German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet agreed Wednesday, Dec. 5, on a comprehensive package to slash Germany's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent before 2020.
German officials said the new plan takes a tough stance against climate change
The multi-billion-euro plan calls for more energy efficiency, a greater use of renewable energy and new insulation standards for buildings.
The program is designed to limit additional financial burdens on consumers, who are ultimately supposed to benefit from a reduction in energy use.
Another goal of the plan is to rely on renewable energy sources or highly efficient heat and power plants to generate half of the country's total power needs by 2020. The generation of heat from renewable sources is also to increase from 6 percent to 14 percent.
More power is to come from renewable sources
"I think this is the biggest and most ambitious set of laws and guidelines you'll find anywhere in the world," German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
Start for climate protection
The plan is also intended to send a signal to the UN climate change conference currently taking place on the Indonesian island of Bali to discuss a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The 14-point package is the first phase of an overall 29-point program that the government outlined in August. The remaining 15 measures, including stricter controls on vehicle emissions, are up for approval in May 2008 and may also include a CO2 tax on trucks.
Germany is the world's sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and Europe's biggest polluter. The country accounts for 3.19 percent of the world's total output of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the DPA news agency.
The government's new plan aims to cut back CO2 emissions by 220 million tons by 2020.
German reductions in CO2 emissions have stagnated since the mid-1990s, according to Reuters news service. The 18-percent reduction achieved since 1990 is primarily due to the end of heavily polluting industry in the former East Germany, which was largely cleaned up after German reunification.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the climate a priority
The environmental organization Greenpeace has said the German government is not doing enough and criticized the endorsement of over 20 new coal-burning power plants, Reuters reported. Supporters say the new plants are cleaner than older coal-fired power stations and are needed to fill the power void as nuclear plants are phased out.
The environmental group said that if all the planned power plants were actually built -- six are currently under construction -- the country would not be able to meet its target of cutting CO2 by 40 percent.
Opposition Green party leader Reinhard Bütikofer called the government's proposals "tepid" and "bogus," according to DPA.
Transport and Construction Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee has cautioned that implementing the new measures will not be easy, but he stressed that Germany must take a leading role in climate protection in the European Union.
The total cost of the new measures is estimated to be around 31 billion euros ($45.5 billion), while energy savings are supposed to amount to around 36 billion euros by 2020.