Germany aims for net zero emissions by 2045, 5 years earlier

BERLIN (AP) — German officials proposed Wednesday that the country could bring forward the date for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” to 2045, after Germany’s top court ruled that existing plans place too much of the burden for curbing climate change on young people.

Under the proposal announced by Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the country would increase its emissions reduction targets from 55% to 65% below 1990 levels by 2030, and to 88% by 2040.

The timetable would enable Germany to stop adding further planet-warming gases to the atmosphere five years earlier than the previous target of 2050, officials said.

The proposed targets so far include few details on how the emission cuts would be achieved, though in a separate announcement the government said Wednesday that the pension funds of federal civil servants will in future invest only in stocks that are in line with the Paris accord’s goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).

Experts maintain that to speed up the process of cutting emissions, Germany would have to phase out coal-fired power plants sooner than the planned date of 2038, among other measures.

The plan must be approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet. Her spokesman said ministers in the three-party government agree on the higher target of 65% cuts by 2030 and ending net emissions by 2045.

“The common goal is a revised draft law if possible as soon as next week’s Cabinet meeting,” Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin.

The government was forced to rework its plans after Germany’s highest court ruled last week that existing legislation risks unduly limiting the rights of young people compared to older generations.

Germany’s climate law, passed two years ago, set specific targets for sectors such as heating and transportation to reach a 55% reduction by 2030, but not for the long-term goal of cutting emissions to net-zero by 2050.

The 2019 regulations “irreversibly pushed a very high burden of emissions reduction into the period after 2030,” Constitutional Court judges said in an April 29 ruling.

The court backed the argument that the 2015 Paris climate accord’s goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 C, by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times, should be a benchmark for policymakers. It ordered the government to come up with new targets from 2030 onward by the end of next year, but with a national election due in September and climate a major concern among voters officials said they wanted to act swiftly.

The proposal comes two weeks after President Joe Biden announced a doubling of U.S. emissions cuts by 2030, to 52% below 2005 levels.

Greenpeace welcomed the proposal to speed up Germany’s emissions cuts, but said the target should be at least 70% by 2030.

“That is the only way to safeguard the rights of the younger generation,” said the environment group’s 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.”

Germany hosts an annual climate meeting this week, bringing together governments from more than 40 countries to discuss international efforts to curb global warming ahead of a U.N. summit on the issue in November.

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