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Germany’s perception as a champion of fighting climate change is better than reality. It continues to be the sixth biggest CO2 emitter after big China, USA, Russia, India and Japan; and its per capita emissions are higher than of any other EU country.
This is essentially a consequence of its precipitated 2011 decision to end nuclear power generation by 2022. Its ineffective but costly solar PV- electricity programme was not able to offer a viable alternative; and its cost-efficient wind-power encounters popular resistance, especially because of the long-distance grids.
Germany thus lacks a climate friendly alternative: lignite continues to supply some 40 per cent of its power generation, despite impressive progress of on-shore and offshore wind electricity.
Late June, the federal government had to resign to stubborn resistance from trade unions, coal and lignite power companies and its regions to impose a levy on lignite and coal in order to progressively close 24 small and inefficient power plants. Instead, it had to agree to a compromise, putting 2.7 GW of lignite power plants into a paid capacity reserve for periods without wind or solar power, financing energy efficiency improvements in heating installations, buildings, municipalities, industry, railways and completing the north-south wind-power grids by maximising the use of very expensive underground cables.
For Germany this compromise is no catastrophe though tax payers and power consumer will have to foot the bill that had been meant for fossil power companies.
The controversy will have helped Germany to obtain a better understanding of the socio-economic obstacles that have to be overcome in Paris in December when 200 countries will aim at concluding a global deal to reduce their CO2 emissions.
But the German incident might also help the parties in Paris to explore in more detail three paths to address climate measures:
phasing out all direct and indirect subsidies on the use of fossil fuels: This would put a brake on the consumption of fossil fuels and procure governments with revenues for investing in renewable energies and energy efficiency. From a global climate perspective consumer subsidies are irresponsible, when fossil fuel prices have fallen to very low levels.
Imposing or raising taxes on the use of coal, heating fuel and gasoline and provide precious public revenue which should be affected to research and development of new energy technologies.
Launching big investment programmes for massively insulating buildings: Humanity needs to be weaned off fossil fuels by minimising the need for it.
Brussels 03.07. 2015 Eberhard Rhein

Author :
EurActiv Network