Germany holds a special place in the green politics of Europe. The country has often blazed a trail across the continent in terms of green policy and delivery of renewables projects. Germany had the highest global level of installed solar energy up until 2014 and is third in the world currently for total installed wind energy capacity. In her 16 year tenure, Angela Merkel has often been called the “Climate Chancellor”, a highly influential figure and negotiator on the challenge o the climate crisis. At COP26 she will deliver her final speech as Chancellor at a climate summit. Even though coalition talks are ongoing in Germany, a change of national leadership should not change Germany’s international commitment German state secretary Jochen Flasbarth has stated domestic climate policy differences between the key German parties “vanish at the international level”. So, Germany is expected to be full participant at the conference, but what does that mean for COP26?
Whilst there is a national consensus on the need to tackle climate change, there is still some difference on opinion on the methodology within Germany. This will likely impact in two areas:
Much of the comment from Germany in the build up to COP26 has focused on their commitment to the 1.5°C target. There is a sense that the world needs to play catch up and it ties into historic German finger wagging at other industrial nations on climate change. There is strong implicit criticism of the US and its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. However, this comes at a time of increasing domestic criticism of Germany’s own record on carbon emissions.
As the world’s fourth largest economy and sixth largest emitter. Activist, Luisa Neubauer, has focused on Germany’s recent expansion of infrastructure for gas imports as source of concern, whilst Germany is likely to miss its 2021 targets. One Berlin based think tank, Agora Energiewende, believes emissions will be up 6% this year. Some place blame on the strength of the car industry, some forecasts suggest a speed limit on the autobahn of 80mph/128kmh would reduce transport emissions by 5%.
At EU level, Germany also needs to consider what position to adopt around research and development. There is currently significant debate on new technologies such as in the Horizon Europe programme covering carbon capture, energy storage, biomass for energy, and hydropower. The challenge comes from restrictions on how research takes place in relation to biodiversity. It’s a complicated and emotional topic but could see Europe fall behind in clean energy technology.