14 Nov 2016, 00:00
Sören Amelang Sven Egenter Susanne Götze Julian Wettengel

Reactions to Germany's Climate Action Plan 2050

After a public consultation process of over a year and months of political wrangling, the German government agreed on a climate action plan 2050. While this roadmap to a nearly carbon-emission free economy contains detailed targets for individual sectors, the plan lacks the ambition of the environment ministry's initial draft leaked in May. The following are first reactions from environmental groups, politicians, industry and energy analysts. [UPDATE - adds IW, agriculture minister Schmidt, vzbv, Green Party co-chairwoman Peter, IASS]

Thilo Schaefer, climate and energy expert at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW)

“The plan envisages CO2 cuts for economic sectors like industry and agriculture by 2030 – which means it’s the opposite of a strategy imbedded in international climate policy,” Schaefer said in a press release.

“It looks like the government forgot that the energy sector and industry already participate in the European emissions trading system […] in the end, it will simply become more expensive for the affected sectors, but they won’t save a single extra ton of CO2.  Because the emissions saved by German sectors can be emitted by other states.”

“It’s doesn’t make sense to fix an end date for certain technologies, such as lignite. It is irreplaceable for supply security – until perhaps a new, less carbon-intensive technology is developed.”


Christian Schmidt, federal minister for agriculture:

“It remains uncertain whether we can achieve that target [of cutting agriculture emissions as stipulated in the Climate Action Plan] within 30 years. We don’t know how technology will develop and therefore, we will have to adapt the targets […] The path to decarbonisation will have to be developed in more detail in the coming years.”


Klaus Müller, executive director of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv)

“Consumers are prepared to do their bit in the enormous effort needed for the implementation of the Climate Action Plan, because in the long term, everybody will benefit from protecting the climate,” Müller said in a press release. “But the government will have to pay attention to the distribution of costs: Consumers must not be burdened disproportionately in the transformation to a climate-neutral economy and society.”


Simone Peter, co-chairwoman of the Green Party

“This is not a good plan anymore, it has become an empty shell, because the ministerial colleagues of [environment minister Barbara] Hendricks have removed anything that could be of relevance – be it the coal exit, the end of the combustion engine, or a transition in agriculture,” Peter told public broadcaster ARD. “We will miss the 2020 targets and do not have a strategy how to proceed thereafter.”

Peter said the energy lobby wielded strong influence on the economics ministry. “We see that classic energy sectors receive a lot of support, while renewables are sidelined.”


Klaus Töpfer, founding director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)

“This plan is certainly not yet capable of securing the German contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement. This will require more work,” Töpfer told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. “I believe the government will get by in Marrakesh with this. But beyond that, it will have to work on getting further ahead than currently planned with the exit from a carbon-based economy, to the advantage of Germany’s economic perspective.”     


Liz Gallagher, senior associate at E3G

„Germany has resolved a bold mid century climate action plan, even though it may not be perfect. It is important that countries put such plans on the table now to reaffirm the Paris Agreement. These are first drafts which can be revised at a later point."


Prof. Dr. Claudia Kemfert, head of the department Energy, Transportation, Environment, German Institute for Economic Research (DIW)

“The climate protection plan by the German government is a first and important step for Germany to decarbonise the economic system. The current compromise contains important sector emission reduction targets for the energy sector, the industry, transportation and agriculture. In order to reach the emissions reduction targets a consequent coal phase out by 2040 would be necessary though, as well as the phase out of fossil fuels in the transportation and buildings sector. That would mean, no new cars that burn fossil fuels can be allowed after 2030. The current plan is a good first step in the right direction, but unfortunately only a compromise with minimum, not maximum climate protection efforts.”


Regine Günther, director policy and climate at WWF Germany

“Today’s climate action plan is only a fraction of what is needed. The only plus point: all sectors get precise reduction targets, which WWF welcomes. However, the list of negatives is much longer: There are no appropriate measures to reach those targets. There is also a blank on the issue of coal. The plan completely dropped the urgently needed ban on further extension of open cast mining. The commission on coal will not start until 2018, after the federal elections. A minimum price on carbon is also missing completely. With this plan, the industry and energy lobbies have proven how well placed they are in the economy ministry. With such a plan there can be no ambitious climate protection.”


Dirk Flege, head of the pro-rail alliance (Allianz pro Schiene)

„An ambitious CO2 emissions reduction goal has been set against the resistance of the car lobby…. All other sectors have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, some considerably. Only the transport sector failed to move. A target for the climate problem child number 1 has been overdue.”


 Karsten Smid, climate expert Greenpeace Germany

“The government has as a matter of fact fired the starting gun on the phase-out of coal and the combustion engine today. But the plan is not enough to reach the goal of 1.5 degree (rise in global temperature) promised in Paris. If Germany wants to meet its climate pledge the amount of greenhouse gases has to be cut much faster.”


 Christoph Bals, policy director at Germanwatch

“Unfortunately the current climate plan is not suited to implement the goals agreed in Paris in Germany. At least Germany does not appear empty handed. The government should call during the German G20 presidency on the G20 states to put out ambitious climate action plans by 2018. This would have been difficult without an own plan.”

“The climate action plan also touches on a coal exit, but doesn’t call it by its name. A clear exit path, which would allow for the creation of new opportunities for employees and the affected regions, is missing. The fact that economy minister Sigmar Gabriel forced through some last minute changes shows how much destructive influence the coal lobby still has in Germany and parts of the Social Democrats.”


Barbara Minderjahn, head of the Association of Energy Intensive Business (VIK)

“The government’s agreement shows an improvement, but there are changes needed in the implementation. There are still detailed sector targets even though the technical and economic feasibility is not foreseeable. Future work on this should therefore include the affected businesses and their associations.”

“We and the businesses the energy cost sensitive industries are aware that achieving the climate goals will lead to a transformation of the industry landscape in Germany. This leads to high financing needs and a high degree of technological innovation with necessary leaps. The industry works on solutions with high intensity to meet the challenges. But politicians should have an interest that this transformation works out and Germany keeps a strong, powerful and highly diversified industry by 2050.”


Ulrich Grillo, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI)

“In order for [German] climate policy to set the standard around the world, it has to be manageable for businesses and allow them to remain competitive,” Ulrich Grillo told the Guardian. “That’s why we reject arbitrary and tonne-high reduction targets for individual sectors.”


Jan Kowalzig, expert for climate policy at Oxfam Germany

“At least, the environment minister can travel to Marrakesh with a climate action plan. A humiliation has been avoided. But the plan is not enough for a fair contribution to the Paris agreement. The current greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2030 and 2040 have not been increased. Therefore, it’s going to be hard to get Germany climate neutral by 2050. The main weakness, however, is the fact that the plan lacks a clear exit scenario from harmful coal. Economy minister Sigmar Gabriel’s caving in to the coal lobby unnecessarily complicates the move to renewable energies and the orderly and socially acceptable farewell to dirty coal.”

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
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