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Lesson For Britain: Germany Shelves Climate Change Bill

The German Federal Government will not introduce a Climate Change Bill in parliament, contrary to its own plans, according to a report by “Frankfurter Rundschau”, citing information by the opposition.

The Social Democrats (SPD) had asked if the promised climate change bill would be introduced in this legislative period. The government’s response: No, it won’t.

Thus the plans for the reduction of CO2 emissions have been permanently relegated to non-binding letters of intent. Originally, according to international obligations, greenhouse gas emissions should have been reduced by 80 percent by 2050, compared to 1990. Whether the expansion targets for renewable energy are also abandoned remains unclear.

Federal Environment Minister Röttgen had wanted to examine the feasibility of the Climate Change Act. But he failed to do so because of resistance from his own ranks.

In light of its so-called energy transformation, the Federal Government already had to present one or the other decision as plausible, even if plausibility seemed to be missing often.

So the Government reinvented the red-green nuclear phase-out, and in turn, slowed the expansion of renewable energy by cutting their subsidies. It also looks as if coal-fired power plants and offshore wind power are favoured for electricity generation, although this would create enormous difficulties.

On the one hand, the willingness to invest in coal-fired power plants is decreasing. The reason: if the centre right collation (of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats) were to be voted out of office, a drastic change of course in energy policy could happen – for example by a red-green government that would favour decentralized power generation.

On the other hand, offshore power generation brings with it enormous costs – for example, in network expansion. And even if there appears to be currently a new gold rush for wind farms on the high seas, if the grid is not expanded, the windmills would turn often idle in the future.

Meanwhile, the Bundeslaender have made themselves independent in terms of energy policy – with their own investment programmes, for example. This has led regional utilities to start making use of their chance at independence.

These developments are a direct consequence of the Federal Government’s gradual withdrawal from energy policy. The retreat, however, appears to be mostly reflexive – by misguided compromises or simply by constitutional problems, such as the nuclear phase-out. The bill for this mess is still pending.

Transl. Philipp Mueller

Independence, 24 August 2011

see also: AFP – Bundesregierung will kein Klimaschutzgesetz vorlegen