The German traffic light coalition refuses to act decisively on climate change
Hauke Benner is a former journalist and decade long activist against climate change.
Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE
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Photo: Julen Parra wikimedia commons
At the beginning of April, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck of the Greens, presented comprehensive legislative proposals to achieve the climate protection target of 1.5 degrees of the Paris Summit of 2015. This “Easter package” is about accelerating the expansion of renewable energy in order, as Habeck said, to become independent of fossil energy and especially of the import of these energy sources from Russia as quickly as possible. Germany currently imports 55% of its gas and almost 40% fo its oil from Russia.
Habeck is using the escalating mood around tighter sanctions against the “Putin regime” to sidestep the political blockade of recent years by the Social Democrats, the right-wing Chtistian Union, and Liberals (FDP) of photovoltaic and wind energy. Even FDP leader Lindner, by no means a champion of climate protection but never one to miss an populist opportunity , jumped onto the bandwagon, declaring that renewables are “freedom energies”.
Habeck wants to raise the share of renewables from the previously planned 65 % to 80 % by 2030. Given the inertia of the German state bureaucracy, this is a very ambitious target.
In view of the war in Ukraine, not unskilfully from a propaganda point of view, the expansion of renewables is now being linked by the “Greens” to the increased need for national security. The law states that the use of renewable energies is “in the overriding public interest” and serves public safety. This is intended to speed up approval procedures and court decisions – because lawsuits are often filed against wind turbines and so far it takes 7 years in Germany for a wind farm to be approved.
To achieve the goal of doubling wind power to 120 GW, the speed of wind expansion must increase fivefold! From 2025 onwards, onshore wind turbines with a capacity of ten gigawatts are to be built annually – in 2021 the figure was just under two gigawatts.
In the case of solar energy from photovoltaic systems, for example on roofs and open spaces, the expansion rates are also to accelerate by a factor of four. By 2030, a total capacity of 215 gigawatts will, according to plan, have been installed.
However, one of the most important prerequisites for the expansion of wind power is still missing from the Easter Package: Habeck still has to negotiate with the federal states about the planned target of making two percent of the federal territory available for wind energy, because building law in Germany is primarily a matter for the states. Bavaria, with a Christian Union government, and North Rhine-Westphalia, which has Christian Union and Liberal coaltion, in particular have so far aggressively blocked the expansion of wind energy with severely restrictive regulations.
Resistance is already coming from the ranks of the FDP. Lukas Köhler, vice-chairman of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag, immediately spoilt the party. He declared that the draft law was “far from finding a majority in the Bundestag”. The FDP had only formally agreed in the cabinet in order not to lose time unnecessarily on this important legislation. This not an empty threat as the ruling coalition recently learnt as law to introduce compulsory vaccination was rejected.
Economic structure measures, such as electricity load management, according to which certain large consumers can be cut off the grid in the event of excessive demand, or even conversion or dismantling of electricity-intensive industry, are completely absent from the draft law. The necessity of adding gas-fired power plants to prevent the power grid from collapsing in the event of a lack of wind and solar power is also not mentioned at all. Instead, the FDP’s pet project, the production of hydrogen as a substitute for natural gas, will receive very strong financial support in the future. In the long term, but not already by 2030, hydrogen could replace natural gas as a storage technology.
Things have not started well for the traffic light coalition. The announced immediate climate protection programme, for example for the building and transport sectors, is also still pending because the same coalition could not reach an agreement.
Barbara Metz of the German environmentl NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) criticised the lack of essential measures in the Easter Package as a “glaring omission”. The DUH director was particularly pained to see the mandatory renovation of existing buildings and a ban on the installation of gas heating systems in new buildings.
Metz poitned out that the federal government had been struggling over this issue in recent days and weeks. “Obviously, the SPD and FDP put the brakes on – in stark contradiction to the Climate Protection Act and the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that has just been published.”
Climate targets and corresponding political measures urgently need to be improved, the IPCC demands. It also calls for global economic structural change for the first time. An entire chapter of the 6th report is entitled “Systematic Transformation”. Of course, this is not mentioned anywhere in the “Easter Package”. Instead, the electrification of Germany’s energy consumption is to be pushed forward, according to the old motto of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa from the novel ‘The Leopard’: “Everything must change so that everything remains as it is.” Prosperity is just coloured green in the future. Instead of an overdue reduction in energy and resource consumption, the ‘Easter Package’ expects a significant increase in electricity demand much to the delight of German business. Higher energy consumption means higher resource use and higher CO2 emissions. This is going in the completely wrong direction.
If the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report is consulted, the criticism is even harsher. The IPCC scientists: “The time to act is now.” UN Secretary General Guterres read the riot act to the political class: “The report speaks a damning verdict on the failure of climate policy. The refusal to act decisively is criminal. The biggest emitters on earth are guilty of arson on our only home.” Just as an aside: of the 10 biggest European CO2 producers (coal-fired power plants), 7 are in Germany! Economics Minister Habeck also prefers to keep the coal-fired power plants running in order to become independent of ‘Putin’s gas’ as quickly as possible. In terms of climate policy, this is absurd. There has been no word of reducing energy consumption by the coalition.
It remains very questionable whether Germany, with this legislative package, will make an efficient contribution to reducing global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and net zero by 2050, as called for by the IPCC. But then the traffic light coalition only has a mandate until 2025, so such goals are irrelevant for them. In this respect, this coalition is indeed simply criminal in the sense of Guterres. At the end of the legislative period ministrers and others have secured extremely generous pensions.
According to the current status of political climate protection measures by the most important industrialised countries, global emissions will increase by almost 14 percent in the current decade. The 1.5 degree target is further away than ever!
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