Germany Raises Bar With Net-Zero By 2045 Target After Court Ruling Underlines ‘Huge Burden On Young People’

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Germany has proposed a more ambitious climate goal, cutting the original deadline five years short to reach net-zero emissions by 2045. It comes after the country’s top court decided the existing plan continues to place huge burdens on young people and future generations to grapple with the climate crisis. 

German officials have set a new deadline to reach net-zero emissions on Wednesday (May 5), bringing the target five years earlier to 2045. Under the new proposal, outlined by environment minister Svenja Schulze and finance minister Olaf Scholz, the country will need to bring its emissions down from its original target of 55% to 65% below 1990 levels by 2030

By 2040, Germany will need to slash its emissions by 88%, under the more ambitious climate timetable. Although details remain scant about how these cuts will be achieved, the government did mention that the pension funds of federal civil servants in the future will only invest in stocks aligned with Paris agreement goals. 

Ministers also said that Germany will need to speed up its plan to phase out coal-fired power plants, far sooner than its existing date of 2038, among a range of other climate-friendly policies. 

Germany will have to speed up its phasing out of coal. (Source: NYT)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet will need to approve the proposal before it is implemented, with a spokesperson revealing that the government does agree on the main set of targets outlined. 

“The common goal is a revised draft law if possible as soon as next week’s Cabinet meeting,” said Germany’s government spokesperson Steffen Seibert in a conference with reporters in Berlin. 

The more ambitious target came shortly after the country’s highest court ruled on April 29 that the existing climate plan would place too much stress on younger generations to tackle climate change, putting their rights and freedoms at risk. 

Describing the previous 2050 target as “irreversibly push[ing] a very high burden of emissions reduction into the period after 2030,” Constitutional Court judges said that the overall Paris accord goal of keeping global heating ideally to below 1.5 degrees Celsius should serve as a baseline benchmark.

The ruling ordered the government to conjure up a new plan and set bolder targets from 2030 onward by the end of next year, but the government raced ahead in view of the upcoming national election in September and the gains that the Green Party have made in the polls. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Source: AP)

“That is the only way to safeguard the rights of the younger generation,” said Greenpeace climate expert Lisa Goeldner. “There is no way around an accelerated phase-out of coal by 2030, an end to new registrations of cars with combustion engines by 2025 and a faster abolition of factory farming.”

Intensive animal agriculture is a major driver of greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, a Greenpeace study found that the livestock industry in the E.U. contributes “more emissions than cars and vans combined” within the bloc. 

In the wake of the pandemic, which has exposed the vulnerabilities in the animal supply chain and its associated health risks of emerging diseases and antibiotic resistance, German consumers have been shifting en masse to more sustainable plant-based diets. 

Latest research from the E.U.-funded Smart Protein Project highlighted that the German plant-based market recorded some of the fastest growth in the bloc, with the vegan meat category growing an astonishing 226% in the last two years. Other studies conducted in the midst of Covid-19 found that German consumers identifying as full-time meat-eaters are now a minority in the country

Germany’s new proposal comes after the U.S. also stepped up its climate plan, with the Biden administration announcing a doubling of its emissions cuts by 2030. Biden’s commitment is twice as ambitious as the goals the Obama administration laid out, and represents the most aggressive target to emerge in the U.S. to address the climate emergency. 


Lead image courtesy of Getty Images.


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