Germany is hosting the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin from July 14th to 15th. Greenpeace Climate Chief Martin Kaiser says Chancellor Angela Merkel has a chance to personally re-engage with climate policy.
DW: How do you see Germany's current position in the climate negotiations?
Martin Kaiser: Germany is not very active in the climate negotiations at the moment and that has been a big disappointment. Germany, which was a champion on climate change, has now got a government which is allowing new lignite mines, not limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants, and which is basically silent on the reform of the European flagship instrument Emissions Trading System.
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks did stress Germany's intentions to increase its commitment and meet its emissions targets at the UN talks in Bonn in June?
Minister Hendricks has raised expectations. She needs to convince Economics Minister Gabriel and Chancellor Merkel, who was not very visible in the climate debate for quite some time. One problem is that coalition partner SPD is still supporting the coal industry, whereas the future is clearly 100 percent renewable energy. That means you need a plan of how to develop employment in the coal sector towards employment in the renewable energy sector rather than just protect business, as it does at the moment.
After the Ukraine crisis, Europe has discussed a lot about energy security and independence. It is clear that if you want to become independent, you have to invest into renewable energy and energy efficiency. Any investment into coal, oil, gas, nuclear means you will remain dependent on imports.
How do you see the position of the European Union?
So far the proposals on the table for Europe's climate and renewable energy targets are not at all ambitious. They are not at all addressing the transformational needs in the policy framework. The current targets wouldn't translate into a carbon price that would be an incentive to invest in renewable energies rather than coal-fired power plants.
Germany is very bad in this discussion at the moment, because of the strong support for the coal sector. Countries like France and the UK are defending the interests of the nuclear industry and that prevents them from going for a renewable energy target. In the past, a binding renewable energy target for Europe was a driver of innovation in many countries, where many more people have benefitted rather than just a few utilities. Europe is in a desperate situation. That needs to change. The incoming new commissioners really have to reframe climate, bring the UK, Germany and France – which will hold the key Paris climate conference next year - into a much more ambitious package, with binding targets for renewable energies, climate and energy efficiency.
The next major UN climate conference will be held in Peru in December. What can we expect from that?
We need more political signals from the highest level. In between, the UN Secretary General has invited to a summit in New York in September. At that summit we expect huge announcements from China. We expect that the US President can gather together some countries who will phase out the financing of coal-fired power plants in developing countries. And we expect countries like Germany, France and the UK to make a significant contribution to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries to adapt to climate change and mitigate emissions.
So far there have not been enough pledges. Do you see signs that that could change?
Behind closed doors governments clearly admit that the financing issue has to be resolved this year. Otherwise there is no way countries like China, India or South Africa will come with commitments on the mitigation of greenhouse gases. We expect that heads of states in Germany, France, the UK and the USA know that they have to give a clear signal and contribute to the Green Climate Fund.
China and the USA have been indicating their willingness to increase their commitment to reducing emissions. How seriously do you take this?
This seems to be a real signal that the two biggest polluters will work towards a climate agreement in Paris in 2015. What we can see in China is that the pollution in the big cities from the burning of coal and traffic is basically driving the political agenda in the country where we have seen the largest emissions over the last couple of years. They are actually preparing more and more policies to limit the emissions from the coal sector, and working towards a more comprehensive nationwide target. What we see in the US is that the big storms have really shaken the country. The overwhelming majority is in favor of mitigating global warming, because they see that if they don't act, they wont truly get a secure future for themselves and their children. President Obama himself has put climate change as a top priority for his last years in office. He wants to build his legacy on that issue and is clearly steering discussions behind the scenes.
Do you think the UN climate negotiations are still the forum where climate can be protected or do we need to look elsewhere?
Without changes in the countries themselves it's almost impossible to move this process forward. But what the UN process can deliver is a collective effort in a short period of time, that all countries need to define the long-term perspective and their short-term emission reduction targets, and they have to engage with civil society and the national business sector to develop a plan for the future.
When it comes to civil society – are people not getting frustrated at the of political action?
Many people are angry and ready to act by themselves. When we talk to people in China suffering from air pollution, people in rural areas suffering from heat waves, people on coasts around the world suffering from storms and hurricanes, you can see they are really looking for solutions. There are more and more initiatives, more and more companies, who commit themselves to a 100% renewable energy future, and we hope more and more governments and cities will join this call and give a strong signal in Paris, regardless of how the outcome will be. The transition has already started big time.
Martin Kaiser has been working at Greenpeace for six years. The Greenpeace Climate Chief is particularly interested in issues such as forest protection and biodiversity.