Sunday, June 22, 2008

UK-German Climate Change partnership

They say a week is a long time in politics, and I seem to have been spending a fair bit of time flitting in and out of the House of Commons this last week. Wednesday brought me to a meeting with Matthias Machnig, State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, to mark the launch of the Climate Change Partnership between the German Embassy in the UK and the APPCCG (All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group). The primary aims of the Climate Change Partnership are to strengthen bilateral political engagement between the United Kingdom and Germany on climate change issues, to promote shared learning and to make joint progress on developing policies to combat the threat of climate change. And boy, do we need this! Languishing as we do at the bottom of the EU renewable energy league table, with only Malta producing less renewable energy as a percentage of total energy consumption. Germany meanwhile is light years ahead in it's adoption of renewable energy.

In one particular respect it was a delight to hear this German minister speak - no obfuscation, no fudging, no flummery. Rather, a lot of use of terms such as "it is our strongly held belief (that nuclear is not the answer)", "we do not believe in (renewable energy credits)", "it is our clearly defined policy...", "we will not accept (a system where FIT's are harmed)". All wonderfully exacting, and if he did not like a particular question, he simply did not answer it (of course the omission in itself presented it's own position - bringing to mind Urquhart's delicious line in House of Cards: 'You may very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment'). And all backed up with implemented policies. After having been at the receiving end of a fair bit of frustrating UK politico-speak on energy issues recently, this was all music to my ears. No consultations with the renewable industry (we are onto our 3rd), simply a commitment to addressing energy issues, and a swift implementation of the necessary laws. There is an overriding sense of wir benötigen es, wir tun es - we need it, so we do it.

So, this is what Germany is doing. They are:

  • goal of 40% reduction of GHG emissions in Germany by 2020;
  • package of emissions reduction policies representing a commitment of €3.3 billion;
  • 14 new laws and regulations, each designed to encourage businesses to conserve energy or expand Germany's production of renewable energy;
  • increase of 30% energy from renewables by 2020 (currently 15% - compare with UK 2%);
  • strong supporters of electricity liberalisation in Europe;
  • Germany does not believe in nuclear; committed to phasing out old nuclear plants and no new build;
  • €500 million ($736 million) in subsidies to encourage home- and building-owners to install efficient heating systems;
  • target of 10% renewable energy to be implemented in all existing housing stock, to be increased next year;
  • 2009: one of their core legislation for next year will be on rebuild standards for inefficient housing stock;
  • all newbuild must meet Passive Haus standards by 2020;
  • creation of an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), to build a coalition of countries and finance, bringing together all knowledge of renewable technologies, facilitate in research and policy advice. Germany is seeking UK government support and hope to implement such an agency at the Copenhagen conference in December 2009.
  • currently finalising it's proposals for the second Energy and Climate Package Leaders Declaration for the forthcoming G8 Summit to be held in Japan 7 - 9th July, making it clear what sort of responsibility developed and developing countries must have.

    On answering questions;
  • believes Contraction and Convergence per capita approach is best for the long-term, but not before 2050;
  • supports second generation biomass from EU; will stick to 10% by 2020 as believes it is do-able;
  • supports demonstrator CCS, with expectation of 10-12 CCS plants throughout the EU (2 German companies, RWE CCS build by 2014, and Vattenfall). New coal stations must only be built with CCS, CHP or via CDM.
  • views EU supergrid as essential, pushing for strong investment;
  • believes that Concentrated Solar Power import from MENA into the EU supergrid is compatible for the future once infrastructure has been put in place (but that any CSP importation before 2020 must be additional, not as part of meeting EU Member State targets)

    We have much we can learn from the Germans on energy policy. This looks to be a fruitful union. As my fluent-speaking Nanna used to say to me, "ya mein liebschien, es ist sehr gut."
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