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Here’s what German climate activists should do in 2015

In January, US environmental website Grist.org published a survey of leaders in the environmental community to see what they thought the focus should be this year. A similar survey was conducted among leading German environmental activists and climate thinkers. What do they prioritize for 2015?

“What three climate policy items should the German environmental movement focus on in 2015?” – this question was posed to participants in our survey. Although neither survey is properly representative, the answers nonetheless reveal some interesting differences in the focus between the US and Germany (something we’ll get back to in a second post). As in the US survey, the responses provided by the German participants were uneven – some very short, others quite long. The translation focuses on closely representing the words chosen by the survey participants (without producing stilted English) to facilitate an analysis of the language used.

Camilla Bausch, Director, Ecologic Institute

  • Even though the upcoming climate conference to be held in Paris at the end of 2015 is not expected to bring about a breakthrough, civil society is called upon to demand ambition from negotiators, ministers, and heads of state and governments. Special attention should be paid to the countries with the greatest emissions, for the global ambition gap can only be closed if these emitters take decisive action. And decisive action is required if we are to stay within the jointly agreed limit of two degrees Celsius.
  • But the summit in Paris should not be viewed in isolation. National targets, measures, and emission reductions also contribute to climate protection and serve as the basis for credibility in these negotiations. We should insist that Germany meet its voluntary target of a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 relative to 1990. The government must be urged to enforce, expand, and flesh out Environmental Minister Hendricks’ Climate Protection 2020 Action Program. In light of the low certificate prices in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), complementary national action needs to be taken to set clear signals in the power sector towards climate-friendly technologies and away from coal power. These actions would also promote Germany’s energy transition, the success – or failure – of which will draw international attention.
  • In addition, the EU must be encouraged to make its Climate and Energy Package for 2030 more ambitious. The European framework for renewable energy and energy efficiency has to be more clearly defined towards more reliable incentives for investments in these technologies. In addition, the emissions trading platform and needs to be quickly and fundamentally reformed so that it can become effective this decade. Civil society also needs to call on and support Germany in using its political weight to convince European partners that the EU should once again become a pioneer in climate policy.

Christoph Bertram, researcher, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) 

  1. The German environmental movement should continue to remain deeply involved in the European discourse. For Germany (and Europe), the most important climate policy instrument is the EU ETS, so we should do our utmost to make sure it works properly over the midterm by reforming it (such as with a price corridor).
  2. Of course, the COP in Paris is the decisive event this year, though the announcement of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in preparation for the COP is very important, too.
  3. Nationally, more progress should be made this year in the mobility and heat sectors in order to make it clear that a successful energy transition cannot be limited to the power sector.

Lili Fuhr, Department Head Ecology and Sustainable Development, Heinrich Böll Foundation

  1. Coal phaseout;
  2. Binding rules for a climate treaty in Paris;
  3. Fulfillment of German promises for climate financing.

Regine Günther, Director Climate and Energy Policy, WWF Germany

  1. Two major national issues will dominate in 2015. First, redesigning the power market, and second
  2. the implementation of the Climate Protection 2020 Action Program, which is intended to set the course for a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 relative to 1990. A new instrument to clamp down on coal power is to be developed in this context. A closely related topic is efforts to rescue European emissions trading from its desolate state. The platform regulates 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. If efforts fail at the European level, national climate protection campaigns will have to be stepped up. The German government is called on to invest much more political capital in the European process than it has previously done.
  3. The last major area concerns international climate protection. In December, a new international UN climate agreement is to be adopted in Paris.

Jörg Haas, Press Spokesperson, Campact 

  1. The rollout of a coal phaseout (enforcement of a 93 megaton emission reduction in the energy sector by 2020)
  2. Power market reform
  3. Energy efficiency in buildings (existing stock).

Andreas Kraemer, Founder and Director Emeritus, Ecologic Institute

  1. Fight subsidies for fossil energy, with a focus on the EU and international financial institutions – especially now that prices are down, subsidies for consumers should be done away with and energy taxes increased.
  2. An agreement on and financing for a global ClimatePledgeWatch controlled by civil society to keep pressure on governments and companies in 2016 and beyond; the environmental integrity of the pledge and subsequent measures should move to the foreground.
  3. Campaigns on the nexus of global warming/biodiversity/food/peace to correct earlier mistakes in climate policy, such as the implementation of CDMs.
  4. Ceterum censeo: the door to nuclear energy has to be closed. Funding for new plants, retrofits, and extensions of plant commissions will not only be lacking for renewables, but it will also create or perpetuate the economic, technical, and socio-cultural path dependencies that hamper a true energy transformation. Let’s not beat around the bush – there is no economic justification for nuclear power. The only justification is delusion, corruption, or military intent.
  5. Otherwise, more attention needs to be paid to migrants and refugees. Climate migrants are victims of policies in industrial countries over the past 200 years. Since we cannot undo the past, they should at least rely on our help. We (such as in Germany) have a moral – and possibly legal – obligation to help them and take them in, for they will never be able to return to where they came from. These people will also help us to solve our own problems, so we should give them this opportunity. At the end of the day, we are all in the same boat.

Fabio Longo, energy lawyer, board of EUROSOLAR

  1. New energy market rules for a distributed energy transition instead of a fossil power market design for coal plants
  2. Labor unions need to work hand-in-hand to produce future-proof jobs in renewable energy sectors
  3. The European Commission must be exposed for its policies that are hostile to the Energiewende and friendly to the interests of the conventional fossil-nuclear planned energy economy (“think European Energiewende” = use Europe to stop the Energiewen

Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Executive Director, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH)

  1. After the national Climate Action Plan, launch a joint strategy for a coal phaseout;
  2. An information campaign on a transition in the heat sector:
  3. Push for the next generation of stricter European CO2 limits on cars and trucks.

Volker Quaschning, renewable energy professor, University of Applied Sciences HTW, Berlin

  1. Coal phaseout. A roadmap must be developed to completely phaseout coal before 2030, speed up the growth of renewables, and come up with alternative solutions for power generation fluctuations from renewable energy power plants. Furthermore, a social contract is needed for structural change.
  2. Oil and natural gas need to be phased out in the heat sector. In the short term, the low price of oil should be used as an opportunity for the imposition of a special levy in the amount of the savings. The revenue should be earmarked for building efficiency measures and alternative, non-fossil heating systems, with owners of oil-fired heaters being a priority. In the midterm, the installation of new or replacement oil/gas heating systems should be banned. Building efficiency standards also need to be made stricter for both new buildings and renovation projects.
  3. Climate-friendly mobility. In all areas of mobility, alternatives that make do without fossil fuels need to be brought onto the market. Here, a special levy on gasoline and diesel could also be imposed to encourage the rollout of electric mobility and alternative mobility concepts.

Sebastian Scholz, team leader energy policy and climate protection, Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU)

  1. Environmental impact of the Energiewende;
  2. Launch of an efficiency transition;
  3. A successful, strong international climate treaty in Paris (COP 21).

Stefan Schurig, Director Climate Energy, World Future Council Foundation

  1. Use COP 21 as a showcase for 100% renewables and a very critical treatment of the carbon focus at the UNFCCC;
  2. Exposing “fracking” as the bubble that it is. The low oil price certainly poses a good opportunity for this purpose, and the debates leading up to the UK elections in May might also be.
  3. Prevent a quota system for renewable energy from being implemented in Germany;
  4. In general, the 100 percent renewable energy approach is the most important at present. The overall community power approach is decisive towards that goal. It is not only the fastest option, but also provides considerable added value for our democracy. Divestment is very important as a second goal to complement the first. Third, we need a price for carbon, but not through emissions trading. A carbon tax is a better option. Otherwise, the success of the energy transition in Germany and Europe partly depends on a new power market design, storage, grids, etc.


Craig Morris ( @PPchef ) is the lead author of German Energy Transition . He directs Petite Planète and writes every workday for Renewables International .

Arne Jungjohann is a political scientist, Twitterbrainer and energy expert with a focus on the Energiewende, its politics and communications.


This Article was first published on renewablesinternational.net


Photo credit for title picture: Markus Winkler (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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