Paris Climate Agreement: Not a Historical Turning Point

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gsfc via flickr || Creative Commons

Many say that the climate treaty adopted in Paris is a historical turning point. I, however, see things slightly differently. First, there are no binding, only voluntary commitments. Measures over the coming years will surely miss the 2-degree target. I find it impossible to believe that the self-commitment of states will be sufficient to limit temperature rise. There are still two speeds when it comes to climate protection. While emerging economies such as China and India increase their emissions, developed countries work on ambitious climate targets and risk the health of their economies. This has nothing to do with efficient climate protection.

The objective must be to limit emissions and at the lowest possible cost. We need a functioning international carbon trading system which can match long-term and effective incentives with modest goals and one that will best meet demands for efficient climate protection via market-oriented means.

The European emissions trading scheme must be activated and stabilized. Measurability of company targets must take priority over political attempts to manipulate certification prices. Confidence in this instrument will only be created when emission rights lead to stable, long-term conservation of assets. This should also extend to other sectors – transport and housing for example. In addition, it makes sense to integrate European emissions trading into a corresponding global concept and to link with emerging emission trading schemes outside the EU.

Climate policy must take advantage of the innovative power of competition and must not work against the market. The Paris climate agreement has little to offer in this respect. Instead, countries are given leeway to conduct climate protection by bypassing the market.

The projected 2-degree target alone would require net zero emissions, no later than the middle of the century. Some interpret this as a call for a complete phase-out of fossil fuels. Germany in particular has determined to accelerate the concept of de-carbonization; a concept that collides with reality. Given the current state of technology, it is difficult to accept that we will be able to do without coal, oil and natural gas in the foreseeable future. It is pointless to suggest radical measures that simply cannot be implemented, especially as renewable energy sources and storage are currently only barely sufficient. We need no further phase-out plan which threatens our country’s profitability and security of energy supply.

The whole mistake behind the German energy transition policy is evident here. Germany decided to bid farewell to emission-free nuclear power earlier than first anticipated and thus bears the responsibility for our future, long term dependence on coal-based power production.

Luckily, the world community in Paris was not as unrealistic as the German Federal Government. The climate treaty expressly allows for the equalization and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Now it’s up to politicians to align national and international ambitions with the realism of social development and actual climate dynamics.

Dr. Hermann Otto Solms
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