Green MP: Germany should phase out coal and combustion engines

Toni Hofreiter [Metropolico.org/Flickr]

Toni Hofreiter, the co-chair of the German Green Party, sees the COP21 summit as just a starting point, and has called upon Angela Merkel to come up with a strategy to phase out coal. EURACTIV’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.

Toni Hofreiter has been co-chair of the Green Party’s parliamentary group since 2013.

Hofreiter spoke with Dagmar Dehmer and Cordula Eubel.

Germany wants a robust binding deal to come out of the Paris summit, yet the big players, like the United States and China are showing resistance against certain targets. Is the summit in danger of failing?

Based on what is actually necessary for climate protection, yes, there is a danger that the summit will not achieve what is needed. Paris isn’t going to solve all our problems. But, the summit has to be an important step going forward.

>>Read: German 2020 climate targets in danger

A legally binding deal has to be agreed upon in Paris that will enforce national targets that will keep global warming below two degrees. That’s the limit. Anymore and we cannot handle the ramifications and our way of life is threatened.

What if the deal that emerges from the talks is not legally binding?

Of course, at the end of the day it is better to have a weak climate agreement than none at all. There is always a need to strike a balance between what is needed and what is politically feasible. Paris cannot and certainly will not be the end of climate negotiations at an international level. It is paramount that the international community agrees that climate targets be reviewed every five years and increased if necessary. From a scientific standpoint, there is only one possible conclusion: things have to change. A lot.

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China has pledged to try and reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs).Other nations are ready to develop their climate policies. Is this progress?

It’s true that China is changing, less because of the climate crisis, but more because of the large pollution problem facing them. Air quality in many parts of China is so catastrophically bad that Beijing wants to reduce its use of coal as an energy source. Emerging countries’ share of GHG emissions has risen significantly. This means that awareness about climate change and its consequences is only just starting to take hold.

What do you expect from Angela Merkel at the summit?

The Chancellor needs to implement what is agreed. After speaking about decarbonisation at the G7 summit, a national coal phase-out has to be started in order for the 2020 climate goals to be achieved. Currently, Germany is a long way off from achieving its goals.

>>Read: COP21 could trigger a cleantech arms race

From an external point of view, we are far more important that we think. Not only are we the fourth largest industrial nation globally, we are also a pioneer in energy turnaround and switching to a clean economy. If we’re not on track to reach our goals, we cannot preach to other countries about it.

Germany has committed to a 40% reduction target, compared with 1990 CO2 levels, by 2020. Will it happen?

Climate change policy has to change, with the introduction of legally binding goals. If CO2 levels aren’t drastically reduced, we are going to be shooting ourselves in the foot.

What would you change?

I would have a serious dialogue with Volkswagen and the rest of the German car industry about how to get away from the internal combustion engine and start using electro mobility more effectively. Transport is crucial to climate protection. Instead, the German government has pandered to the car lobby in regard to CO2 exhaust emission limits.

>>Read: Auditors find that German nuclear providers can afford phase-out

Germany needs a roadmap on how it is going to phase out coal as well. Quickly. We believe that it is feasible that all coal-fired power stations be shut down within the next two decades.

Is a coal phase-out politically feasible?

Of course, we need a socially-acceptable exit strategy. But in the end, sticking with this wasteful and environmentally-damaging technology is only going to cost more money the longer we delay. It would be far more useful to put that money into rebuilding programmes for companies such as RWE and EON.

Currently, there are around 60 million displaced persons in the world. Is that number going to increase in parallel with the effects of climate change?

We are going to see more unstable ecosystems and extreme weather conditions if climate change continues. Countries prone to floods and droughts are going to be hit by food shortages. Food shortages often lead to toppling governments, civil unrest, civil war and more refugees as a result.

>>Read: Live: #COP21

A rich, well-organised nation can still tackle climate change to a certain extent. However, many poorer, unstable countries are located in areas that are going to be hit by the worst of climate change’s ramifications. Therefore, it is likely that we are going to see more movement of refugees.

This article was also published by EURACTIV Germany.

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