “absurdly high subsidies for renewable energy technologies” as an example and saying that the government is about to repeat the same mistake with its support for electric mobility. “The motto ‘whatever the cost’ leads straight to disaster”, he says, arguing that the best measure is putting a CO2 price at the heart of all energy transition and climate change mitigation policies.

Anna Sauerbrey, Tagesspiegel

With the IPCC substantiating its warnings of global warming and finding “unequivocally” that it is caused by humankind, it becomes very clear that individuals are not going to be able to change much about it, but that countries can do so even more, writes Anna Sauerbrey in an op-ed for Tagesspiegel. Germany as a rich high-tech country is in a good position and its citizens are ready to change, but often feel powerless, she says. “It is also true that no one can stop the apocalypse at the [supermarket] cooling shelf alone.” Emission reductions are a political task, globally and nationally, she says. “The reconstruction of infrastructure (railway lines, charging stations, dams, cooling corridors for big cities etc), the setting of incentives, the forging of foreign policy alliances - all this is the task of the state, not the task of the individual.”

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