Energy and climate protection

In 2011, Germany embarked on its energy transition (Energiewende) with the aim of making its energy supply clean, secure and affordable. The Climate Action Plan 2050 confirms and specifies the German government’s ambitious climate targets. Germany’s stated goal is to become largely greenhouse gas-neutral by 2050, mainly through renewables use and energy efficiency.

However, the German government’s ambitious plans have faltered. There is a looming climate gap: the German government has already distanced itself from its aim of cutting emissions by 40 per cent to 2020 compared with 1990 levels, and has set new interim sectoral targets up to 2030 in the Climate Action Plan. Major challenges exist in relation to the coal phase-out and climate change mitigation in the mobility and heat sectors, and more intensive efforts are needed in agriculture, forestry and the biomass industry, for example.

Energy and climate in Europe

These efforts also form part of Germany’s contribution to meeting Europe’s energy and climate targets. Here, the goal is to achieve at least a 40 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, at least a 32 per cent share for renewable energy and at least a 32.5 per cent increase in energy efficiency by 2030. For fulfilment of the climate goal, all the member states must reach targets for emissions that are not covered by the EU’s carbon trading scheme. However, without further action, Germany is likely to face costs running into tens of billions of euros, since the latest forecasts show that it is set to miss its target by a wide margin.

International climate action

At the Paris climate negotiations in December 2015, the international community pledged to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2˚C and to pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels. A radical transformation of our energy supply, away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies, is a key step in meeting this ambition. And yet worldwide, climate protection faces immense challenges, not least in relation to land use and land-use change. For example, tropical forests are being cleared to make way for the cultivation of palm oil and other lucrative crops, while the extraction of shale gas – a fossil fuel – through fracking poses untold risks to soils and groundwater. At the international climate talks, clear rules were negotiated on the accounting and reporting of emissions, along with policies and actions for reducing them. Distribution issues are another key focus of attention at the international climate negotiations: where can emissions be reduced most cost-effectively, which adaptation measures should be taken, what kind of transfers are feasible and necessary, and how can justice be served?

A long way to go

Back in 1980, the Oeko-Institut published an in-depth analysis, entitled The Energy Turnaround – Growth and Prosperity without Oil and Uranium, which showed that a world without nuclear power and fossil fuels is possible with no renunciation of growth and prosperity. Decades after the publication of this study, Oeko-Institut researchers are working on a range of topics to support and drive forward the necessary transition to a low-carbon society. We develop appropriate strategies and toolkits, monitor and assess policies and actions, and provide sound scientific advice for policy-makers and stakeholders.