Germany’s dirty little secrets

4 June 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to make climate protection a top issue for the G7 Summit she is hosting this coming Sunday and Monday. With preparations at Schloss Elmau under way, ECO is growing ever more concerned about Germany’s coal power plants.

Coal still accounts for 44% of Germany’s electricity supply, and CO2 emissions rose for 3 years, mainly due to the burning of cheaper-and-dirtier lignite, before a decline was seen in 2014. The “Energiewende” country is risking the ability to achieve its national target of 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels).

That’s why the government has decided on a Climate Action Programme to further cut emissions. Germany’s energy minister, for the first time ever, has proposed an additional contribution from the power sector, targeting coal power plants over 20 years old. By addressing the dirtiest 10% of Germany’s coal power plants, the government wants to reduce an additional 22 million tonnes of CO2.

Naturally, there was an outcry following the announcement of this modest first step. Members of Merkel’s conservative party protested heavily against any coal phase-out, while trade unions balked claiming that thousands of jobs are at risk. Under heavy attack, energy minister Gabriel may now weaken his proposal. The nation waited for Merkel to react, in vain.

Everyone has the right to some secrets, but when that involves polluting the atmosphere, then transparency is needed. To be taken seriously as the G7 president, the Chancellor needs to break her silence by supporting a shutdown of the dirtiest coal power plants to pave the way for a 100% renewable energy supply. Only with that kind of leadership can Merkel credibly push Canada, Japan and the US towards a G7 commitment on a long-term reduction goal.

In the multilateral assessment session today and tomorrow, delegates may wish to ask whether Germany is ready to face up to these dirty little secrets.

Germany’s dirty little secrets

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