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Germany

German Environment Minister Calls for Greater Renewable Energy Production

At a three-day conference in Berlin, Germany's environment minister calls on Europe and developing nations to set ambitious goals for renewable energy.

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Wind and solar energy make up only 7 percent of Europe's power supply


European policymakers, scientists and businesspeople met in Berlin on Monday for a three-day conference on promoting renewable energies in the run-up to an international summit in Bonn this July. The Berlin conference's host, German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, kicked off the event by calling on the developing world to stop following in Europe's footsteps.

"The resource-squandering model of the North has acted as an example for the countries of the South for too long, " the Green Party politician said.

"Access to sustainable energy is active climate policy, is active development policy, but access to renewable energy is also a policy for peace," Trittin told the 600 delegates from 45 countries. "Every country has a surplus of renewable energies. No country has to go to war for them …Wind turbines don't tempt anyone to wage war over oil."

Trittin stressed that the root causes of global climate change had to be addressed if renewable energies were to be promoted worldwide. He pointed to the problems caused by global warming and said he hoped the trend could be reversed by a shrewd energy policy on the part of the international community. Cutting back on the use of fossil fuels and promoting renewable energies instead, he said, would reduce carbon dioxide emissions effectively.

Jürgen Trittin auf dem Umwelt Gipfel in Johannesburg

German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.

The minister said the main polluters, notably industrialized countries, had a particular obligation to reduce emissions. He said he hoped most European countries would adopt the German government's aim of increasing the share of renewable energies as a percentage of overall energy produced here by 20 percent by 2020 and by 50 percent by 2050.

Too optimistic?

Some doubt whether that is a realistic goal. British parliamentarian Bill Etherington told DW-RADIO the aim was too optimistic for most people. By example, he pointed to Denmark, which he said was the European leader and had succeeded in raising the amount of sustainable energy to around 15 percent over a 20 year period. Still, he said, "by the time the energy runs out, we have to have something else in place."

While Trittin spoke to delegates inside, the environmental organization group Greenpeace echoed his words outside the conference. Spokesman Sven Teske said the 20 percent share by 2020 "would be a good signal for other countries that will take part in the summit for renewable energies in Bonn in July." He, too, emphasized that Europe should set priorities. "If the only industrial region that takes part in the summit doesn't formulate reasonable targets, how should the developing countries do so?"

Despite the appearance of harmony, Greenpeace criticized the event, saying that important European energy policy-makers were missing. Indeed, EU Commissioner for Energy Loyola de Palacio, a conference patron along with Trittin, was conspicuously absent, having cancelled her appearance just days before.

An upbeat note, however, came from the fringes of the conference. Two energy companies announced they would start building the world’s biggest solar power station in Germany in a few weeks. Shell Solar and GEOSOL announced the would construct a plant south of Leipzig in eastern German state of Saxony and would start operation in July. The company said the facility would supply some 1,800 households, thus sparing the environment of 3,700 (metric) tons worth of carbon-dioxide emissions yearly.

DW Staff with reporting from Hardy Graupner (ni)

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