Germany is to raise its target for reducing carbon emissions by 2030 from 55 per cent to 65 per cent, after the country’s supreme court said its previous climate goals were not ambitious enough.
The new targets, which also call for Germany to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 — five years earlier than initially planned — could be passed by Angela Merkel’s cabinet as soon as next week.
The new plan is Berlin’s reaction to a landmark ruling by the constitutional court last week which said Germany’s current climate plan placed too great a responsibility for reducing carbon emissions on future generations.
The judges’ main criticism was that the authorities were far too vague about what measures needed to be taken after 2030 to bring carbon emissions to almost zero by 2050.
Speaking at a hastily convened press conference, Svenja Schulze, environment minister, called the new targets, which are contained in an amended version of Germany’s climate law, a “fair offer to the younger generation”.
“This time we’re not deferring the main burden [of cutting carbon emissions] into the future.”
Instead, she added, “every decade, every generation, will shoulder its responsibility”.
Responding to criticism that the old climate law was too vague, the amended version sets out much more granular climate goals. For example, it requires Germany to slash its output of greenhouse gases by 88 per cent by 2040.
In addition, emissions were to be cut by 25 per cent in the 2020s, 23 per cent in the 2030s and 12 per cent in the 2040s, Schulze said.
Last week’s ruling was a huge victory for young climate campaigners who had argued that the German government’s failure to adequately deal with the problem of global warming amounted to a violation of their fundamental rights.
The judges agreed with the complainants that the previous version of Germany’s climate change law breached their rights because it “irreversibly offload[s] major emission reduction burdens on to periods after 2030”.
The government welcomed the ruling, with Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert describing it last week as “pioneering”. “It’s a big success for the young people who brought the suit, and also more broadly for the coming generations,” he said. He added that the legislative changes mandated by the court would be good for the German economy, because they would give businesses the ability to “plan for the future”.
Even before last week’s court ruling, Merkel’s government, made up of the centre-right CDU/CSU and the left-of-centre Social Democrats, was under pressure to strengthen its climate policy. Both parties are facing a serious challenge from the resurgent Greens, who are leading the polls with only about five months to go until the Bundestag elections.
Schulze said all of Germany’s parties were at present seeking to “outdo” each other with their climate goals. “That’s positive news, because it’s now no longer just about protecting the climate; we’re now arguing about the best ideas and the best concepts,” she added.