The German energy transition has long been seen as one of the world’s most ambitious and effective undertakings in the fight against climate change, and the country has widely been praised as a climate leader.
And Germany has indeed achieved significant progress: public and private investments in renewables have helped drive down costs of clean technologies and the share of renewables in the country’s electricity mix has quickly grown to over 40%.
Recently, however, German climate policy has been subject to international criticism. Former US vice-president Al Gore has warned Germany risks being “left behind” as other countries outpace the former energy transition leader.
He is right. Germany will fall far short of its 2020 emission reduction targets and it is unclear how the country will reach its goals for 2030. The large share of dirty lignite coal in the country’s electricity mix, coupled with continuously high emissions from agriculture and transport, make it impossible for Germany to meet its national and international climate obligations.
If Germany is to honour its obligations, a timely coal phaseout is a crucial step. A recent analysis by WWF showed that, given the goals of the Paris Agreement, the remaining German emission budget for the energy sector alone would be completely used up if all currently available lignite reserves were burned.
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