Five year plans for the climate

Germany is tightening its targets and setting precise emission limits for branches of industry. The economy is anything but enthusiastic.

An industrial plant in Brandenburg

When the economy considers the new German climate protection targets to be too dirigistic, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has promoted market-oriented instruments to combat global warming. The trading of emission rights in Europe, for example for energy generation or industry, has proven itself very well, said Merkel on Thursday at the virtual Petersberg Climate Dialogue. She promoted the introduction of carbon pricing all over the world. It should also be extended to sectors such as transport and buildings. Germany has already created national instruments for this.

“In the interests of future generations around the world, it is important that we act quickly and decisively to limit the dramatic consequences of global warming,” demanded the Chancellor. Germany is ready to continue to support developing countries in climate protection. The industrialized countries’ commitments should be extended after 2025, she said.

At the same event, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson highlighted the urgency of action. Either the world must resolutely face climate change in this decade, “or we will go under together,” said Johnson, whose government will host the world climate summit in Glasgow at the end of the year.

Detailed reduction targets for the period 2031 to 2039

In time for the Petersberg Dialog, Germany announced stricter national climate targets. The draft of the new federal climate protection law by Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD), which the cabinet plans to pass on Wednesday, was announced on Thursday. In the paper that is available to the FAZ, the national climate protection targets are tightened. The old version says that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. Instead, the current version mentions 65 percent. The new goal is to achieve at least 88 percent by 2040. Greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045 instead of 2050 is also a novelty, as is the commitment: “After 2050, negative emissions should be achieved.” .

The draft law specifies the reduction targets from 2031 to 2039 in detail: until 2033 they will be increased by 3 percentage points every year, then by 2 points each time. The permissible emission quantities are also regulated in fine detail depending on the emission fields, for example for energy generation or industry. The commitments will be made annually until 2030, then in five-year steps until 2040. By 2032 at the latest, the government should define the annual reduction targets until 2045 more precisely.

The planned declines are highly ambitious. In 2030, electricity generation will be allowed to emit 108 million tons, 61 percent less than in 2020. Ten years later, only 27 million tons are allowed, a tenth of today’s value. And this despite the fact that extensive electrification of the economy, traffic, building heating and hydrogen technology is planned. The largest emitter in the future will be industry, no longer energy generation.

Criticism from BDI and VDA

But industrial emissions are also expected to fall by more than a third to 119 million tons by 2030. Only 35 million are planned for 2040, 81 percent less than today. Then agriculture will be the biggest polluter with 40 million tons. The reduction is expected to be greatest in traffic and in buildings by 2030, by 43 percent to 85 million and 67 million tons respectively. By 2040 a minus 83 percent compared to 2020 is planned.

The tightening of the original sector targets is remarkable. However, these only lasted until 2030. The Federal Constitutional Court recently warned that clear guidelines should also be given for the years thereafter; the novella now complies with this. Compared to the old list, the energy industry will have to save 38 percent more C02 by 2030. In industry the tightening is 15 percent, in traffic 10, in agriculture 7 and in buildings 4 percent. All sector targets are provisional until it is clear how the new EU requirements will affect the member states.

Criticism came from the economy. Industry President Siegfried Russwurm said: “The hectic tightening of the national climate targets increases the uncertainty for business and consumers.” For many companies, the “practical feasibility and economic viability of these goals” are unclear. In addition to the EU, other large emitters should now also become more involved. Similar to Merkel, Russwurm suggested “a coordinated CO2 price for 2030 at G20 level”.

The President of the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), Hildegard Müller, complained on Thursday: “I don’t understand that the goals for climate protection should be changed almost overnight.” Legislation of this dimension without the involvement of business would damage trust.