Issue: January 2020, The 2020 emissions gap – What are the next targets?


Leading the way on climate action

Editorial by Jan Peter Schemmel, CEO, Oeko-Institut

Climate change is a headline topic at last – in the media, in politics, in public debate. More and more people are aware that now is the time for bold and urgent action. This awareness is partly the result of the tireless protests by the Fridays for Future movement, but the impacts of global warming, including here in Germany, are also becoming more difficult to ignore.

What might this action look like? It’s a question which has sparked a great deal of debate. How high should carbon pricing go? What can be done to increase the refurbishment rate in the building sector? Which transport sector measures are most effective? How can nitrogen emissions from agriculture be reduced? There is considerable controversy over many of these issues – and rightly so, for in my view, the arguments demonstrate that climate action is relevant to all areas of life and to the whole of society. They show that this is, and must be, about modernisation on an ambitious scale.

So I have joined the Oeko-Institut as its new CEO at an exciting time. Before I took up this new role in October 2019, climate issues were a big part of my working life for many years at the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. When travelling abroad, I often observed how important it is for other countries to see Germany leading the way on tackling climate change. Many local partners are inspired and motivated to see a major industrial nation taking on the challenge of building a sustainable energy future, managing resources more efficiently and thus promoting innovation and economic growth, yet not losing sight of social justice.

However, our position at the top of the climate action leaderboard that we held for so long is slipping – and other countries are starting to notice. Germany is about to miss its 2020 climate targets – and our credibility is at stake. If we are to continue to inspire and motivate other countries, Germany must step up and resume its lead role in protecting the climate. It must take bold action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and be sure of reaching its 2030 climate targets, at least. With that aim in mind, we must genuinely and constructively engage in the current debate by focusing on the strategies that are most effective and by working together to find solutions that everyone can then support and implement – no matter how contradictory our starting positions might seem to be. The Oeko-Institut can make vital contributions here: with our studies and analyses, we are showing that effective strategies enable us to make good progress on protecting the climate.

In that spirit, I am delighted to be have this opportunity to support global climate action at the German and European levels to a greater extent in future, and I look forward to many insightful and inspiring conversations and discussions with you about viable and appropriate strategies and policy measures.


Jan Peter Schemmel
CEO, Oeko-Institut

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