Germany faces ‘huge’ task of meeting energy, climate targets

Germany’s new climate minister said on Tuesday the country faced a “difficult” task if it wanted to meet targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring sufficient energy for its energy-consuming industries.

BERLIN – Germany’s new climate minister said Tuesday that the country faces a “difficult” task if it wants to meet targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring sufficient energy for its energy-intensive industries.

Germany is on track to halve its emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels — well below the government’s 65 percent target, Robert Habeck, a member of the environmentalist Green Party, told reporters in Berlin.

Last year, the pandemic-related impact that enabled Germany to meet its interim target of 40 percent emissions reductions by 2020 disappeared, leading to another increase in emissions in 2021.

One reason for Germany’s rise in emissions is the decision to shut down all nuclear power plants by the end of this year, increasing reliance on coal-fired power plants.

The government also plans to “ideally” phase out coal-fired power generation by 2030, filling the gap with less polluting natural gas, until there is enough renewable energy to meet the needs of Europe’s largest economy.

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind currently provide about 43 percent of Germany’s electricity, but that needs to double to 80 percent by 2030, Harbeck said. He noted that electricity use is expected to increase significantly over this period as people switch from internal combustion engine cars to electric vehicles, and from oil to heat homes to electric-powered heat pumps.

“You can see that the mission is huge, huge,” Harbeck said.

The new center-left government, which took power in Germany last month, plans to introduce two sets of legislation this spring and summer, including changes to subsidies for renewable energy, requiring new buildings to install solar panels and adjusting rules for where wind turbines are installed. .

Harbeck said he expected the measures to spark a “huge political debate” but insisted that Germany could not see them as a trade-off between protecting natural landscapes, protecting the economy or reducing emissions. Deadly flash floods in western Germany last year, which killed about 200 people and destroyed entire villages, showed no one else could have a flood, he said.

A report this week by reinsurer Munich Re found that the July floods were the costliest natural disaster on record in Europe.

Economists are cautious about Habeck’s plan but say Germany should do more to expand Europe’s carbon trading system to cover transport and heating.

Some environmental groups have expressed anger over the drafting of an EU plan that would allow nuclear and gas-fired power plants to be labelled “sustainable”. The proposal is seen as a compromise between France and Germany, which aims to expand the use of its nuclear power. The hope is to use natural gas as a “bridge technology” to a carbon-free future.

On Tuesday, a group of activists placed an atomic power plant made of cardboard in front of German Chancellor Olaf Schultz’s office and held up a banner that read: “Nuclear and natural gas have no green seal.”

Harbeck said that while he did not support the use of nuclear power, it was up to each European country to decide how to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

Habeck also said it was “logical” to work on the assumption that the amount of carbon dioxide Germany could emit in the future was limited. Many countries oppose the idea of ​​a fixed “carbon budget,” but Harbeck told The Associated Press that he believes the principle should apply globally.


Follow AP’s coverage of climate news at