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Germany outlines plan to get back on climate goal track

January 11, 2022

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck has delivered sharp criticism of the country’s record on climate change. Reductions in carbon emissions will have to "treble" to meet the country's climate goals.

A wind energy turbine with a brown coal plant at Grevenbroich, Germany, in the background
A wind energy turbine with a brown coal power plant at Grevenbroich, Germany, in the backgroundImage: Jochen Tack/picture alliance

Germany must take immediate action to address a severe backlog on climate protection, Economy and Climate Action minister Robert Habeck said on Tuesday.

The country looks set to miss its upcoming yearly climate targets, and Green Party co-leader Habeck wants action to return Germany to its "climate target path."

'Mammoth task' to meet goals

Outlining the situation, Habeck said Germany was falling behind and that, in all likelihood, its 2022 climate targets would not be met. He also said it would be difficult to meet them in 2023.

Without serious changes, the minister said, Germany would also fail to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gases by 65% by 2030 compared with 1990.

"We are starting with a drastic backlog," said Habeck, who is also Germany's vice-chancellor. He wants measures in place to increase Germany's share of renewable energies to 80% by 2030 and become climate-neutral by 2045.

"All of this is a mammoth task. And it will take several years until we will see success."

Habeck said the rate of reduction of emissions would have to treble in the years up to 2030.

"Whereas emissions have fallen by an average of 15 million metric tons per year over the past decade, they must now fall by 36 to 41 million metric tons per year from now until 2030," he said.

A community on hydrogen

What changes are being demanded?

Habeck wants an "immediate climate protection program" — with laws, regulations, and other measures in place by the end of the year.

Among the measures mentioned so far are:

  • More wind turbines and solar plants to be encouraged by an increase in tendering for renewable energy
  • More planning certainty for renewable energy installations, easing some rules on where wind turbines can be built
  • A "wind on land" law requiring an average of 2% of percent of state and community land to be used for wind power
  • A "solar acceleration package" that could mean all new buildings would need to be fitted with solar panels
  • A reliable subsidy system for the introduction of climate-neutral industrial production processes
  • Changes meaning the federal government picks up the tab on funding renewables rather than consumers
  • New investment in green hydrogen

A first package of urgent laws and plans is expected to be approved by the cabinet by April, and put into law by the time parliament breaks for the summer.

A further package is expected to be drafted over the summer in time for approval by the end of the year.

Gas needed as a bridge

Germany's coalition government has announced that it is committed to tackling climate change. 

The coalition includes the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the environmentalist Greens — who are junior coalition partners to Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left Social Democrats.

While the FDP and Greens have had their differences on environmental issues in the past, both have expressed a willingness to find common ground on green innovations.

Carbon-neutral beer in Germany

Habeck said Germany planned to phase out coal power by 2030, and that it would fill the gap with less polluting natural gas until renewable energy could meet demand.

However, he argued that gas, along with nuclear power, should not be included in an EU list designating climate-friendly energy sources.

The minister also said Germany would need significant immigration to stop labor shortages putting the energy transition in jeopardy.

"We have 300,000 job openings today and expect that to climb to a million and more," he said. "If we don't close that gap, we will have real productivity problems."

According to Habeck's plans, wind energy development must take account of species protection amid fears that wind farms could pose a danger to large birds.

Habeck told DW there did not need to be a conflict between the two.

"We can give nature.. more space and find a place for windmills but we need to find a place for windmills. We are talking about 2% of the German area for windmills, that means 98% free of that and that should be enough space for nature."

Greenpeace sets 2023 as yardstick

Martin Kaiser, head of International Climate Politics at Greenpeace Germany, told DW he welcomed the commitments, but that the coalition would be judged on whether Germany could meet its 2023 goals.

"In his initial climate statement, Habeck wants to get serious with the immediate measures for expanding solar and wind power described in the coalition program," said Kaiser.

"The timetable he has presented is ambitious and a clear mandate to the ministers for construction, transport, agriculture and the environment to start immediately with their respective immediate measures."

"As early as next year, Habeck and co will be judged on whether the climate targets are met."

Edited by: Robert Turner

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.
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