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Germany faces ‘gigantic task’ to meet climate change targets, says new climate minister

germany The new climate minister said on Tuesday that the country faces a “gigantic” task if it is to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring sufficient energy for its energy-intensive industry.

Robert Habeck, a member of the Greens Ecologists, told reporters in Berlin that Germany was on track to halve its emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels, far from the government’s 65% target.

The pandemic-related effects that allowed Germany to meet its interim 40% reduction target by 2020 faded last year, leading to a further increase in emissions for 2021.

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German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck shows a cardboard box with a graphic to develop wind and photovoltaic energy at a press conference on the German government’s climate policy in Berlin, Germany on Tuesday January 11, 2022.
(AP Photo / Markus Schreiber)

One of the reasons for Germany’s rising emissions is the decision to shut down all nuclear power plants by the end of this year, thus increasing dependence on coal-fired power plants.

The government also plans to phase out coal-fired power by 2030, closing the gap with cleaner natural gas until enough renewable energy is available to meet the demands of the larger economy. from Europe.

Renewable sources such as solar and wind power currently provide around 43% of Germany’s electricity, but that share is expected to almost double to 80% by 2030, Habeck said. He noted that electricity use during this period is expected to increase dramatically as people shift from combustion-engine vehicles to electric cars and from oil-fired home heating to electric heat pumps.

“You can see the task is big, gigantic,” Habeck said.

The new center-left government that took power in Germany last month plans to introduce two sets of laws this spring and summer, including revising renewable energy subsidies, requiring solar panels on new buildings and adjustment of the rules on the location of wind turbines. .

Habeck said he expects a “huge political debate” on the measures, but insisted that Germany cannot afford to present it as a compromise between preserving the natural landscape, protecting saving or reducing emissions. Last year’s deadly flash floods in western Germany, which killed some 200 people and devastated entire villages, showed that one could happen without the others, he said.

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

An oil refinery smokes behind a former coal dump in Gelsenkirchen, Germany on Monday, January 10, 2022.

An oil refinery smokes behind a former coal dump in Gelsenkirchen, Germany on Monday, January 10, 2022.
(AP Photo / Martin Meissner)

Economists cautiously welcomed Habeck’s plans, but said Germany should do more to expand the European carbon trading scheme to cover the transport and heating sectors.

Some environmental groups have reacted angrily to the European Union’s draft plans that would allow nuclear and gas power plants to be labeled “sustainable.” The proposal is seen as a compromise between France, which seeks to expand its use of nuclear energy, and Germany, which wants to promote natural gas as a “bridge technology” on the path to a carbon-free future. .

On Tuesday, a group of activists placed a cardboard atomic power station in front of the office of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and held up banners reading: “No green stamp for nuclear and gas.”

German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck presents report named "Climate policy openness review" after arriving for a press conference on the German government's climate policy in Berlin, Germany on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.

German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck presents a report titled “Opening up the balance climate policy” after arriving for a press conference on the German government’s climate policy in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, January 11, 2022.
(Kay Nietfeld / dpa via AP)

Habeck said that while he does not support the use of nuclear power, it is up to each European country to decide how they want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

Habeck also said it was “logical” to assume that the amount of carbon dioxide Germany can emit in the future is limited. The idea of ​​fixed “carbon budgets” is something many countries oppose, but Habeck told The Associated Press he believes the principle should apply globally.

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