It’s UNGA Week and Germany Has Already Upped the Climate Ante

Photo: U.S. Department of State, Flickr

By Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer

Last week, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier announced the country would be implementing a new climate charter that calls for “increased state incentives for environmentally friendly businesses” and “more EU-wide policies” as Deutsche Welle (DW) reported. In addition, the charter declared that each year until 2050 will “see new concrete CO2 reduction plans,” by which time Germany would become entirely carbon-neutral. The United Nations General Assembly meets virtually this week and many nations are expected to announce new climate commitments.

 Why This Matters: The question is whether this or any of the other moves this week will be sufficient to make the needed progress to reign in emissions to get back on track to meet the Paris targets.  The German pact has been billed by many as a “historic compromise,” one which “cross[es] parties lines and helps businesses.” And, it represents the “first time the economics ministry of a major country has openly embraced policies suggested by groups like Fridays for Future,” climate change policy expert Miranda Schreuers told Deutsche Welle.

A Cross-Party Charter?

Certain groups lauded the proposal for reaching across party lines. But, as DW reported, “smaller parties were quick to point out flaws.” As Green Party’s Stephan Kühn declared in Parliament, “There are still completely the wrong priorities when it comes to infrastructure building.”

Others, particularly the pro-business Free Democratic Party, had other critiques. As Lukas Köhler wrote on Twitter (reported first by DW), “One suggestion: A little less dramatic language and a little more effective and efficient climate politics — then the FDP would happily work together.”

A Leader on Climate Change?

As Schreuers told DW, “Although Germany has been seen as a leader in climate protection policy, you could argue that Germany has really been crucial in putting on the brakes.” This policy could represent a step in the right direction. She says, “But now Germany is waking up to the reality that other parts of the world are already streets ahead of them.” According to EcoWatch, countries like China and Japan and US States like California are “all in the process of developing ambitious renewable energy systems that could leave the EU, and Germany with it, trailing behind.”

While this may be a good-faith proposal, others have also suggested that it could represent an “early start to the election campaign.” Based on the current political climate of Germany, the center-right Christian Democrats could be “setting themselves up for a new coalition partner– possibly the Greens,” as Schreuers said. This could be a potential step to work towards creating that coalition.

Whether or not this represents a political stepping stone, it is crucial that Germany works to actuate this proposal— and go even further to integrate business into the discourse and policies on climate change. As Antje von Broock from Friends of the Earth Germany told EcoWatch, “The only concrete measure in his plan is the idea of reforming CO2 pricing. And he could have done that in September 2019,” referring to when Germany “announced its climate package ahead of the EU’s Green New Deal.”   According to von Broock, “What we need are serious social efforts, led by politicians who courageously initiate the necessary ecological and social transformation. It is therefore fundamentally to be welcomed that Minister Altmaier wants to bring the economy on board. However, the 20 points of his climate charter do not go far enough.”

To Go Deeper:  It is also the 12th annual New York Climate Week and EcoWatch’s Olivia Rosane recommends these 5 streaming events.

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