Germany’s missed opportunity to regain climate leadership

(EurActiv, 25 Sep 2019) The German climate cabinet’s plans for 2030, published last Friday, are a step forward for climate action but they are insufficient to achieve the government’s own targets, write Felix Heilmann, Alexander Reitzenstein and Brick Medak.

Felix Heilmann, Alexander Reitzenstein and Brick Medak are researchers at the climate change think tank E3G.

Friday, September 20th was high noon for German climate politics in 2019. Following intense negotiations, the German government has agreed on a set of climate policies with the aim of reaching the country’s 2030 emission reduction targets.

The existence of this policy package and its overall architecture are a step forward for German climate policy. However, the specific measures are insufficient to achieve the government’s own climate targets and fall far short of political expectations during a time of unprecedented societal demand for ambitious climate action.

At a time in which Germany’s domestic climate policy affects its potential to drive international climate action, the government’s proposal should worry international observers – despite the rhetoric, former “climate chancellor” Merkel has not returned to the international stage, as we explain in detail in our latest E3G briefing. To regain its former role as a frontrunner in international climate politics, the German government must improve its climate package significantly ahead of COP25 in December.

2020 will be a crucial year for climate ambition. Former German Minister and incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will roll out her climate agenda for the EU and Germany will hold the EU Council Presidency during the second half of the year, thus leading the EU’s work during the important COP26 summit in December 2020 and hosting a high-level EU-China summit ahead of COP26.

Furthermore, Germany must act decisively to prevent a backsliding on climate and other commitments at the 2020 G7 Summit in the USA and G20 Summit in Saudi-Arabia. Given these events and a context of unstable geopolitics and fragmentation in Western alliances, Germany must play a stronger role in international multilateral politics in defence of a global rules-based system, particularly on tackling the climate crisis. Importantly, Germany must assume an ever-stronger leadership role in a post-Brexit Europe to beat the path towards a European net zero emissions economy by 2050 at the very latest.

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EurActiv, 25 Sep 2019: Germany’s missed opportunity to regain climate leadership