What is the German government doing for the climate?

Climate policy, the energy shift and mobility What is the German government doing for the climate?

Germany has already achieved a great deal in terms of climate change mitigation. In 2018 renewable energy, generated from wind and solar power, accounted for almost 40 per cent of all electricity. But that is not enough for Germany – the government is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, and is embracing a whole range of measures in the fields of climate policy. Coal-fired power stations are to become a thing of the past and mobility is to be restructured. Here is an overview.

Solar and wind power

Solar and wind power - Germany is expanding the use of renewables and ending the use of coal to generate power

Photo: Paul Langrock/Zenit/laif

The status quo and the government’s goals

Since 1990, Germany has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent. That is a good start, but it still means that we are not going to meet the climate targets we set ourselves for 2020. We are not going to manage to cut emissions by 40 per cent, as originally planned. The German government’s 2018 climate action report (Klimaschutzbericht 2018) indicates that results will fall about 8 per cent short of the target. The reasons can be seen mainly in the increase in emissions in the traffic and transport sector and in buildings. And that is why we have set ourselves the following specific goals:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions: Move closer to the 40 per cent target by 2020 and cut emissions by 55 per cent by 2030.
  • End the use of coal to generate power.
  • Restructure mobility.

Achievements to date

… in terms of climate policy

  • To protect the climate, Germany is focusing on ending the use of coal and oil and stepping up the use of renewable energy – we call this the energy shift. In 2018, almost 40 per cent of Germany’s power was already generated from renewables like wind and solar power - thanks to a wide range of state incentives and support. The electricity grids are being expanded so that green power can be used throughout the country. At last agreement has been reached between the federal states on the construction of new long-distance power lines. 
  • The Federal Environment Ministry’s National Climate Initiative (NCI) is promoting climate action projects and programmes throughout Germany. Local and federal government bodies work together to make the energy shift work. 
  • Since it was first launched ten years ago, the National Climate Initiative (NCI) has implemented more than 28,750 projects, which have attracted almost one billion euros of financial support from the federal government. This has triggered almost three times as much in total investment in climate action – 2.9 billion euros.
  • The Cabinet committee established in 2019 and chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel has elevated climate action to a top priority of the government’s work. All those responsible are collaborating on preparations for a comprehensive climate action law and a pertinent package of measures. The team is highly concentrated, excellently coordinated, and is working flat out. 

… ending the use of coal to generate power

  • To end the use of lignite, the German government put in place the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment. In January 2019 the body produced recommendations, on which the government has now agreed. In May the Cabinet adopted the cornerstones for structural change in the affected coal-producing regions. The government is to inject 40 billion euros into these regions to strengthen them. By 2038 at the latest, the use of coal is to be ended.

… restructuring mobility

  • The German government supports the introduction of electric mobility, the promotion of alternative engine technology and the expansion of local public transport and railways.
  • Under the "Immediate Action Programme for Clean Air 2017-2020" and other measures, the government is providing around 2 billion euros to particularly badly affected towns and cities. This support is being used to step up the electrification of traffic, digitalise local traffic systems and retrofit diesel buses used in local public transport.
  • In the field of electric cars, support is not focused solely on any one technology to pave the way for the most sustainable technologies. At the start of 2019, newly registered electric vehicles accounted for more than 2.5 per cent of the total for the first time ever – that translates as almost 7,000 electric cars a month. The purchase incentive scheme for electric cars has now been extended until the end of 2020, which is increasingly boosting demand. 
  • To achieve the sector target by 2030, the government has mandated the National Platform Future of Mobility (NPM) to produce a set of recommendations. The goal is to radically restructure the traffic and transport sector, producing a response to climate change, while underpinning economic competitiveness and social participation. 

And this is what we will be doing next

… in terms of climate policy

  • In the coalition agreement the German government undertook to produce a package of measures for climate change mitigation. The package is to embrace measures across all sectors, particularly buildings, traffic and transport and agriculture. This is to ensure that the climate targets for 2030 will definitely be met. The concept of putting a price on CO2 emissions is also being considered.
  • The Cabinet committee is to finalise its decisions by the end of September. The specific goal of the German government is for the Cabinet to adopt a new climate action act by the end of 2019.

... ending the use of coal

  • As well as further expanding the use of renewables, we will be ending the use of coal-fired power stations. Hard coal mining is already history; efforts now focus on ending the use of lignite. Two acts of parliament are to regulate this:
    1. Work is currently ongoing to produce a structural support bill. Part of this will be the new "investment act for coal-producing regions", which is to regulate the extensive financial aid. Investment is to total up to 14 billion euros by 2038. The federal states will make their own financial contribution as laid out in the German Basic Law or constitution.
    2. There is also to be a bill based on the energy-policy recommendations of the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment. 
  • As well as direct financial assistance for the federal states, central government will support additional measures in the lignite-producing areas within its sphere of responsibility. Projects comprise activities to develop the infrastructure for rail and road traffic and to attract and reinforce research facilities, as well as measures to step up planning, and the wide-ranging extension of promotion programmes and energy-policy support activities. The German government will invest up to 26 billion euros by 2038.

... restructuring mobility

  • We are confident that extending until 2030 the provision halving the flat-rate tax payable for electric company vehicles will have an impact. 
  • Special depreciation of 50 per cent is to apply to commercially used electric vehicles purchased between 2020 and 2030.
  • We are working to put in place a nationwide charging and pump infrastructure. Our goal is to ensure that at least another 100,000 charging points for electric vehicles are available by 2020. 
  • We want to ensure that manufacturers can produce electric vehicles on attractive terms. That is why we are encouraging the establishment of battery cell production in Germany.