At the world climate conference in Egypt, Germany is trying to achieve the status of a model student, but is getting caught up in contradictions. The world needs Germany as a credible role model.
“May the world heal on the German spirit” is a political catchphrase from 1861 that has been far more than a play on words for over 150 years. At that time, the “German essence” meant a unified state that was supposed to make the world a better place. From 1914 at the latest, things went terribly wrong. However, part of our culture is the idea that we want to be role models. This is particularly noticeable at the annual climate conferences.
From a German point of view, one thing is special at the current meeting in Egypt: Climate policy is no longer only managed by the Ministry of the Environment, but has also been an important area in the Foreign Ministry under the leadership of Annalena Baerbock (Greens) since the government was formed. Jennifer Morgan is appearing as her figurehead for the first time these days.
Germany’s chief negotiator, special representative for climate policy and state secretary at the Federal Foreign Office, was formerly the head of Greenpeace. One of their core theses is: “Without the ambitious drive forward of the energy transition in Germany, we would not have the global credibility to conclude ambitious partnerships and agreements with others.”
On the one hand, this mantra is fundamentally important for understanding Germany’s climate policy. The phase-out of coal by 2038 at the latest, the EEG surcharge, the end of nuclear power or the ban on combustion engines from 2035: Many of these measures cost or cost the population prosperity and companies competitiveness.
It is therefore always necessary to weigh up what helps the climate and what is shop window politics. However, with the deadly argument that this pioneering role is absolutely necessary, one does not achieve this balancing act. And it’s also wrong – for three reasons.
Why does Germany have to be a perfect climate model student to enter into bilateral partnerships with Namibia on green hydrogen? Does such a deal stand or fall with the coal phase-out date? That can be doubted. You don’t have to be a pioneer at all costs to effectively complete climate projects worldwide. You have to make an effort to forge clever partnerships with a win-win effect for both sides – something that has been neglected for far too long.
Even overly ambitious annual figures are not decisive: For the domestic political show, it may be important whether the coal phase-out is quantified for 2030, 2035 or 2038. The global climate is only helped to a very limited extent if we shut down the reactors in this country three years sooner or later. On the contrary: The damage would be enormous if countries like Germany missed overly ambitious goals – which it certainly looks like.
To dismiss the contradictions of German energy policy as a short-term emergency measure does not help. We shut down our nuclear power plants, but import nuclear power from other countries. The government declares fracking in Germany not possible for political reasons, but imports gas obtained in this way from other countries. The list could go on. If you are honest, you would also have the option of exporting your highly advanced technology.
Germany’s coal-fired power plants, for example, are world leaders in terms of emissions. Experts suspect that the sooner operators in Germany have to switch off, the less the world can benefit from German technology. In all likelihood, it would also help the global climate more if German car manufacturers exported their fuel-efficient, state-of-the-art diesels all over the world instead of having to focus entirely on electric vehicles.
The Federal Court of Auditors describes German climate protection policy as “inadequate” and points to a long list of omissions: there is no coordination of measures, the climate protection reports are incomplete and various subsidies are harmful to the climate. If things continue like this, Germany will not achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030. The federal government is “flying blind” and I have “no overview of how many greenhouse gases are to be saved with individual measures”.
Only four of the 96 measures from the climate protection program 2030 led to significant emission savings at all. Fiscal policy is also criticized in the report. It is true that 16 billion euros in financial aid paid last year had an environmentally friendly effect. In return, 65 billion euros in subsidies were environmentally harmful.
Apart from the fact that such technical mistakes in climate policy have to be corrected – Jennifer Morgan is absolutely right about one thing: climate policy belongs in the State Department, because it can only succeed in a global context. When Germany’s chief negotiator emphasizes the enormous importance of international cooperation, it may sound quite obvious, but in consequence it is new for Germany: Driven by 220 foreign missions, alliances are being forged with countries all over the world that benefit the climate.
There are cooperations with countries in Africa to expand renewable energies or green hydrogen. That is the way, no insistence on German going it alone, which is of far less use to the climate than it is to people and companies.
Energy has never been as expensive as it is now. But instead of panicking, you should calmly check potential savings at home. As our guide shows, there are many of them.
The article “The world does not need Germany as a pseudo role model when it comes to climate” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.