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22nd Jan 2022

Germany launches 'gigantic' climate emergency programme

  • 'In a year in which we really should have turned the corner the share of renewables in Germany in the energy mix decreased,' German Green environment minister Robert Habeck admitted (Photo: EPA)
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Germany's climate and economy minister, Robert Habeck, unveiled a report on Tuesday (11 January) that showed a "drastic deficit" in the country's efforts to achieve its climate goals.

According to the ministry's findings, Europe's largest economy risks missing its emission reduction targets for 2030 if it does not triple the CO2 reductions, compared with the last decade.

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An updated climate law, adopted earlier this year, says Germany must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030 and be climate-neutral by 2045.

"The task is gigantic," Habeck, a Green party minister within the social democratic/liberal/green governing coalition, said. "We managed to cut emissions by 15m tonnes annually from 2010-2020. Now we have to increase that to 40m tonnes a year."

He also warned that - instead of reducing the country's carbon emissions this year - they actually increased by four percent.

"In a year in which we really should have turned the corner," he said, showing a graph, "the share of renewables in Germany in the energy mix decreased."

To achieve a turnaround, Habeck said he wants to start a major push and launch a significantly more ambitious climate protection programme before the end of 2022.

The first set of rules will be presented in April, with further measures following during the summer.

The plan will include mandatory solar roofs for new buildings, new funding and simplifications for green hydrogen and many more wind turbines than are currently being built.

Earlier, Habeck estimated that the number of wind turbines being built will also have to increase from 450 to 1,500 annually.

Two percent of the German land surface needs to be reserved to make space.

A new "wind-on-land law" will anchor this into law and include methods to speed up the application process for onshore wind farms.

Habeck emphasised the need to reconcile the expansion of wind energy on land with protecting animals and nature.

The coalition must also reach a new climate protection agreement with industry.

"If we do it right and trigger a dynamic, we can experience a boom in new technologies, with new industrial added-value and jobs," he said.

But Habeck cautioned electricity bills will become more expensive for consumers and promised a "huge social debate" to foster acceptance and solidarity among the public.

Nuclear phase-out to increase gas use

On 31 December, Germany closed three of its remaining six nuclear power plants, with the reactors in Emsland, Isar and Neckarwestheim shutting down before the end of the year.

This will complete the German nuclear phase-out that started in 2011.

Economists of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) recently wrote that: "the decline in nuclear power will temporarily lead to higher use of fossil energies."

On Tuesday, Habeck told press "it is indisputable" that gas will remain a necessary "backup fuel."

He said it will be needed to cushion potential shortfalls in renewable energy supply in the coming years.

According to the German climate strategy, the remaining natural gas plants will be retrofitted to run on hydrogen before 2030.

Germany tells France: 'nuclear is not green'

The new German government will not support French plans to label nuclear energy as 'green', foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said in Paris on Thursday.

Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules

Environmental lawyers are threatening to take legal action against the European Commission if gas is included in the EU guidelines for sustainable finances. But the draft taxonomy has also triggered discontent among some EU national capitals and MEPs.

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

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