1 february 2019

[4C Note: The following article was sent to 4C in an Email from the "talk" list of the Climate Action Network]

How Germany's coal deal affects E.U.'s Paris target

A German commission recommended a 2038 date to phase out coal plants.

Jean Chemnick, E&E News reporter, February 1, 2019

Germany's planned exit from coal is a first step toward regaining the
climate leadership some have said it has lost in recent years.

But European environmentalists say that until it makes similar progress
on other sectors, Germany will remain a barrier to the European Union as
a whole upgrading its emissions reduction target under the Paris

That's because the soon-to-be 27-nation bloc can't move forward with a
new nationally determined contribution (NDC) to Paris without the buy-in
of virtually every member country. As the European Union's largest
economy, Germany can effectively shut down any new significant E.U.

And so far, Germany has stood with countries like Poland and its central
European neighbors in keeping the European Commission from seriously
considering a new NDC that would go beyond the target of 40 percent
reduction by 2030 compared with 1990 levels the European Union put
forward three years ago.

A group of Western European countries, including France and the
Netherlands, has pushed for a new NDC. A tougher goal would help
demonstrate continued global momentum on the Paris Agreement in the face
of pullbacks in countries like the United States and Brazil.

But German leaders have balked.

"The main reason for that is that they want to clean up their act at
home first before they want any debate about being more ambitious and
having higher targets," said Wendel Trio, executive director of Climate
Action Network Europe. "I haven't heard any indication from the German
government that they would now be ready to have a discussion about
increasing the 2030 European target."

Germany is virtually assured to miss self-imposed commitments to slash
emissions by 40 percent compared with the 1990 baseline by 2020.

But on Saturday, Germany's coal commission called for a short-term
phaseout of more than 12.5 gigawatts of coal-fired power in the next
three years, which was heralded as a breakthrough. That's made it likely
that German energy producers will shed at least 61 percent of their
greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and meet the government's goal for that

The commission's recommendation also brings a domestic economywide 55-
percent-by-2030 target closer to reach. But while greens say it helps,
they note the coal deal won't be enough on its own to set Germany on
pace to meet the goal.

"What has been clear until now is that before there would be agreement
on the coal phaseout there wouldn't be any next step from the German
government within the European context to lift ambition," said Martin
Kaiser, executive director of Greenpeace Germany and a member of the
coal commission. "Even now I think the challenge in Germany to meet the
current 2030 target, which derives from the European regulation until
now, is quite huge."

In addition to the cuts expected from energy producers, Germany has set
a target of slashing at least 40 percent of emissions from
transportation and at least 67 percent from buildings. Agriculture and
industry also have targets to hit, though Saturday's announcement makes
it somewhat more likely energy-intensive manufacturers will succeed.

Commissions like the one that brokered the Saturday deal — which drew
scientists and members from industry, trade unions and civil society —
have also been set up for other sectors. Recommendations for
transportation are due this March or April, and a building commission is
expected to be convened later this year under Germany's climate law.

Oldag Caspar, who handles low-carbon policy for Germanwatch, said German
leaders would probably need to have confidence that those sectors can
feasibly meet their domestic targets before signing off on revisions to
the E.U. commitment to Paris.

So, if the other German commissions turn in their homework by the end of
the year, Germany could back a new E.U. target next year. Its support
could help break other countries' resistance and let the European
Commission deliver a finished, agreed-upon target to U.N. talks in late
2020, when countries have been asked to consider improving their Paris

"I'm quite optimistic after the outcome of the coal commission that
Germany can come back into the negotiating seat in the front-runner
group of countries in the E.U.," Caspar said.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has told world leaders to come
to a September summit in New York City equipped with new pledges to
Paris. But in place of a tighter 2030 target, European Climate
Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete is likely to offer the union's
commitment to become carbon neutral after 2050 — assuming he can forge
agreement from member countries.

The long-term strategy, a draft of which was released last year, impliesa stronger 2030 target but doesn't set one. That might make it less likely that key countries like China will bring new NDCs to Guterres' summit as well.

But Caspar said it might be good for Germany to see other countries
outperforming them at the secretary-general's event this year.

"There's still the view in Germany, as probably in many countries, that
'no one is leading if we are not leading,'" he said. "It will be
definitely important for us in Germany to see that the world is waiting
for us and that things are moving in other countries."

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