Ambitious policy for environmentally responsible world climate

UBA study points the way to a greenhouse-gas neutral Germany

very dry soilClick to enlarge
Just one of the negative impacts of climate change: aridity
Source: CC Vision

Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced, and be reduced soon. This is the conclusion of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was published today. Emissions reductions can only be achieved with very ambitious climate protection measures that take effect quickly. However, if no reduction efforts are made over the next 10 years it will hardly be possible to ward off the negative risks of climate change. A profound technological, economic and institutional shift in our society towards a low-carbon economy is necessary. A new study by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) entitled Treibhausgasneutrales Deutschland im Jahr 2050 [Greenhouse-gas neutral Germany in 2050 ] shows how it could work. UBA’s Acting President Thomas Holzmann said, “According to everything we know, Germany could become greenhouse-gas neutral with yearly per capita emissions of one tonne CO2 equivalent by 2050 – a reduction of 95 percent compared to 1990.”

If the anthropogenic global warming is kept to under 2 degrees Celsius, the potential consequences and risks of climate change may not be avoidable, but they can be more easily controlled. A rise of even 1 degree Celsius is thought to have a critical impact, in particular for the poorest countries on earth. The sooner greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the lower the costs incurred by the possible severe changes in climate. The Working Group III contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on the topic of mitigation strategies, which was published today, confirms this scenario.

The UBA study Treibhausgasneutrales Deutschland im Jahr 2050 is an in-depth analysis of the feasibility of comprehensive and rapid emissions reduction in all relevant sectors of the economy and life in Germany as a centre of industry. Thomas Holzmann said, “We know that there must be a transformation of energy and production systems worldwide. This study shows that it is in principle possible in terms of technology, also for an industrialised country such as Germany, to become virtually greenhouse gas-neutral. We can continue to be a high-performing, energy-efficient location for business and investment in 2050.”

The energy sector – including transport – currently accounts for more than 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. In its scenario for the year 2050 the UBA banks on wind and solar energy. In contrast, there is no future for cultivated biomass. As an alternative the UBA recommends the use of biomass generated from waste and residual matter, which do not compete with food production. “In addition to the integration of renewable energy and the promotion of technological innovations, it is important in the short and medium term to create more incentives to refurbish the building stock and to limit emissions trading allowances,” said Mr Holzmann.

The UBA study is based on criteria for long-lasting, environmentally friendly and socially equitable development of the energy supply system. As a result, conflicts with other sectors of society are avoided, thus enabling implementation and dialogue with different societal groups. All the effects of energy supply must be compatible with the environment, climate and health – requirements which the long-term underground storage of carbon dioxide and coal-based and nuclear energy cannot fulfil. All services related to energy supply must become costs that are affordable and easily accessible for everyone. This means that external costs which have up to now been borne by the general public are taken into account. One well known example is the climate impacts which are not compensated by the operating costs of fossil resources. This is another reason why climate-damaging subsidies for fossil fuels must be systematically phased out in Germany and worldwide.

In addition to climate gas reduction, comprehensive climate protection measures include adaptation to climate change, whereby its risks can be reduced considerably. The Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Assessment Report, published in late March 2014, once again pointed this out. The UBA recommends pursuing ambitious mitigation goals while also adapting to the no longer avoidable changes in climate. The Federal Government and the Länder have already developed adaptation strategies and action plans, which they have begun to implement.

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