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Germany revamps climate plan after missing targets

July 13, 2022

With Germany's transportation and housing sectors lagging behind their climate goals, ministers are hoping to introduce more bike lanes and energy-efficient buildings. But climate activists say the plan is too vague.

The Nordbahntrasse, a cycle path, sidewalk, on a former 22 KM railway line, along the west-east axis of Wuppertal, on the northern slope, branch of the Schwarzbachtrasse, with many tunnels, viaducts and views of the city
Plans for Germany's climate plan includes more energy efficient heating systems and expanded bicycle paths as well as electronic vehicle charging stationsImage: Jochen Tack/IMAGO

German government ministries on Wednesday presented emergency programs to meet the country's 2030 climate goals after two critical sectors, transportation and housing, missed their targets in the last year.

A German court ordered a tightening of the climate protection law in 2021, which prompted the government of former Chancellor Angela Merkel to set more ambitious goals.

Germany's new coalition government, led by the Social Democrats instead of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), also presented plans to increase climate protection last year. The current coalition's plan included reforming the utility, manufacturing, construction, transportation and agricultural sectors.

Missing targets

The German Environment Agency in March said the transportation sector's carbon-dioxide emissions were at 148.1 million tons last year, while the target had been 145 million tons.

Construction emissions were at 115 million tons with a goal of 112 million tons.

Transportation, which accounted for nearly one-fifth of all emissions in 2021, has been the slowest to act and deliver on its promised goals. Even with a reduction in travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions were only 9.4% less than in 1990.

What are German ministries doing to meet climate goals?

A section in Germany's Climate Action Law gave ministries until July 13 to present programs designed to ensure compliance with the country's annual climate targets.

On Wednesday, the Economy, Transportation and Construction ministries presented their plans.

Transportation Minister Volker Wissing said he wants to expand infrastructure for electric vehicles, such as charging stations. Additionally, the ministry will increase funding to explore ways to increase efficiency through innovating heavy commercial vehicles.

Wissing said, "As transport minister I need to weigh up the goal of protecting the climate as quickly as possible on the one hand, and [on the] other hand keep in mind the mobility needs and acceptance of measures in society."

The ministry also said it planned to allocate €250 million euros ($251 million) to add more bicycle lanes by 2030. It would also promote working from home as part of a "digitization push."

But Wissing, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party, stopped short of introducing a highway speed limit, which activists have urged as a means to cut emissions

In construction, new heating systems installed in buildings would have to include 65% renewable energy from 2024. The government also hopes to renovate existing buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Wooden high-rises

How did climate activists react?

Greenpeace called the ministers' plans "nebulous" and said a general speed limit would achieve concrete emissions cuts.

"Volker Wissing wants to extinguish a burning house with water, but at the same time feeds the flames with petrol. It is not enough just to promote the right thing, he must also ensure that we stop doing the wrong thing," Greenpeace Germany said.

The group also criticized that gas furnaces can continue to be installed in buildings until 2024, arguing that the measure should be in effect immediately so that homeowners switch to less polluting heat pumps.

Germany's climate plan

Berlin wants to see a 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

In 2021, emissions rose 4.5% compared to 2020. Demand for electricity soared and more coal was used for electricity generation due to gas price hikes and a reduction in renewable output.

Compared with 1990, greenhouse gas emissions dropped 39%.

Germany's overall goal is to see the country fully carbon neutral by 2045.

ar/fb (AP, Reuters)