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NGOs demand measures to meet Germany's climate target

Louise Osborne
April 21, 2016

Environment and development organizations have presented a plan to help Germany meet its climate goals ahead of the signing of the Paris Agreement. Without changes, the country is unlikely to meet its ambitious targets.

Deutschland BdT Kohle
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Stratenschulte

To meet its climate targets, the German government must begin to phase out coal in this legislative period, tighten its climate protection measures and enshrine them in law - those were just some of the demands set out by a coalition of more than 40 environment and development organizations as leaders prepare to sign the Paris Agreement in New York at the end of the week.

NGOs including Greenpeace, Germanwatch, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and Brot für die Welt said current measures being taken by the German government mean the country will fall short of meeting ambitious goals on reduction of greenhouse gases.

“Paris was an important milestone in international climate protection. Now Germany also has to do its homework. The CO2 emissions have increased again, the climate and efficiency targets for the year 2020 will clearly be missed,” said Antje von Broock, deputy manager of BUND speaking at a press conference on Wednesday.

Deutschland Kohlekraftwerk in Lippendorf
The phase-out of coal was one of the major demands in the NGOs' climate protection plan.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas

The demands were laid out as part of a "German Civil Society Climate Protection Plan 2050", which covers sectors including energy, transport, industry and buildings and is designed as input to the German government's own Climate Action Plan 2050, due to be approved by the cabinet in the summer. World leaders are set to sign the Paris Agreement, the accord reached by countries to deal with rising CO2 emissions, on Friday.

Currently, Germany is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent in 2020 and further by 80 to 95 percent in comparison with 1990 levels by 2050. Among the proposals laid out by the NGOs was the complete phase out of coal by 2035.

“There can be no new open-pit mines, on the contrary, the largest parts of the lignite industry should not be supported,” said Klaus Milke, chairman of the board of the environmental NGO Germanwatch, adding that the biggest steps with regard to reduction in CO2 emissions must be taken early.

Environmental organizations have long demanded an exit from coal. But coal still accounts for almost half of electricity generation in Germany, and is responsible for approximately 78 percent of CO2 emissions from electricity production, according to the think tank Agora Energiewende. Industry and some unions are also against cuts in the sector. Germany is the largest lignite producer, with more than 16,410 people employed within the industry and another 14,500 jobs in coal.

Weltweite Proteste gegen Klimawandel
Thousands of people took part in protests all over the world during COP21 to call for climate change to be better addressed.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. R. Cristino

Although the share of renewables in power production increased to more than 30 percent in 2015, CO2 emissions have continued to rise. As well as coal, another big problem comes from the increase of CO2 emissions from the transport industry.

An independent commission of senior energy experts advising the economics and energy ministry reported last year that energy use in the transport sector was continuing to increase with a rise of 1.7 percent compared with 2005.

Milke said that Germany, and also the rest of Europe, had a responsibility to meet their targets and work towards the lower limit of a maximum of 1.5 degree increase in the global temperature as set out in the Paris Agreement.

He said: “With a continuation of the energy transition, Germany must take the opportunity, both domestically and in conjunction with foreign countries, to offer a climate-friendly economy. Climate protection means creative transformation and is also a driver of innovation that creates prosperity and work.”