Ausgabe 35/2009

Falling Short on Climate Goals Germany Not Likely To Achieve CO2 Reduction Targets

Germany may be a world leader in the production of renewable energies, but a study commissioned by Greenpeace predicts the country won't make its ambitious 2020 target of a 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

A recent report says Germany needs to use more alternative energies if it wants to reach its carbon emissions reduction targets.

A recent report says Germany needs to use more alternative energies if it wants to reach its carbon emissions reduction targets.

Germany will not meet its government's targets to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, a new study states. The report, by Aachen-based engineering and consulting firm EUtech, commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace, says that Germany will not reach the 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions the government has set as its official target. In fact, the study predicts that the decline will be less than 30 percent.

The study says that in implementing the German government's 2007 climate-protection package, many measures were excluded or watered down thanks to the efforts of lobby groups. Neither an environmentally focused car-tax reform nor far-reaching mandatory renovations on older homes were implemented. A strict prohibition on certain types of electric heating was not put in place either. Additionally, the dismal effort at building offshore wind farms also weighed against the country's ability to meet the goal, according to EUtech's calculations.

With total emissions of carbon dioxide in the power industry rising unexpectedly to 385 million metric tons, experts are calling for a radical restructuring of energy production. This would include better usage of renewable energies, the dismantling of gas-fired power plants and the use of combined heat-and-power cogeneration plants, where excess heat produced by a thermal power plant is captured and used, thereby increasing the plant's efficiency by a potential 30 percent. And it's not just the environment that would benefit -- such measures would also mean savings for consumers by 2020, the study notes.

'A CO2-Free Germany by 2050'?

The incoming head of Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Jochen Flasbarth, is calling for the next government to improve climate protection laws. The aim of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 could serve as a global model, Flasbarth told SPIEGEL. He said the steps already taken by the government would only "suffice for a reduction of 35 percent."

One must assume, he added, that some of the measures currently being undertaken would prove ineffective and that a buffer would be needed in order to achieve the final goal. "New climate legislation should include a further 10 percent reduction in CO2," Flasbarth said, adding that the ultimate goal should be a "CO2-free Germany by 2050."

Flasbarth is focusing his attention on transportation measures. He said anyone who rejects the idea of a general speed limit on autobahns (indeed, you can still drive at any speed on parts of some German motorways) needs to come up with other ways of reducing CO2. "Our cars are heavy and gas guzzling because they are designed not to go out of control at speeds of 180 kilometers per hour," noted the UBA chief-to-be. Flasbarth will take the helm of the Environment Agency on Sept. 1.

"We need a plan (to replace these cars) with more efficient, lighter cars," he said. Flasbarth also argued that Germany's federal roadways plan should be modified to take climate change into consideration and to give priority to public transportation. "We need to abandon some of our highway construction projects," he said.


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