Andreas Kuhlmann, Chief Executive of the Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena) – the German Energy Agency – has made the following response to the European Union’s Green Deal and its target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, which will be presented by the Commission and debated in the Parliament later today, and which the heads of state and government of the member states will negotiate in Brussels on Thursday and Friday:
“The announcement by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is historic – even if the Green Deal, in its present form, is merely a plan. With this deal, one of the world’s largest economic regions would place itself at the forefront of climate policy, at least as far as the specification of targets is concerned. In view of international agreements, the ramping up of the targets is consistent, but it is also bold. Up to now, there have been no dependable scenarios of any kind to show how the path towards this target might be configured. A sober view of the status quo shows that the discrepancy between claims and reality is regrettably getting bigger rather than smaller. That applies to the EU as a whole, and particularly to Germany.
Raising the target climate targets would have a considerable impact on German climate policy. Agreements such as those of the Coal Commission, or those contained in the recent Climate Protection Programme 2030, would become void and require revision. The process for subsequent readjustment envisaged in the new Climate Protection Act would be inadequate for this purpose. Taking into account the German presidency of the EU Council in the coming year as well, the German government should therefore use the official start of the debate on a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, which it openly supports, as an opportunity to convene a special session of the Climate Cabinet and analyse the consequences for Germany.
Climate policy tends to create illusory giants: the further away the targets are, the bigger and bolder climate policy appears to be; the nearer they approach, the smaller and more hesitant the policy becomes. Now they must decide. They cannot promote increases in climate targets on the one hand, while ignoring the consequences associated with them on the other. The effects on the various economic sectors, economic growth, the federal budget and social cohesion are far too great. The progress of infrastructures, investments, social institutions and political objective setting is proceeding at different speeds. Synchronising these is an act of strength of which many people are insufficiently aware.
Climate neutrality also means no longer talking just about carbon sources and avoiding greenhouse emissions, but also about reducing carbon and capturing it in production cycles or out of the atmosphere. This requires a considerable amount of research and investment in a field that, for a long time, has had virtually no presence at all on the political agenda. It means, for example, reassessing carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the use of biomass. In addition, there are many other fundamental questions that Europe must confront following the targets formulated today. For example: Will every country in the EU have to become carbon-neutral, or will there be source countries and sink countries? How mandatory are the targets and what consequences does that have for the individual states? How can climate neutrality be reconciled with economic growth and our understanding of prosperity? What role will be played by balancing measures involving other regions of the world?
To a certain extent, the plans presented today are already concrete where they are directed inwards; unfortunately, however, they remain extremely vague where they are directed outwards. But a European Green Deal must not be only a deal ‘by Europe for Europe’, as Commission President von der Leyen expressed it in a guest paper. In its climate policy, Europe must not simply keep itself to itself. The Green Deal would be doomed to fail if, at the same time, emissions in other regions increased further and further. The contribution towards ‘a better world’ must be given sufficiently concrete shape if it is to make a genuine contribution to global climate protection.
For many, 2050 may still seem far away, but the required transformation is so large that everything we set in motion today will decide how far we get by 2050 – regardless of whether this is in terms of the energy sector, industry, buildings or transport. dena has clearly demonstrated this in its ‘Integrated Energy Transition’ pilot study. At the same time, we must remember: we cannot negotiate with physics and the laws of nature. Climate change will advance further if we do not take adequate and – above all – appropriate steps to limit it.
Europe is strong. It will also be strong in the future, if it can build on sustainable values and focus its powers on shaping that future. The Green Deal presented today resounds with all of this. It allows us to identify which perspectives can be connected with it even if, to be sure, all its effects and consequences have not yet been fully thought out.”
Picture: Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH (dena)/Christian Schlüter