Germany

   

Environmental Policies

#12
Key Findings
With new attention being paid to the issue of climate change, Germany scores well overall (rank 12) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

After a period of complacency, a new set of measures has revitalized Germany’s climate-change policy. A new climate act introduces CO2 pricing for the traffic and housing sectors, and obliges the country to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. About 48% of energy production resulted from renewable sources in 2019.

A separate plan will phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038, with compensation provided for coal-mining regions. Nuclear power is slated to be phased out by 2022. CO2 intensity is still high by international comparison, due to industrial production.

The country performs relatively well in the areas of wastewater treatment, water resources and biodiversity, but agricultural practices remain an area of environmental concern. The new domestic climate policies have strengthened the country’s credibility as a negotiation partner in international venues.

Environment

#19

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
6
In the latest Environmental Performance Index, Germany ranks only among the second tier of “strong performers,” behind its European peers. After ranking sixth worldwide in 2014, Germany dropped to 30th place in 2016, but has since recovered to rank 13 in 2018 (EPI 2018). However, its score has continuously decreased over this time, from to 84.26 in 2014 to 78.37 in 2018 (Environmental Performance Index 2018). Behind this overall picture, the country’s performance varies substantially across the various dimensions, as noted below.

Resource use (land, water, materials, energy): Germany uses about one-third of its land for agricultural production. Intensity of production and the negative impact on biodiversity are problematic issues. The country is rich in forests, which cover about 30% of the land.

Environmental pollution (water, air, soil): The degree to which Germany’s population is exposed to fine particulate matter is clearly a problem. Wastewater treatment fulfills the highest standards, and the quality of water has continuously improved over recent years and decades. Nitrogen pollution of the soil by the agricultural sector is heavily debated, but Germany achieves a relatively good rank 14 in the Environment Performance Index in this area. The country performs best with regard to the population’s minimal levels of heavy-metal exposure.

Climate: Although the German economy’s CO2 intensity has declined, it is still high by international comparison, in part as a consequence of the still relatively high share of GDP contributed by industrial production. The energy sector still depends to a large degree on fossil-fuel-based electricity production.

Biodiversity protection: Despite the controversy regarding the effect of agricultural production on biodiversity, Germany is ranked third worldwide in the Environmental Performance Index for the issue of biodiversity and habitat.

Climate protection become a leading topic in the German public in 2019 as a partial consequence of the younger generation’s frequent and massive demonstrations on the issue (e.g., the “Fridays for Future” movement). The climate issue has replaced the migration issue as the public’s top policy concern. The government has reacted to this mounting pressure in part by abandoning its complacency over the threatened failure to reach its own emissions-reduction targets. Two events in 2019 illustrated this change of course toward a much more ambitious climate policy.

First, in January, the Coal Commission presented its comprehensive roadmap for the phase-out of coal-fired power generation in Germany by 2038, which includes generous financial compensation for the coal-mining regions affected. The government has declared its intention to follow the commission’s recommendations.

Second, both parliamentary chambers, after intense discussions and the adoption of significant amendments, accepted the government’s climate package, originally presented in a draft version in September. The package includes one crucial innovation: the introduction of a CO2 price for traffic and housing, and hence for sectors that do not currently take part in the EU’s Emission Trading System and its pricing mechanism for CO2 emissions. From 2021 onward, CO2 emissions associated with traffic and house heating will carry a price tag. As part of the agreement, the initially proposed starting CO2 price of €10 per ton was raised to €25. That price is envisaged to rise even further to €55 by 2025. The climate package includes a variety of further measures, such as a VAT reduction for railroad services, financial support for a faster buildup of electric-automobile infrastructure, and subsidies for more environmentally friendly heating systems. Under its new climate-protection act, Germany is now obliged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 as compared to 1990 levels. An independent expert commission will annually review the reduction path. Federal ministries are responsible for ensuring that emissions within their portfolio areas are in line with the legal provisions.

Nevertheless, substantial challenges remain. It is not certain whether the phase-out of fossil-fuel-based energy production in combination with the shutdown of the last nuclear-power plants by 2022 is in fact consistent with ensuring a safe and uninterrupted power supply. Germany has seen a consistent increase in the share of power produced from renewable energy sources. Whereas in 2015, only 33% of energy production originated from renewable energy sources, this share had risen to 38.6% in 2017, about 41% in August 2018 and 47.7% by the middle of 2019 (Fraunhofer Institut 2018). As a key component of the energy policy, the government committed in its coalition agreement to increase the share of renewable energy in electricity consumption to at least 65% by 2035. However, given substantial local resistance to windmill construction and a decline in new investment, it is questionable whether these targets are in reach.

Despite these open questions, Germany has demonstrated a new ambition in climate policy, and has set a course toward the implementation of a far-reaching CO2 price mechanism with a significant starting price in 2021. Through this approach, Germany has once again joined the club of countries with ambitious climate plans.

Citations:
Environmental Performance Index 2014: https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/epi-topline

Environmental Performance Index 2019: https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/epi-topline

Fraunhofer Institut (2019): Stromerzeugung in Deutschland im ersten Halbjahr 2019:
https://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/de/presse-und-medien/news/2019/solar-und-windenergieanlagen-erzeugen-im-ersten-halbjahr-2019-mehr-strom-als-kohlekraftwerke.html

Bundesregierung 2019:
https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/klimaschutz/kimaschutzgesetz-beschlossen-1679886

Global Environmental Protection

#9

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, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced 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 contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
7
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 EU on 5 October 2016 and came into force on 4 November 2016 (European Commission 2016). Germany also ratified the Paris Agreement. The Bundesrat agreed to do so in September 2016, after the Bundestag gave its unanimous approval. However, detailed measures for the implementation of the ambitious climate objectives were not part of the Paris Agreement.

In November 2017, the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23) was hosted in Bonn, Germany. This was shortly after the German general elections on 24 September 2017, and the new government had not yet taken office. As a consequence, the new government was not able to present a detailed environmental policy. Surprisingly, Chancellor Angela Merkel subsequently opposed the new EU climate objectives that were announced in August 2018 by EU Commissioner for Climate Change Miguel Arias Canete. In the November 2018 Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, Germany made a €70 million contribution to the Adaptation Fund. Smaller pledges made by France, Sweden, Italy and the EU raised the total to $129 million – an annual record for the fund. In addition, Germany contributed €1.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund – double its 2014 contribution (UN 2019).

With increasing signs that Germany would not fulfill its own emissions-reduction targets, the country’s credibility in climate negotiations has suffered in recent years. The turn toward a more ambitious climate policy in 2019, with the legislated implementation of a CO2 price that includes traffic and housing, as well as a legal obligation to fulfill the reduction commitment (for details see “Environment”), has now strengthened Germany’s position as a credible negotiation partner.

Citations:
United Nations (UN) 2019:
https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/cop24.shtml

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

European Commission (2016): Paris Agreement.
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