German government approves €80 billion climate package

Signing off on several measures to continue the Energiewende, Germany also made a move to integrate energy efficiency efforts with climate protection. [hAdamsky/Flickr]

By approving a new package on energy savings, the German government still hopes to achieve its climate targets for 2020, and boost the economy with billions in investment. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The German government passed far-reaching energy policy resolutions on Wednesday (3 December), signing off on the first Energiewende Progress Report, the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (NAPE) and the Action Programme on Climate Protection 2020.

At the presentation of the programme, German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it is currently up to the government to integrate and connect energy and climate policy.

Much has already been achieved in the energy sector, Gabriel said: the amendment of the Renewable Energies Act (EEG) is taking hold, the debate over the electricity market has gained momentum and a plan for further steps has been tabled.

The government’s latest move to approve these programmes was a concrete measure that will help underscore the necessary next steps, Gabriel emphasised.

NAPE’s central elements consist of plans to introduce tax incentives for energy-related building renovations, to top up the CO2 building renovation programme and to boost competitive tendering for energy-saving projects with hundreds of millions in planned annual financing.

All in all, financing measures and corresponding private investments would amount to a total investment volume of €70-80 billion, Gabriel indicated.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks emphasised the close connection between climate protection and the Energiewende. All sectors should make a contribution to the entire package, she said.

Energy efficiency in the Economic Affairs Ministry’s NAPE plan makes up the largest portion (25-30 million tonnes). Then there are further measures regarding “climate friendly building and living” (1.5-4.7 million tonnes).

Another significant issue the climate package addresses is the requirement for an additional 22 million tonnes in CO2 reductions among coal and natural gas power plants by the year 2020. This is the equivalent of emissions from around eight large hard coal and lignite plants.

The German government hopes to pass its own climate law sealing the requirement within the coming year.

Additional efforts needed

While they continue implementation of the Energiewende, Germany’s new measures also serve as important steps toward reaching the government’s self-defined climate target.

But according to the German government, additional efforts are needed from other sectors to realise the goal. The next benchmark on climate protection is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% until the year 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

If Germany does not reach this target, it risks missing the goals which will follow for 2030, 2040 and 2050, as well as the European climate target.

With the Action Programme on Climate Protection 2020, the German government included additional measures to reach the 2020 target. According to current estimates, Germany would most likely have missed its goal by 5 to 8% without the new plan.

Hendricks praised the newly-approved climate protection package. “With this package, we will triple our climate protection efforts compared to the last 15 years,” she said.

It is the most comprehensive package of measures that any German government has ever produced on climate protection, Hendricks pointed out. “In this way we are showing that we do not just set targets, but also fulfill them. It is an important confidence-building signal for the climate conference in Lima.”

The German Association for Nature Conservation (NABU) fundamentally praised the Action Programme on Climate Protection and the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, but indicated considerable deficits in individual sectors like coal power generation, transportation and building renovation. NABU’s president Olaf Tschimpke said, “The package of measures on climate protection and the efficiency transition must be improved and put into concrete terms on many points. Only in this way can Germany actually reach its goal for a 40% CO2 reduction by 2020 and act as a leader at the ongoing international climate negotiations in Lima.”

The Economic Affairs Ministry, in particular, should finally take its foot off the breaks, he said. “The German government should approach a 40% reduction in CO2 with greater ambition, commitment and determination,” said Tschimpke. Compared to previous estimates, the gap still left before the climate protection target is reached, was rather low. Whereas up to 100 million tonnes of CO2 reductions by 2020 were discussed before, now the amount is only between 62 and 82 million tonnes. Whether or not this can even be achieved, remains questionable, Tschimpke indicated. “Instead of ‘would have, could have, should have programmes’, all CO2-reduction measures that are already on the table should be quickly and bindingly implemented,” Tschimpke emphasised.

Meanwhile the environmental and development NGO Germanwatch said it considers the government’s resolutions on climate protection an important but insufficient signal for the climate negotiations in Lima. Despite considerable opposition, the German government stuck to the existing target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% until the year 2020, the organisation indicated.

Christoph Bals, political director at Germanwatch, said, “The 22 million tonnes in CO2 reductions for the energy sector, which were approved today, are an important signal that unhindered coal-fired power and climate protection do not coincide. But to do this, the 22 million tonnes – as was announced today – must, in addition to the reductions already planned in these scenarios, be reduced and regulated by law.”

Besides a lack of ambition in energy efficiency, it is the fossil fuel power generation sector that is primarily impeding the achievement of targets in climate protection, Bals criticised. Planned cuts in coal-fired power were based on extremely optimistic assumptions, Bals explained, and likely did not suffice to reach the self-defined 2020 climate target.

Stemming from the 1980s, the term Energiewende describes a movement in Germany to shift to clean energy, reducing the country's dependence on gas, coal and nuclear energy.

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster 2011, the campaign was picked up by the Merkel administration.

The German government quickly reacted, passing legislation that would phase out the country's nuclear power plants by 2022.

It also introduced a number of targets for shifting to renewable electricity generation.

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