The transition to a green economy is the general motto of the new German tripartite coalition, led by the Social Democrats, which will take the helm next week. The revolutionary plan, coming soon after the Glasgow Climate Summit, was a concrete embodiment of the summit’s conclusions. Such a commitment, coming from Europe’s largest economy, will have global repercussions.
The agreement reflects the growing influence of the Green Party, and of the younger generation in general, on German politics. It also shows a drastic shift in people’s views on the climate, affecting all major parties. The coalition’s environment and climate plan is essentially based on the policy of the outgoing Christian Democrats of Angela Merkel.
While many feared a rollback in the environmental and climate commitments that characterized the Merkel era, the new alliance reinforced those commitments, with an explicit popular mandate. It is clear that with the decline in popularity of extremist parties, on the left as well as on the right, an understanding between the parties was forged, based on moderate values, striving to strike a delicate balance between the demands of development and environmental controls. After winning the most seats, the Social Democrats have formed a coalition with the Greens, who put the environment at the forefront of their agenda, and the Free Democrats, who prioritize economic growth. Social Democrats are seen as the common denominator that balances the alliance.
The program of the new German government reveals significant indicators that other countries, in Europe and the rest of the world, should pay attention to, due to their anticipated repercussions on European and international policies. Calling the government’s green economy transition program was not in vain, as it relied instead on plans with numbers and a timeline. When it comes from a country like Germany, the world should listen carefully.
The German coalition is committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2045, which means reaching zero carbon emissions five years earlier than most developed countries. To implement its commitment, the coalition pledged to take a set of concrete measures, including the phasing out of coal use by 2030, 8 years ahead of schedule. It has also pledged to produce 80% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This is why 2% of total German land will be allocated to wind farms, in addition to making the installation of Photovoltaic solar panels on the roofs of all public and private buildings, whether government, residential, commercial or industrial, as a condition of licensing. Additionally, the plan includes measures to rationalize consumption and reduce waste, as well as to improve reuse and recycling, in an effort to achieve near-zero waste, essentially adopting a circular economy. The plan also included ambitious programs for the protection and development of nature.
The plan sets a specific target of having 15 million electric cars on German roads by 2030, in line with the EU’s decision to stop the manufacture and sale of cars that run on internal combustion engines. by 2035. This goal will certainly send strong signals to automakers and users. in Europe and around the world, coming from a leading country in automotive technology and manufacturing. This means that automakers and policymakers in other countries will take the issue seriously and recognize that internal combustion engines will soon be a thing of the past. Electric car prices are set to drop drastically as German companies enter into serious competition.
One note, however, is that the compromise required succumbing to demands by the Free Democrats to keep German highways free of speed limits, a rare situation shared only by the Isle of Man. While this reflects an ingrained pride Germans have in their brands of fast cars, it defies concerns about climate change, as emissions increase exponentially with higher speeds.
To underline the importance of the German proposals, the new coalition has allocated large budgets to produce hydrogen, mainly for use as an alternative to natural gas in heating, as well as in the transport sector and to generate electricity. electricity. The plan called for the production of hydrogen from water, using electricity produced by the sun and wind, to store and transmit energy, at the same time. Hydrogen can also be used as a fuel for vehicles, which can be easily refilled from modified pumps at gas stations. Hydrogen is also considered the main alternative fuel for maritime and air transport. One indication that Europe is turning serious to hydrogen is a successful pilot project implemented by the Dutch University of Delft over the past two years, to pump hydrogen through the same networks as those used to distribute natural gas to end users. Manufacturers of gas boilers are also expected to soon bring affordable aftermarket parts to the market to modify old gas burners to run on hydrogen.
The Germans presented a plan with specific targets supplemented by an implementation schedule. This will become an example and put pressure on other developed countries in the post-Glasgow era. In turn, developing countries must prepare to enter the new era, developing their own capacities and embracing the principles of good governance on the one hand, while seeking to attract more sustainable investments and foreign aid on the other hand.
While some expected the new government coalition to reconsider the decision to halt construction of new nuclear reactors and phase out existing reactors, the decision was clear by choosing renewables, hydrogen and efficiency. strengthened as a way to achieve Germany’s zero emission goal. On the other hand, some countries, such as France, have chosen nuclear energy for power generation as the fastest option to achieve a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, depending on the capabilities and priorities of the government. country.
Can the German coalition government ensure continued support for its environmental and climate policies? Partners undoubtedly understand the challenge and realize that investing in the future alone is not enough if policy makers ignore investing in people’s present. Therefore, the government must maintain a delicate balance, which will not be easy to secure with the continued challenges posed by the coronavirus, on the economy and on society in general.
The coalition seems to be aware of this since it has included in its plan the lowering of the voting age to 16, as demanded by the Green Party. This places Germany among a handful of countries in the world that grant the right to vote to such young people. In most countries, the voting age is 18, and few have set it at 21, apparently out of fear of younger voices. Will this group of young voters, more concerned with protecting the environment and more concerned about the dangers of climate change, be the future defenders and protectors of German green policies?