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A Message For Paris: Government Advisors Warn German Climate Targets ‘At Risk’

Der Spiegel

Germany’s federal government received an urgent warning shortly before the United Nations climate conference. A group of government advisors who annually assess the progress of the Energy Transition  sees Germany’s legally binding climate targets “at significant risk”.

This is clear from their evaluation report “Energy of the Future”, which will be discussed by the Cabinet this morning and is in the possession of SPIEGEL ONLINE.

The federal government wants to lower national CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2020. At the UN climate conference, which starts in Paris on 30 November, the government wants to take the lead in climate protection with its target and influence the summit positively: 195 countries intend to sign some sort of treaty against climate change at the conference.

But now the governments’ won expert commission has raised serious doubts that these CO2 targets can be achieved if not much more is done to limit emissions even further. Despite the government numerous actions, these are unlikely to sufficient “in light of the dimension of the still necessary reduction in order to achieve these goals and the time remaining until 2020,” the report concludes.

One number shows how far Germany has fallen short of its own targets: In order to meet its climate target, greenhouse gas emissions would have to fall on average by three percent every year until 2020. Last year, however, the government had managed only a reduction of 1.7 per cent, the report says.

The government has “so far failed to find the necessary political majorities for potentially effective instruments such as tax incentives for the modernisation of the insulation of buildings”, the experts complain. In their view, this “may be one of the most effective measures.”

Another mystery is how the reduction target of 22 million tons of CO2 in the energy sector can be achieved. Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democratic Party, SPD) had recently approved a scrapping bonus for lignite pits hoping to achieve this goal. Taxpayers have to pay more than 1.6 billion euros now to get eight old lignite units off the grid. But this measure will only save 12.5 million tons of CO2, according to the government. More than four million tons should be added to the reduction by the recasting of the cogeneration of heat and power law. Where the remaining reductions of 5.5 million tons will come from is unclear.

Full story (in German)

Translation Philipp Mueller