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Germany

German Government Passes More Climate Protection Laws

The German cabinet approved the second phase of a major energy-saving and climate-protection package Wednesday, aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020.

Wind mills standing in the Baltic Sea

The new law would boost offshore wind power plants

Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said emissions had been cut by 20 percent by last year, putting the country well on the way to achieving its commitments under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

"We have already achieved a lot in climate protection," Gabriel said. "The Kyoto goal has almost been reached."

The measures have yet to be passed by both houses of parliament.

Higher standards

Among the measures agreed are higher standards in insulation and energy conservation for buildings, extending the electricity grid to allow generation by offshore wind power and increasing the motorway tolls paid by long-distance hauliers.

The cabinet has, however, postponed plans to change the basis of vehicle tax from engine capacity to exhaust emissions to encourage fuel economy.

Economics Minister Michael Glos said the government had now approved all the measures decided on in its integrated climate and energy package agreed last year.

The nuke question

Glos, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister-party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said that after climate protection, the focus was now on world energy prices.

"We have to limit our dependency on oil and gas," he said, calling for a broad range of energy sources, increased efficiency in energy use and the expansion of renewable energy resources.

He raised the possibility of extending the operating lives of Germany's nuclear power plants.

The Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in Merkel's coalition, are sticking to a law passed under the previous chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, that Germany must phase out the use of nuclear power by 2021.

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