Germany Becomes the New Poster Child for Climate Change Hypocrisy

COMMENTARY Energy Economics

Germany Becomes the New Poster Child for Climate Change Hypocrisy

Jan 11th, 2018 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Nicolas Loris

Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy

Nick is an economist who focuses on energy, environmental, and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow.
A leaked document from Germany's Environmental Ministry projected the country will miss its carbon emissions goal under the Paris climate accords by 8% without additional action. iStock

Climate hypocrisy is nothing new.

Celebrities cruise around the world in their private jets, eating filet mignon while telling you to pack a salad and bike to work to reduce your carbon footprint.

So, color me not at all surprised that Germany, a vocal critic of the U.S.’ decision to exit the Paris climate accord, is preparing to abandon its 2020 climate targets.

Strong economic growth is a critical reason why Germany is very likely to miss its target.

Germany has an aggressive plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2020. Last November, a leaked document from the country’s Environmental Ministry projected the country would miss the mark by 8 percent without additional action.

In other words, even with generous subsidies for renewable power, the Germans would have to implement some form of economy-restricting policy to curtail emissions. So much for the “go green and grow the economy” mantra.

The Environmental Ministry said the failure would be “a disaster for Germany’s international reputation as a climate leader.” One would think a stronger economy would be cause for celebration, not demonization.

Germany’s abandoned 2020 targets are the latest domino to fall in what is failed international climate policy. Many proponents of action argue that even though the Paris climate accord is nonbinding, with no repercussions when a country fails to comply with its nationally determined contributions, the agreement was an important first step.

The parties that have entered into the Paris accord sure have a funny way of showing they’re committed to it.

Despite bashing the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, all of the industrialized countries are not on schedule to meet their respective targets. Germany is not alone in the European Union.

An article published last summer on Nature.com argues that the EU “faces a big gap between words and actions.”

Even if the United States and the rest of the developed world meet their intended targets, it wouldn’t make any meaningful impact on global temperatures. Carbon dioxide reductions from the developing world, many of whose people are still living without dependable power, are necessary to move the climate needle.

However, developing nations set targets so lax that they likely won’t change any behaviors. Paris proponents can brag all they want about China taking the lead in solar power, but turn a blind eye to the massive amounts of new coal power generation moving forward in China, India, and the rest of the developing—and, in some cases, developed—world.

The Financial Times recently reported, “Between January 2014 and September 2017, international banks channeled $630 [billion] to the top 120 companies planning to build new coal plants around the world, according to research by campaign groups, including the Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, and Friends of the Earth.”

And yet, those who want stringent climate mitigation say the Paris targets are only approximately one-third of what is needed to allegedly keep global warming in check.

Paying attention to what you perceive as positive action on climate (e.g., Paris, subsidizing renewables) while ignoring the realities of new coal build, retiring nuclear power plants, and global economic growth around the world is a curious strategy.

“Do as I say, but don’t pay attention to what I actually do” is the trademark of climate change policy. The Trump administration took a different approach and told it like it is: Paris is a costly, meaningless non-solution.

The reason countries such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea have entered into the accord is not an indication of global commitment to act on climate. It is an indication of how toothless and meaningless the agreement is.

The rest of the world can act high and mighty on climate, but when the rubber meets the road for action, it’s a different story.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal