Germany

   

Environmental Policies

#3
Key Findings
As a leader in the renewable-energy sector, Germany falls into the top ranks (rank 3) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The country has launched a phase-out of nuclear power, but has balked at imposing a carbon tax to reduce the growing use of emissions-intensive coal. Instead, subsidies and public investment will promote energy efficiencies.

The country is a pioneer in wind- and solar-power technologies, as well as in energy-efficient infrastructure. However, despite considerable reductions through 2014, CO2 emissions have risen slightly in recent years, and renewables accounted for only 14.6% of primary power supply in 2016.

A goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 appears unrealistic.

Germany is an active participant in shaping international climate policy, and helped set the stage for the Paris climate agreement with its 2015 G7 presidency. The country hosted the 2017 UN climate Change Conference, and announced its ratification of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.

Environment

#8

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
8
In the latest Environmental Performance Index, Germany places only among the second tier of “strong performers,” ranking behind its European peers. After ranking sixth worldwide in 2015, Germany now is ranked 30th in the world, trailing behind front-runner Finland by roughly 6.4 points (90.68, EPI 2016: 18). However, Germany improved its score from 80.47 to 84.26 (Environmental Performance Index 2016: 111). The authors note that in absolute numbers Germany improved considerably, exhibiting “historically good environmental records” (Environmental Performance Index 2016: 111). Germany performs well in the areas of water resources, sanitation, biodiversity, climate and energy. The reason for the huge ordinal drop in rank (other countries dropped significantly as well, Switzerland from rank 1 to 16) are mainly due to improvements in the methodology of the index (e.g., new indicators). In the case of Germany, “more robust and telling air quality measures” (111) led to a reassessment of Germany’s air quality. Current government policies geared toward forests and fisheries likewise leave ample room for improvement.

The greatest environmental policy challenge remains adequately responding to the 2011 government decision to phase out nuclear energy by 2022. The coalition decided that the financial responsibility for the demolition of nuclear plants and resulting atomic waste would remain fully with plant operators. How this decision will influence energy prices remains an open question, but it will very likely place further burdens on consumers. With regard to alternative forms of energy production, Germany is comparatively well prepared. The country has become an investor friendly destination for renewable energy, offshore wind farms, cogeneration, and the energy efficient redevelopment of buildings and other infrastructure. Nonetheless in 2016 renewable energy accounted for only 14.6% of the primary energy supply (Umweltbundesamt 2017), which means Germany ranks among the lower half of the OECD countries (OECD 2017). As a key component of the energy system transition, the government seeks to increase the share of renewable energy in electricity consumption to at least 40% by 2025 and 55% by 2035 (provisional data for 2016: 32.7%; Umweltbundesamt 2017). Thus, major challenges remain regarding how to organize and finance the demolition of nuclear plants and storage of wastes, expand the electric grid to supply renewable energy, and harmonize the phase out of nuclear energy while also reducing CO2 emissions.

All three challenges received attention in the current review period. The renaissance of lignite use after the shutdown of the first nuclear plants endangers the goal of successfully reducing CO2 emissions. In fact, according to estimates by AG Energiebilanzen, German CO2 emissions rose in 2015 despite an increase of renewable energy production (Cleanenergywire 2016) putting even more pressure on the government’s ambitious CO2 emission targets.

Instead of a carbon tax, proposed by Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel, public investments and subsidies will be allocated for energy efficiency. To accommodate concerns from citizens groups in southern Germany, the building of new high-voltage transmission lines will be avoided or installed underground. This compromise implies additional costs of roughly €10 billion, which are to be covered by taxpayers. In particular with regard to the projected costs of underground power cables, one can expect public estimates to be overoptimistic. In September 2016, Bavaria’s energy minister, Ilse Aigner, stated investment costs of approximately €6 billion. In reply, Lex Hartman, CEO of Tennet, an electricity company involved in the construction, estimated construction costs to be €15 billion.

In 2016, Germany also took steps to reform the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), which took effect in 2017. The reform introduces market-based elements to support renewable energy investments and institutes an auction system that aims at keeping the annual capacity added into the grid steady. This new system replaces feed-in-tariffs that led to an uncontrolled, rapid rise in renewable energy sources which can no longer be accommodated by the energy grid’s infrastructure.

Citations:
Environmental Performance Index 2014: http://epi.yale.edu/files/2014_epi_report.pdf

Environmental Performance Index 2016: http://epi.yale.edu/sites/default/files/2016EPI_Full_Report_opt.pdf

Energy mix:
https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/german-co2-emissions-rise-2015-despite-renewables-surge

Power cables:
http://www.br.de/nachrichten/tennet-gleichstromleitung-kosten-100~_page-3_-c0952f36551827d5d4e31304bf17075108eca8d1.html

EEG Novelle:
https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/eeg-reform-2016-switching-auctions-renewables
https://www.bmwi.de/BMWi/Redaktion/PDF/G/gesetzentwurf-ausschreibungen-erneuerbare-energien-aenderungen-eeg-2016,property=pdf,bereich=bmwi2012,sprache=de,rwb=true.pdf

http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/energiewende-barbara-hendricks-kritisiert-sigmar-gabriels-energie-kompromiss/12006466.html

OECD (2017), Renewable energy (indicator). doi: 10.1787/aac7c3f1-en (Accessed on 24 November 2017)

Umweltbundesamt 2017:
https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/indikator-erneuerbare-energien#textpart-1

Global Environmental Protection

#2

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
9
Germany is a driving force in international climate policy, in the development of renewable energies, and in efforts to improve energy and resource efficiency. The German government actively promotes strategies fostering environment- and climate-friendly development. The G7 summit held in June 2015 achieved remarkable progress toward an international agreement for global climate protection. Germany, using its presidency of the G7, was able to ensure that climate policy had the highest priority during the summit, setting the stage for the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement committed to a maximum rise in average global temperatures of “well below 2 degrees.” The Agreement is a breakthrough because, for the first time, nations have to define their contributions to fighting climate change (Germany: 2.56%). The Paris Agreement was formally ratified by the European Union on 5 October 2016 and put into force 4 November 2016 (European Commission 2016). Germany also ratified the Paris Agreement. The Bundesrat agreed to it in September 2016 after the Bundestag unanimously approved it. In November 2017, the U.N. Climate Change Conference was hosted by Germany. Although no policies were adopted, Germany announced its ratification of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (BMUB 2017).

In 2014, Germany had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by almost 27% in comparison to 1990 and is committed to a reduction of 40% by 2020. Due to strong economic growth, and the continuously high use of coal and lignite as a consequence of the exit from nuclear energy, the 40% target appears increasingly unrealistic. Data prognosed a 0.4% raise for 2016 in comparison to 2015 due to a cold winter and an increased in transported goods (Umweltbundesamt 2017). Nevertheless, the country has achieved high economic performance levels with relatively modest energy consumption by international standards.

Citations:
Leadersʼ Declaration G7 Summit, (7– 8 June 2015): https://www.g7germany.de/Content/DE/_Anlagen/G8_G20/2015-06-08-g7-abschluss-eng.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=6

Umweltbundesamt (2017): https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/daten/klima/treibhausgas-emissionen-in-deutschland#textpart-1

Greenpeace (2015): https://www.greenpeace.de/presse/presseerklaerungen/kommentar-zu-den-g7-beschluessen-zum-klimaschutz

Statista (2016): Höhe der Treibhausgas-Emissionen in Deutschland in den Jahren 1990 bis 2015. Internet source:
https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/76558/umfrage/entwicklung-der-treibhausgas-emissionen-in-deutschland/

European Commission (2016): Paris Agreement. Online source:
http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris/index_en.htm

BMUB 2017: https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/daten/klima/treibhausgas-emissionen-in-deutschland#textpart-1
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