Climate Protection Goals in Europe and Germany

The term "climate protection" is anthropocentric. We want to avoid rapid climate change to which nature, agriculture and industry cannot adapt, thereby endangering the well-being of humankind. Here climate protection is understood as the measures taken to dampen anthropogenic climate change. At present the European Union and some of its member countries are leading concerning climate protection goals but in parts also concerning emission reduction measures. It is difficult to assess whether even the modest goals set can be reached, because

1. the only international binding measures within the Kyoto Protocol are only set for the 2008 to 2012 period,

2. most national goals are not binding,

3. negotiations for binding measures for the post-Kyoto period have only started in 2005 and should lead - as stipulated within the Kyoto Protocol - to new measures until the 15th Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC in 2009 in Copenhagen.

Overall, i.e. when summing up emission reductions and emission increases since 1990, the Kyoto Protocol can be fulfilled, since many industrialized countries with economies in transition, the former socialist countries under the influence of the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation itself, have gone in parts through major economic recession; and many OECD countries have taken some modest measures, decreasing their emission increase rates and some - like Germany and the United Kingdom - reducing emissions strongly due to both climate protection measures and restructuring of industry.

The next subsection will give the climate protection policy in Germany in more detail before the European approach will be presented briefly.

7.4.1 Emission Reduction Goals and Measures in Germany

When the Physical and the Meteorological Societies in Germany issued in March 1987 a joint brochure entitled "Warning of Global Climate Change Caused by Mankind", to which one of us (H. Grassl) contributed, the political reaction was: Firstly, the establishment of a "Scientific Climate Advisory Board" by the Federal Government, and secondly soon thereafter in 1988, the establishment of an Enquête Commission "Precautionary Measures to Protect the Earth's Atmosphere" by the German Parliament. Enquête Commissions are equally composed of parliamentarians and scientists or outside experts, in the above case 13 members from each group. The latter's public relation activities brought the scientific assessments of ozone depletion, tropical forest destruction and the enhanced greenhouse effect to the attention of most German citizens already in 1989. Its internal reporting led to a cabinet decision in June 1990 to reduce CO2 emissions in Germany by 25 percent until 2005 with reference to the 1987 emissions. The goal has been reached with slightly above 20 percent only in parts, roughly half of it by political measures, the other half by integration of the former German Democratic Republic into the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990, which led - for example - to the dismantling of several large, but inefficient and polluting lignite burning power plants.

A further follow-up was the so-called feed-in law, allowing all electricity generating installations using renewable energy sources access to the electric grid at fixed prices guaranteed for 20 years since January 1991. It brought wind energy the breakthrough as a considerable part of the electric energy use by growth rates of more than tenfold in ten years (~ 26 percent growth per year).

A similar breakthrough for solar energy (mainly photovoltaics) and electricity from biomass resulted from the Renewable Energies Law of 2000 and its later modifications. At present about 13 percent of electric energy in Germany stem from renewable sources. The ranking is: wind energy, hydro power, biomass power plants and photovoltaics.

The technical innovations stimulated by this support for renewable energies has caused massive growth of export of renewable energy plants and technology, making Germany the leading country in both wind and solar energy technology in 2006.

7.4.2 Emission Reduction Goals and Measures in the European Union

The proactive role of the European Union in the climate policy debate is undisputed. However, in a world with groups of countries whose income depends nearly totally or substantially on fossil fuel exports, the pressure on Europe to strongly lead also in measures is low. As the European Union is the only area in the world where the economically stronger ones support the weaker ones over decades, burden sharing is a must, exemplified in the EU-15 agreement how to reach the Kyoto Protocol goal of minus 8 percent for the greenhouse gas emissions due to the gases listed in the so-called Kyoto basket (see section 7.3). Firstly, the minus 8 percent goal is the highest within the Kyoto commitments of industrialized countries, secondly, the burden sharing spans a wide range from minus 27 percent for Luxemburg to plus 40 percent for an economically weaker member like Portugal, which still should grow economically faster than the average member country (see table 7.2 for details).

In order to reach these goals the EU took - as the first group of countries -advantage of a new political instrument that will also be part of the Kyoto Protocol, emissions trading. Since January 2005 a European Union-wide CO2 emissions trading scheme is in place, covering about 50 percent of all CO2 emissions (large emitters only). It was started before the Kyoto Protocol became binding (16 February 2005). As often, when a new policy instrument is started, it suffers from several deficiencies. Some of these are: distribution of CO2-certificates free of charge to the emitting industries, weak incentives to reduce emissions due to too high allowances for emissions, allowances set by member countries often protecting energy-intensive industries.

Table 7.2 CO2-reduction commitments of EU-15 member states within the Kyoto Protocol

Member State

Target 2008-2012 under Kyoto Protocol and 'EU burden sharing' (percent)





























United Kingdom


In late 2006 the second national emission reduction allocation plans of several member countries, including Germany, have been criticized by the European Commission, mostly covering the above weaknesses. Resubmitted plans now show more stringent reductions for the coming years.

Until now greenhouse gas emissions by international ship and air traffic are not included in the Kyoto Protocol. The EU plans to integrate international air traffic into the CO2 emission reduction policy.

7.4.3 Reduction Goals

From scientific calculations it became clear that the maximum tolerable mean global warming of 2°C within the 21st century translates into at least halfing global emissions until 2050, which again translates into 80 percent emission reduction for industrialized countries until this date. Since the EU has set the 2°C goal, the Kyoto commitments can only be a start. At COP 12 of UNFCCC in Nairobi in December 2006 negotiations have led to the following tentative goals, only expressed under conditions of similar reactions by other parties:

- 40 percent for Germany until 2020

- 30 percent for the European Union until 2020

On 9 March 2007 the European Union Council decided to at least set the following binding targets until 2020: - 20 percent CO2-emissions, 20 percent energy efficiency gain, 20 percent of primary energy from renewable sources. The key questions, however, in view of the global challenge of climate change are:

How can emerging countries be integrated into the Kyoto follow-on process, as their development path is decisive for future emissions? What incentives are needed that their energy supply system uses rapidly renewable energy resources.

Answering these questions depends also strongly on the EU climate policies and technological innovation in developed countries.

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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