German Climate Protection Plan 2050: For a Climate Policy with a Sense of Proportion

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gsfc via flickr || Creative Commons

Changing climate is a long-term project. Today, we are setting the course for a society that will have to withstand the challenges related to it. We must act now, if we are to achieve internationally agreed targets. We now also have to decide how climate protection can be harmonised with our desire for prosperity and economic development. The question is how we and our children want to live? We need the right balance.

The draft of the Federal Government’s Climate Protection Plan 2050 leaves no room for balance. Instead of concentrating on the achievable, unrealistic goals are formulated. Instead of competition for the most efficient solutions, you will find lovingly detailed planned economies and high costs. Instead of the freedom allowing for individual initiatives, regulations and a code of conduct are the norm and neither the climate, nor our country benefits from this.

In the Climate Protection Plan 2050, the Federal Government tears ahead with its highly ambitious targets. Germany should be greenhouse gas neutral by 2050. Already by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 55% compared to 1990 and by 2040, reduced by 70%. Up till today, Germany has only managed a 37% reduction, with the bulk due to the collapse of the ramshackle and energy-inefficient GDR economy. Despite the dynamic expansion of renewable energies in the power sector, there have been virtually no significant greenhouse gas reductions over the last six years. As currently more than 80% of primary energy is derived from fossil fuels, these goals can only be achieved in the short term through a radical restructuring of the economy. Deep cuts in economic growth and quality of life are inevitable as the phasing out of carbon and promotion of energy efficiency do not come without cost.

These ambitions are at odds with European Climate Policy. The European Union goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990. A tightening of EU climate targets is not on the agenda. Recently, the EU Commission has proposed a 50% emission reduction for Germany. Against this background, Germany’s published climate objectives only weaken the competitiveness of the economy. The climate protection plans of other EU members, however, will be slowed down if Germany voluntarily assumes the burden of other member states.

The Climate Protection Plan prescribes the social transformation of Germany. Renewable energy should become the norm and fossil fuels should take on a transitional, stop-gap role. A radical reduction of energy consumption in the building sector is envisioned , in both new and existing constructions. There will no longer be oil and gas heating after 2030. The aim of greenhouse-gas-neutral transport should not only be achieved via electro-mobiles, but also by cycling for longer distances. The prescription for industry is energy efficient processes and products. In agriculture, nitrogen surpluses will be strictly limited and organic farming will be heavily promoted. A reduction in the consumption of animal products should contribute to a cutback in livestock. For each sector, a variety of individual measures is described.

Liberal Positions on the Climate Protection Plan 2050

1) No German solo action on climate protection targets

Germany’s isolated climate protection targets are a risk for the standard of living of the population, economic growth as well as income and employment. Climate change is a global problem; climate change should be considered globally.

Therefore:

  • a radical phasing out of fossil fuels in Germany will achieve nothing, if other countries do not follow suit;

  • only pan-European, harmonised climate protection goals promise success;

  • with the European emissions trading system, an effective and low cost instrument of climate protection already exists. Further development involving other sectors could lead to a waiver on national climate protection targets and instruments.

2) A planned economy will not work when it comes to climate protection

There is little room for change in the 2050 Climate Protection Plan. The planners for the Federal Government presume a certain omniscience when it comes to climate protection: objectives and instruments for each individual sector are set for decades. The freedom of the citizen as a consumer or business-person enjoys little respect. The Climate Protection Plan claims that all solutions are already on the table. At the same time, no one knows how the climate will change, what technological leaps are possible and how the population will adapt in the future. There is no place for competition for the most cost-effective prevention of greenhouse gases in this rigid plan. The European emissions trading scheme as a cost-effective alternative to the small-scale and expensive regulation of companies and private households also plays only a minor role in the Climate Protection Plan.

Therefore:

  • a planned economy is also to be rejected in a climate policy. We need brisk competition to provide the most efficient climate protection solutions;

  • as with the European emissions trading scheme, all climate protection instruments should set direct incentives for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Rules and regulations are more expensive and ineffective measures to achieve climate protection in a roundabout way;

  • climate protection must be designed together with citizens. Ideological patronisation and unnecessary interference in citizens’ personal lives should be rejected;

  • climate change requires democratic legitimacy; a climate policy dictated by expert committees which by-passes parliament must not be permitted;

  • objectives and instruments of climate policy must reflect reality and be constantly re-evaluated. An easing of ambitions must be just as conceivable as their tightening.

3) Climate policy is not industrial policy

The Climate Protection Plan emphasizes the opportunities of climate change policy for a small sector of the German economy. What is concealed is that multi-billion investments in renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency mean enormous additional costs for the largest part of the economy and private households.

Therefore:

  • the Federal Government must show it’s cards when it comes to climate protection. Saving the climate will not finance itself;

  • climate policy must not serve client politics, in which the majority subsidize a few profiteers;

  • only the lowest possible costs and a fair burden-sharing will be accepted by citizens in the long term;

  • subsidies are not a permanent solution.

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