Germany Has Doubts About Obama′s Green Commitment | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.11.2008
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Germany Has Doubts About Obama's Green Commitment

Germany's foreign minister says US climate protection plans will take a back seat to economic concerns, even under a President Obama. Various groups are calling for Obama to back up his green campaign talk.

Obama on bike

Barack Obama on some non-polluting transportation in Chicago

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday he does not expect a radical change in US climate policy after Barack Obama takes over as president.

"America as a whole is not ready for the contribution it needs to make in order to lessen the negative affects of global warming," Steinmeier said.

"The dominant issue in the US has always been energy security. In addition, there are the considerations on how it can make itself independent of uncertain suppliers like Venezuela," the foreign minister said.

The minister told an environmental conference in Freiburg, southern Germany, that Washington would take pains to ensure climate protection measures do not harm the US economy.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Democrat Barack Obama won the US presidential election on Tuesday and will take over from President George W. Bush on January 20, 2009.

His victory has raised hopes that the US will change the approach to climate change of the Bush administration, which refused to sign the Kyoto agreement on curbing carbon pollution.

Steinmeier said the world as a whole has to work more closely together to create a "New Green Deal."

"Climate change is one of the challenges which we can either solve together or fail on together," said Steinmeier, who is due to face off again Angela Merkel for the chancellorship next September.

Calls for 'proof'

Other green groups, including investors, lobbyists and bankers around the world are calling for Obama to prove that the US will change its approach to climate change under his administration.

In his acceptance speech Tuesday night, Obama called climate change a top priority, but investors, analysts and others are aware that reviving a stalled economy will take precedence over dealing with carbon trading programs and the development of clean energy.

Analysts have been wary of Obama's campaign promises, doubting that he will delivery on cap and trade programs or investing over $150 billion over 10 years in low-carbon energy sources.


The economy could trump environmental issues

"I'd like to see the first $15 billion funded in his first budget," said Mark Diesendorf, environmental and sustainable energy analyst at Australia's University of New South Wales.

But the fact that the US government is low on cash while observing rising unemployment and falling profits across various industrial sectors could mean a halt sweeping plans during Obama's first year in office.

"He's certainly committed to a very aggressive reduction target, but the economic downturn suggests that there may be a light-start approach, similar to what we had in Europe," said Abyd Karmali, global head of emissions trading at Merrill Lynch.

German groups hopeful

Despite the worries, environmental groups in Germany still have high expectations for the future president and have praised his talk of expanding renewable energy programs and encouraging more efficiency and energy savings.

A sign in from of the White House urging President Bush to sign the Kyoto Protocol -- it didn't work

A sign in from of the White House urging President Bush to sign the Kyoto Protocol -- it didn't work

"Many environmental groups are putting a lot of hope in Obama," said Hubert Weiger of the green group BUND. "Like all industrialized countries, the US has to move to a sustainable economic model."

The environmental group NABU also expressed its hope that an Obama adminstration would have a fundamentally different approach to climate protection than outgoing US president Bush.

"But Obama must ensure that the US immediately begins to play a constructive role in international UN negotiations for a post-Kyoto treaty."

A major conference is set to be held in the Danish capital of Copenhagen in 2009 to decide what will replace the Kyoto framework, which expires in 2012.

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