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2nd Jul 2022

Germany to let slip 2020 climate target

  • Climate activists protesting outside a coal-fired power plant in Germany (Photo: Friends of the Earth International)

The German parties negotiating a coalition government deal agreed on Monday (8 January) to no longer aim for the country's domestic climate action goal by 2020, German media reported.

The Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland newsroom cited a discussion paper from the coalition talks between the centre-right CDU and CSU parties and the centre-left SPD. The paper said that Germany's goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 2020, compared to 1990, was not achievable.

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"We will agree on a package of measures that will close the gap as far as possible and reach the target at the beginning of the 2020s," the text said. The paper said that the 2030 target, reducing emissions by 55 percent, would still be upheld.

It would be the first time the German government publicly accepted it will not achieve its 2020 climate target - although the realisation that Germany will miss its target is not new.

Annual greenhouse gas emissions in Germany (Photo: Clean Energy Wire)

Last October, an internal report from the country's environment ministry said that the reduction level will be between 31.7 percent and 32.5 percent, instead of the 40 percent promised.

The ministry's internal paper, cited by Berlin-based news website Clean Energy Wire, noted that missing the 2020 target would be a "disaster for Germany's international reputation as a climate leader".

It is caused in part by chancellor Angela Merkel's 2011 decision to suddenly phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima accident. Nuclear power, though not without hazard, emits much less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.

The nuclear phase-out led to a paradox: although Germany was a European leader in adding clean energy like wind and solar power, its CO2 emissions actually increased.

That was because the clean power was replacing nuclear power, while dirty coal-fired power plants continued to provide much-needed energy.

No effect on EU targets

The decision by the prospective coalition partners to no longer pursue the 40 percent reduction target at all costs will not affect the EU's climate targets for 2020, since Germany's self-imposed goal was more stringent than that agreed in an EU framework.

For several years, the EU has been set to achieve its 2020 target, which amounted to a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990.

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