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08 Feb 2018
Kerstine Appunn Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Reactions to Germany's coalition agreement

After weeks of intensive negotiations, Germany's would-be government partners have agreed on a coalition draft treaty. The Clean Energy Wire presents first reactions to texts on transport, climate and energy. [UPDATE adds VDA, VDMA, vzbv, Germanwatch, RWI]

[The factsheet Climate and energy in Germany's government coalition draft treaty presents excerpts from the agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD).]

 

INDUSTRY, NGOs, POLITICIANS, etc.

German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) [7 February]

The VDA welcomes the agreement, because Germany needs a reliable and stable political leadership, said VDA President Matthias Wissmann in a statement. However, “the coalition treaty entails the risk of betting too much on distribution, and less on the generation of our wealth.”

“We welcome that the commitment to international climate protection is linked to a future-oriented industrial policy. This approach must find its way into the day-to-day work of the [new] government. A healthy balance between industry and economic policy on the one hand, and environmental and social policy on the other, serves Germany’s competitiveness and production capacity.”

Wissmann welcomes the principle of technology neutrality in the treaty. “Quotas and technology bans lead the economic, social and climate policies into a dead end,” he says. It was also the right thing to elevate the necessary investment in infrastructure and key technologies like e-mobility and autonomous and connected driving to the top of the agenda for the next legislative period. “We agree with the coalition partners that inner city diesel driving bans should absolutely be avoided.” [Find the statement in German here]

German Engineering Federation (VDMA) [7 Febuary]

The final treaty text on energy policy fails to live up to the promise of its earlier leaked versions., said Matthias Zelinger, VDMA’s energy policy spokesperson, in a press statement. “Pulling back on emissions pricing or the necessary reform of taxes and levies on different energy sources sounds less like a ‘now for real’ and more like a ‘business as usual’ approach. With its commitment to efficiency and accelerated grid expansion for more renewable energy, the new [would-be] government does steer in the right direction, but must become more resolute.” More binding 2030 climate targets, a resolute renewables expansion to a 65 percent share, and recognition of the significance of supply security for the German industry are important building blocks that must be developed further, said Zelinger. [Find the statement in German here]

Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) [7 February]

“The coalition treaty has several blind spots. Regarding the Energiewende, consumers continue to fall by the wayside. Fair funding is not an issue in the document. […] If the coalition partners now choose to fight for the consumers’ needs, they can win back lost trust. We, consumer organisations, will regularly remind them over the coming four years,” said vzbv head Klaus Müller. [Find the statement in German here]

Christoph Schmidt, president of the Rhineland-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research (RWI) [7 February]

“It’s especially regrettable that the opportunity was missed to set a uniform CO₂ price for the implementation of the Energiewende. We hope that Germany will address this issue together with France when they review the Élysée Treaty.” [Find the statement in German here]

Germanwatch [7 February]

“The CDU, CSU and SPD elevate the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement to be the guiding principles of government action – but they miss out on the chance to underline the seriousness of these issues with clear frameworks, as the central implementation measures are to be decided next year only.”

Christoph Bals, Germanwatch policy director: “Only recently, the coalition partners have conceded that the 2020 climate target will not be reached on time. Now they announce the next targets and wilfully leave the question of whether the cheque is valid this time unanswered. That’s playing a risky game with one’s own credibility.”

[Find the statement in German here]

Stefan Kapferer, head of utilities association BDEW [7 February]

“I’m glad to see that the economy ministry will continue to be responsible for energy issues, because we need a holistic approach to the energy transition. Unfortunately, such a holistic approach to energy policy is by and large absent in the agreed coalition treaty. The agreement on energy policy is not a great success, it is more like micromanagement without courage.” While the treaty includes important measures, such as the accelerated expansion of renewables and a clear commitment to power grid expansion, it “does not answer what the energy supply of tomorrow should look like. It remains completely open on how investment in the urgently needed secured capacity could or should be made profitable in the future [Find the reaction in German here],” said Kapferer.

The treaty also “steers clear of the topic of CO₂ pricing in the transport, agriculture, and heating sectors. We must make greenhouse gas emissions in these areas more expensive. Otherwise, especially the transport sector will not be able to reduce emissions at a considerable rate,” said Kapferer.

Greenpeace Germany [7 February]

“The grand coalition lacks the courage and vision to resolutely protect the climate and the environment,” said Sweelin Heuss, managing director at Greenpeace Germany. “The people and the economy in Germany need clarity about how the ecological modernisation will move away from fossil fuels, transport chaos, and an agriculture that destroys nature. A grand coalition must do more than take small steps - it must cope with the big challenges.”

“By giving up on the 2020 climate target, the future government disgraces itself internationally. Because Germany, under Merkel, has not made headway in climate protection for years. Even the 2030 target can only be reached if the dirtiest coal-fired power plants are switched off immediately.”

Greenpeace welcomes that the SPD “was able to establish climate targets for the energy, transport, and agriculture sectors against the conservatives’ opposition”. The decision to increase the share of renewables in the power mix to 65 percent by 2030 it also considers a positive development. [Find the reaction in German here]

Michael Vassiliadis, head of the German trade union for mining, chemicals and energy industries (IG BCE) [7 February]

The IG BCE considers the coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and the SPD a “stable compromise”. The document includes new energy and industry policy priorities, Vassiliadis said, noting that many questions are still open.

Peter Altmaier (CDU), acting chief of the Federal Chancellery and finance minister [7 February]

“A really good day for our country. Chances are high that we’ll soon have a new federal government. We have a coalition treaty which is good news for a large number of citizens. […] And now we all want to take a shower, because we negotiated long and hard over the past hours.” [Find the reaction in German here]

Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) [7 February]

Environmental NGO NABU calls the coalition treaty “ambitious in nature protection, but without courage in transport and climate policy”. NABU Federal Managing Director Leif Miller pointed to the absence of a “comprehensive plan that combines climate, infrastructure, and the safeguarding of our basis of existence. With new record investment in transport projects, further habitats will become fragmented, and the inadequate approach to climate protection will put a lot of pressure on our ecosystems.”

“It says a lot that the grand coalition aims to reach the 2020 climate target only ‘as fast as possible’. With a new [special] commission, the coalition aims to buy time that does not really exist. All proposals for the requisite steps already exist,” said Miller. The introduction of sectoral targets for 2030 was a positive development. “But this commitment is pure window dressing, if the conservatives and the Social Democrats freeze the energy efficiency standards for new buildings.” Renewables expansion should be done in a nature-friendly way.

German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE) [7 February]

“The conservatives and the Social Democrats have committed to complying with the Paris Climate Agreement and to a significantly accelerated renewables expansion. Now, concrete measures must follow fast to harness the potential for greenhouse gas reductions and for the modernisation of our energy industry,” said BEE Managing Director Peter Röttgen. “The grand coalition must do everything to reach the 2020 climate targets fast, and must not delay the implementation of the requisite measures.” According to the BEE, emphasising renewables expansion was the right thing to do. “The renewables sector will judge the coalition by whether or not this promise will be kept for all sectors.”

Andreas Pinkwart, FDP energy minister of federal state North Rhine-Westphalia [6 February]

“A couple of years ago we saw the Social Democrats and Greens in North Rhine-Westphalia revising their climate target and writing a more realistic goal into law. I think that is more honest than upholding an ambitious target that we know is difficult to reach. What’s important now is that we reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Here, our responsibility is for 2030 and 2050. We now have time to properly prepare, and that really has to happen. All sectors must do their part, not only the energy sector, but also mobility and construction.”

“I think it’s realistic that we significantly increase the renewables share in Germany’s power mix by 2030 – if we don’t limit ourselves to one or two energy sources, but decide on a wide mix of renewables. That’s why we [in North Rhine-Westphalia] have made clear that we need to focus more on geothermal energy, and solar PV in inner cities. We see that technology is improving and that the productivity of renewables steadily increases. We have to exploit that, and at the same time ensure we find more environmentally friendly solutions for conventional energy – which we will need for some time in an intelligent mix.”

Barbara Hendricks, acting Environment Minister and leading climate/energy negotiator for the SPD [3 February]

“We’ve taken a huge step forward on energy and climate policy. You may remember there was a cap for renewable energy expansion in the last legislative period. Now, the opposite will be true. By 2030, we want a 65 percent share of renewables in the power mix.”

“It’s true that we are having trouble reaching our self-imposed target for 2020, but now we’re on track to remain, to become, a pioneer of climate protection. We’re making every effort to close the 2020 gap as far as possible. We will not be able to close it all the way, we acknowledge that, but we will have clear sector-specific targets for 2030, which is new and will be written into law.”

“We protect the climate to protect the people. And if we succeed in improving the climate, this will be a driver for innovation that I am convinced will advance our industrial sector for years and decades to come.”

“We did not talk about a blue badge [to ban older diesel cars from inner cities]. Instead, we confirmed the measures that have been decided with the municipalities and the federal states. […] We don’t know whether or not we can avoid driving bans – we’re doing everything to succeed but of course we cannot anticipate what, for example, the federal administrative court will decide at the end of the month. […] It’s clear that we want to avoid driving bans, if possible, and here it will also be about checking whether or not it makes sense to retrofit certain models – from an economic point of view, but also with the desired effect to bring down nitrogen oxide levels.”

Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and leading climate/energy negotiator for the CDU [3 February]

“The basic condition a new grand coalition must ensure is to safeguard Germany’s role as an industrial country, while at the same time fulfilling the international climate protection agreements. I think we’ve reached a good compromise that aligns the three principles of affordability, supply security and environmental protection. The goal is to keep energy-intensive industry in the country […] but also keep working towards the climate targets for 2020, 2030 and 2050. This is our ambition to connect realism with vision.”

On nuclear policy, Laschet said the coalition partners want to “examine possibilities for a legal basis to prevent nuclear fuels produced in Germany being used in facilities abroad whose security, in Germany’s view, is doubtful. For us in North Rhine-Westphalia, this would mean no longer supplying Doel and Tihange – if legally possible – but the examination is not yet complete.”

“We want to make Germany a location for battery cell production. This is a very important decision that would make it possible for Germany to again become a pioneer in e-mobility, and accelerate the switch from combustion to electric engines.”

Georg Nüßlein, CDU/CSU deputy parliamentary group leader and leading climate/energy negotiator for the CSU [3 February]

“We find a clear balance between environmental policy on the one hand and economic policy ambitions on the other hand. I think that’s very important.”

“We want to ambitiously expand renewable energies, but not without keeping an eye on prices, and not without making sure the power that’s generated can ultimately be used. Regarding grids, we want to work on acceptance. […] We have decided to give higher priority to underground cables where they makes sense and where necessary.”

“We have also agreed we want to produce the largest share of our electricity domestically. […] We don’t want to rely on our European neighbours, but do our bit to ensure the power needs of a big industrial nation can be met by domestic production.”

“It’s clear that we want neither driving bans, nor a blue badge.”

Bernd Westphal, SPD energy spokesperson [5 February]

The underlying aim of the proposal to establish a special commission on “growth, structural economic change and employment” – agreed by negotiators during the ongoing talks to form Germany’s next federal government – is not to delegate political responsibility, but rather to ensure the involvement of a diversity of actors in deciding an end date for coal-fired power generation, said Bernd Westphal, energy policy spokesperson of the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) parliamentary group, at a meeting held on the eve of the E-world energy and water fair in Essen. Setting an end date was something that “ we have not had before”, and presented a chance to “put the topic to rest”. According to Westphal, a specific proposal for a CO₂ price is not part of a future coalition treaty, but “in my opinion, we need an instrument that could include a price on CO₂ to steer investment in non-ETS [European Union Emissions Trading System] sectors,” said Westphal. Such a price could be compensated for by lowering the electricity tax.

Jochen Homann, head of Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) [5 February]

The would-be coalition partners’ plan to reach a 65 percent share of renewables in Germany’s power mix by 2030 is an “ambitious target,” said Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency, at a meeting  held on the eve of the E-world energy and water fair in Essen. The draft treaty states that the country’s grid must be able to manage additional power flows. “I think the politicians were smart to include this provision,” said Homann. They had done so “knowing that the grid would not be able to cope.”

Tobias Münchmeyer, Greenpeace Germany energy expert [3 February]

“The grand coalition is ducking its responsibility to protect the climate. Long-term promises and vague commissions aim to disguise the fact the coalition treaty lacks teeth. The Chancellor today compromised her 2020 climate target promise. After 12 lost years for climate protection, Merkel wants to give away more valuable time. The coalition treaty must clearly state that the dirtiest coal power plants will be taken off the grid in the next two years. Otherwise, this grand coalition will be a dishonest and diminished force for climate protection.”

Stefan Kapferer, head of utilities association BDEW [2 February]

The results of the energy and climate working group “is in large parts without courage and weak. It’s especially disappointing that the negotiators could not bring themselves to reform the power taxes, levies and fees system. A lowering of the power tax would have made electricity more competitive in the transport and heating markets. Now, the commitment to sector coupling is just blowing smoke. Also lacking is a proposal for a market design that would provide incentives for the construction of secured capacity. This is strikingly disproportionate to the planned continued reduction of coal-fired power generation.”

“The planned measures to speed up grid expansion and the clear commitment to CHP and storage facilities are important for the energy transition goals. Closely connecting the expansion of power and gas grids is also a smart decision for a cost-efficient transformation of the energy system.” [Find the comments in German here.]                           

Anton Hofreiter, Green Party’s parliamentary group leader [31 January]

“Without courage or substance and aimless – that’s how the grand coalition negotiators act in the area of environment, energy and climate.”

“While other countries invest in climate protection and renewable energies, CDU/CSU and SPD want to continue to run on the spot for another four years. […] Germany must not fall behind internationally, but again become an energy transition role model.” [Find the comments in German here.]

Brigitte Knopf, climate researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) [2 February] (Interview with zeit.de):

The coalition treaty draft “contains a few things that are right” but lacks “an overarching idea” that shows how the conservatives and the SPD plan to reach the 2030 climate goal. “The paper either loses itself in details or remains strangely vague,” she says. The idea of a Climate Protection Act is “nice to have” but it will remain toothless “if it is not backed by the tools” needed to reach the climate goals. The paper lacks concrete proposals on a CO2 price, on the remaining lifetime of coal plants, or on structural economic change in coal mining regions, “debates which we would need right now.” The parties “dodge responsibility and outsource the problem to special commissions.” The goal of reaching a renewables share in power consumption of 65 percent by 2030 is “very ambitious” but once again shows that “we focus too much on the power sector and expanding renewables.”

Sabine Nallinger, Managing Director at business association Foundation 2° (Stiftung 2°) [4 February]

“With their coalition treaty, CDU/CSU and the SPD miss the opportunity to use ambitious climate policy as a modernisation programme for our economy. […] CDU/CSU and SPD are providing climate policy piecemeal without showing courage or ambition to make the pending change to a greenhouse gas neutral economy their project. This means politics are way behind many businesses when it comes to seriously implementing climate targets.”

“We need to build on the positive climate policy parts of the coalition treaty. We welcome the idea that a climate protection law is to guarantee the 2030 targets. […] But we will only be able to achieve climate targets with a CO2 price that puts pressure on investments.”

 

MEDIA

Tagesspiegel [1 February]

The latest leaked drafts of the coalition treaty show that the possible future government partners CDU/CSU and SPD know where the difficulties lie in Germany’s energy system, but they shy away from making important decisions, writes Jakob Schlandt in an opinion piece in the Tagesspiegel. Delegating “unpleasant questions,” such as the coal exit, to a special commission, is irresponsible, writes Schlandt. “After all, this is about tough – in part social - distribution issues. Who carries the burden, who pays, who profits? To consider this is the fundamental task of the government,” he writes. [Read the opinion piece in German here.]

Handelsblatt [2 February]

“It’s hard to reach a positive verdict when looking at the latest leaked negotiator working group papers,” writes the Handelsblatt’s Klaus Stratmann. “Quite the opposite: the agreement is without ambition and half-baked in several provisions.”

“The targeted support volume [for energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings] is rather modest with one billion euros per year.” It remained unclear if the coalition parties would be able to garner the necessary majorities for this in the council of federal state governments (Bundesrat), where similar legislation has been held up in the past.

The decision to hold additional auctions for wind and solar power for 4 gigawatt (GW) capacity in 2019 and 2020 meant an “enormous challenge” for transmission grid operators. As the wind power sector had just announced a record expansion in the year 2017, it was unclear why the efforts needed to be increased, writes Stratmann.

“The energy, climate and environment chapter is not a great success for CDU, CSU and SPD. Apparently, it’s enough for the grand coalition to muddle through somehow.”

Tageszeitung (taz) [4 February]

When the first news came out that the negotiating parties would abandon Germany’s 2020 climate goal, “the was a short burst of indignation, environment politicians from the conservatives and the SPD called for amendments in the coalition negotiations,” Malte Kreutzfeldt writes in the Tageszeitung (taz). Shortly before the elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel promised the goal would be reached, and SPD head Martin Schulz said he explicitly backed Germany’s climate goals at a party convention January. “But nothing has happened,” Kreutzfeldt says. “The coalition treaty abandons every measure that could help Germany to at least come closer to reaching its 2020 goal. Instead, they now focus on 2030 and pass all decisions on to a commission.” A price for CO2 “won’t be introduced in the foreseeable future, even though the industry association BDI also now calls for it.”

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