Germany will probably miss its own climate targets in the coming two years, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said, while defending the country’s decision to exit nuclear energy.
In an interview with German weekly Zeit published Wednesday, the German Green Party co-leader also said he expects “disappointment and perhaps anger” in parts of the German population as the new government and the EU more broadly aim to transform their economies and energy supplies toward renewable energies in the coming years. He also called for more ambitious climate targets in the transport sector.
“We will probably miss our targets also for 2022, even for 2023 it will be hard enough. We are starting with a drastic backlog,” Habeck, who oversees the economy and climate ministry, told Zeit. The latest data suggests that Germany will miss its climate targets for the current year as the use of coal increased while the use of renewable energies remained almost stagnant.
A new climate protection act adopted earlier this year says Germany must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, and be climate-neutral by 2045, meaning it cannot produce more emissions than it reduces.
The acknowledgment of a likely miss of climate targets comes at an unfavorable moment for Habeck, as the new German government is locked in a dispute with a group of EU countries led by France over the question of whether nuclear power and natural gas should be included in the European Commission’s upcoming list of sustainable investments.
The German government, and particularly Habeck’s Green Party, argue that the EU should follow Germany’s example and decide to phase out nuclear energy instead of further investing in it, while French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said last month that “it would be inconceivable and irresponsible for nuclear energy not to be recognized as low-carbon energy.” The Commission said last week that a decision on the matter had been delayed to next year.
Friedrich Merz, the designated leader of Germany’s main opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), argued earlier this week in favor of France’s position, telling German media that “nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide, and that alone is why France is so much further ahead than us in CO2 avoidance.” He added that focusing solemnly on phasing out nuclear energy “won’t be enough … to secure our country’s energy supply.”
Habeck pushed back against such comments in the interview. Any politician who calls for the redevelopment of nuclear energy in Germany, he said, “would then also have to say: ‘I would like to have the nuclear waste repository in my constituency.’ As soon as someone says that, I will deal with the issue again.”
Habeck said he expects that the structural changes caused by the new government’s climate policy will lead to frustration among parts of the population.
“New jobs will be created, we are not running out of work, quite the opposite. But along with that, old jobs in coal mining, for example, will go away or change, and that can be bitter news individually or for regions,” Habeck said. “So there will also be disappointment and perhaps anger, I have no illusions about that.”
The economy minister also formulated expectations for Transport Minister Volker Wissing, who is from the liberal FDP, when it comes to more ambitious climate targets for the transport sector that could help Germany to meet its climate targets in the future.
“There are measures that are not ruled out in the coalition agreement, which will then certainly be brought in by the transport minister,” Habeck said.