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Climate Expert Council of the Federal Government: Germany has passed the climate test

2021-04-15T12:26:05.779Z

Germany achieved almost all of its 2020 goals - by chance. In fact, the Federal Republic is doing rather mediocre, says Hans-Martin Henning, head of the Expert Council on Climate Issues.



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In Germany, almost 740 million tons of greenhouse gases are still emitted every year

Photo: Jochen Tack / imago images

On Thursday, the Expert Council on Climate Issues presented its annual report for the first time - with a surprisingly positive result.

Germany emitted almost nine percent fewer greenhouse gases last year.

The five scientists of the council convened by the Federal Government in 2020 took a closer look at the emissions data and calculated the Corona share.

Because coincidence contributed to the good result: In the pandemic year 2020, binding CO2 targets for transport, energy, buildings, industry and agriculture were applied in Germany for the first time.

Most areas performed well thanks to less traffic and home office.

Without the pandemic, the federal government would not be in such a good position, explains the chairman of the Climate Council Hans-Martin Henning in an interview with SPIEGEL.

The physicist and his four fellow councilors are now calling on the ministries to make improvements - this is what the Federal Government's Climate Protection Act passed in 2019 provides.

This is to guarantee that the ministers also adhere to the sector goals.

However, the scientists only have a limited say.

That is why they see themselves more as a "reminder" and "cash auditor", says Henning.

SPIEGEL:

Mr. Henning, since the new Climate Expert Council was founded in 2020 you have been the top guardian of climate policy in Germany: What school grade would you give Germany?

Henning:

For 2020, the federal government will receive a "pass" overall.

The Climate Protection Act specified the target values ​​and these were adhered to except in the building sector.

But actually there are no grades, just a "pass or fail" for each sector.

SPIEGEL:

When did the climate student fail?

Henning:

The climate law of 2019 states how many emissions may be emitted annually per area, such as traffic or the energy industry.

If the annual value is higher, i.e. too many emissions are emitted, the responsible ministry must make improvements.

In 2020 only the building sector failed.

The savings that were actually intended were not achieved here.

SPIEGEL:

Before Corona, it was clear for a long time that Germany would miss its climate target for 2020.

Now we've made it.

But where would the Federal Republic be without the climate protection effect of the pandemic?

Henning:

The goal of the 2010 and 2011 energy concept that you are addressing - minus 40 percent by 2020 - is not the same as in the Climate Protection Act.

There you have reduced the target again.

The higher target of 40 percent would not have been achieved without the special effects in the past year.

SPIEGEL:

So Germany is not a model student after all.

Henning:

If you base this on whether the 40 percent target would have been achieved in 2020 without the special effects, that's true. But we look at the actual figures on the basis of the Climate Protection Act also achieved the 40 percent reduction.

SPIEGEL:

Not in the building sector, however.

What makes this area so difficult?

Henning:

That probably also has to do with the special effects in 2020.

Without these effects, the building sector would likely have produced fewer emissions and thus achieved the target.

This may have to do with the increased use of apartments due to home offices, school closings and short-time working.

SPIEGEL:

... because the real climate problem child has been traffic for years?

Henning:

At least that's what the results suggest.

We have tried to extrapolate historical trends for the individual sectors.

To do this, we looked at the data from 1995 to 2019 and then estimated how 2020 would have gone under normal conditions.

This shows that the building sector would probably have met the targets, but traffic with a high probability not.

SPIEGEL:

Nevertheless, as the Climate Council, you now have to warn the ministries responsible for buildings?

Henning:

If a sector exceeds the targets, the responsible ministries, in this case the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of the Interior, have to make suggestions for an immediate program, which we then evaluate again as an expert council.

The federal government would then have to adopt measures in autumn.

This is to ensure compliance with the emission levels for the following years.

SPIEGEL:

What if the ministers or the federal government ignore your recommendations?

Henning:

Then there is little we can do.

Although our council was convened by the federal government, it has no sanction mechanisms.

We are more like the auditors of climate policy and primarily look at the numbers and classify them.

SPIEGEL:

The German government has been harshly criticized by climate researchers and activists for years.

Right?

Henning:

I would draw the picture in a more differentiated way.

Germany, for example, has achieved a lot in the energy sector.

This is shown by the recently achieved reductions, which have to do with the switch from coal to natural gas in the power plant sector and the high proportion of green electricity.

Other sectors such as transport or buildings are having a harder time.

But here, too, adjustments have already been made.

For example, as of this year we have a CO2 price on fossil fuels.

SPIEGEL:

Can Germany achieve its climate goals for 2030?

Henning:

You can't say that today.

In all likelihood, however, efforts will have to be increased - if only because of the tightening of targets at European level.

The European emissions target is to be increased from a 40 percent reduction to 55 percent by 2030.

This will also have an impact on the German target path.

Then Germany could have to save between 62 and 68 percent compared to 1990 instead of 55 percent.

In this case, climate protection must also pick up speed.

Source: spiegel

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