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Climate Change

DW staff / dpa (jam)April 6, 2007

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for "decisive action" in a united approach to countering climate change, in an interview following the publication Friday of a report by the UN panel on climate change.

The brown coal power plant in Jänschwalde is among the four dirtiest plants in Germany, according to WWFImage: AP

"The report confirms that climate change is a fact,' Merkel told the Saturday edition of the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

"For that reason we need rapid and decisive action to limit the global rise in temperatures and to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions," the chancellor said.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel demanded putting in place an ambitious program on climate protection.

Klimawandel, Globale Erwärmung
The EU has ambitious emission-reduction goals, but can it meet them?Image: AP

"This year we have to set course for a multilateral climate protection regime for the period after 2012, in order to prevent global warming of more than two degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial values," Gabriel said in Berlin. The Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012.

The European Union, under the current German presidency, set a goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 at a summit in Brussels March 8-9. This would be increased to 30 percent, if other major countries followed suit, the member states agreed.

Germany is hosting the G8 summit in June, where the major industrialized states are expected to put climate change and energy at the top of the agenda.

"I will address the theme at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm," Merkel told newspaper. "My aim is to have all nations take on the responsibility for protecting the climate."

Variety of voices

Michael Müller, an official in the German Environment Ministry, described the difficult negotiations leading up to the report as "a mixture of top-level diplomacy and kindergarten."

Klimawandel Kohleproduzent China
Many are concerned about the increase in emissions that's accompanying China's rapid economic growthImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The United States, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia had wanted to downgrade human influence on climate change after realizing that climate change "can no longer be denied," he said.

The German environmental organization Bund demanded "immediate action to cut greenhouse gas emissions," urging rich countries to act to limit the effects on poor regions of the world.

A spokesman for the German food aid organization Welthungerhilfe said the basic human rights of access to food and water would be affected, as the number of people suffering severe water shortage could triple to three billion.

Power plant plans

Germany's Green party demanded a halt to plans in Germany to build new coal-fired power stations.

"In Germany we have to address electricity production in particular, as it produces more than 40 per cent of the carbon dioxide (CO2),' Greens member of parliament Bärbel Höhn said.

Atomkraftwerk Krümmel
Nuclear power plants are cleaner, but controversial because of safety concernsImage: AP

Electricity producers were talking about bringing 40 new coal-fired power plants on line, she said. If this was implemented, electricity generation would produce 170 million tons of CO2 a year, against a total target for Germany of 200 million tons, she added.

She also questioned the viability of plans to extract CO2 from exhaust gases and to store it indefinitely.

Speaking ahead of the report's publication, German Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said: "Industrialized countries have a responsibility. They must cut emissions radically."

She called simultaneously for more aid to developing countries, which would suffer the worst effects of climate change. Protecting tropical rainforests should have "absolute priority," the minister said, adding that up to a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions resulted from the clearing of the rainforests.

"I'm pushing for international financing mechanisms to compensate developing countries for stopping deforestation," Wieczorek-Zeul said.

International action needed

Klaus Töpfer bei der UNEP (Umweltschutzprogramm der UN) in Genf, Schweiz
Klaus TöpferImage: AP

The former head of the UN Environment Program (NEP), Klaus Töpfer, said a commitment to "drastic international action" was needed. This was especially the case as the poorest people - primarily in Africa - would experience the worst effects. He was critical of the wrangling over detail in the negotiations leading up to the report's publication.

"One should no longer be fighting over the intensity and probability of climate change," he said. "Climate change has occurred, it is speeding up, and it is caused by people."

There was a broad movement among ordinary people and business in the United States towards greater climate protection, Töpfer said.

The Chinese leadership had also realized the country needed to emit less CO2.

"Even in the oil-producing Arab countries, there will be rising interest in energy not based on oil," he predicted.

Töpfer said the UN Security Council would discuss the issue. "It is a security issue. Climate policy is forward-looking peace policy."