The cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel has approved an amendment to Germany’s climate law to bring forward the country’s net zero deadline to 2045 from 2050, and steeper interim emission reduction targets, particularly for the energy and industrial sectors.
Renewables groups and the opposition Green Party in first reactions have urged the government to now also step up measures to make a much faster expansion of renewables possible.
The amended law now also raises Germany’s greenhouse gas emission cut target for 2030 to 65% (from 55% planned before), and introduces an interim target of 88% by 2040.
"With the new climate protection law passed in the cabinet today, we are putting the federal government's climate protection policy on a new, more ambitious basis. We are thus treading the bridge into a climate-neutral age," economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier said.
"We can and must show that climate protection and the economy are not a contradiction in terms, but rather two sides of the same coin.
"We want the best climate-neutral cars, the best climate-neutral steel and the best climate-neutral raw materials, for example in chemistry, to be produced in Germany in the future."
Environment minister Svenja Schulze, who drafted the amendment, said that with the new law, the government is "creating more fairness between generation" and more "planning security."
But Schulze added that all "ministries will have to be climate protection ministries more than ever.”
Her ministry acknowledged that the “lion’s share” of additional emission reductions will be in the energy sector and industry, as both are sectors with high emissions and lower costs to avoid them than in other sectors of the economy.
The energy sector according to the draft that still needs to be approved in parliament must lower its emissions in CO2 equivalents from 280 million tons this year to 108m tons in 2030. In industry, the reduction is planned from 186m tons of CO2 equivalent this year to 118m tons in 2030.
Any emission cuts in industry are closely related to a rise in renewable energy output as industrial processes that now use fossil fuels will have to be electrified or changed into hydrogen-based applications that also need green power.
The government is rushing to push through the new net zero target in reaction to a ruling by Germany’s constitutional court last month that said the country’s current version of the climate law violates the freedoms of younger generations by pushing the bulk of emission reductions needed under the Paris climate agreement to the years after 2030.
In order to get the new target (and with it the amended version of the climate law) approved before late September general elections, it has to be voted on in parliament before the summer recess starts in late June. Merkel’s government with the rash move reacts to a rise of the opposition Green Party in opinion polls, which threatens to oust the Chancellor’s conservatives from the CDU/CSU from power.
Renewables federation BEE complained it had less than 24 hours to comment on the climate law amendment, and said Berlin now must end fossil fuel subsidies that slow down the use of renewable energies.
“In order to achieve the target of 65% greenhouse gas reduction by 2030, fossil fuels must give way to renewables in all sectors faster than planned and fair market conditions must be created for renewables, otherwise the Climate Protection Act will only remain an empty shell,” BEE president Simone Peter said.
Adding a growing power demand due to e-mobility, heat pumps and green hydrogen to the effect of the rise in the climate target, the volume of renewable electricity needed in 2030 is 575 terawatt hours, up from 242TWh in 2019, the BEE estimates. The overall need for renewable power, also outside the electricity sector, would need to reach 1,084TWh in 2030, the BEE said.
To reach the higher renewable energy production, some 20GW of solar power would need to be installed per year for the remainder of this decade, instead of the 5GW added last year. Some 8GW of onshore wind would need to be added instead of the moderate 1.4GW last year, the BEE reckons.
Like renewables, energy and climate groups, the Green Party criticised that the government set the new climate targets without the necessary corresponding measures to reach a faster energy transition with higher annual wind and solar installations.
"Today it was not decided to phase out coal for 2030, burn out for 2030 or a high CO2 price,"
Green Party member of the European Parliament, Michael Bloss tweeted.
"Today a #Climate Protection Act was passed, which contains better goals, but does not identify any measures. Too little, too late, too weak."