Germany and the Paris Agreement on climate change

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Climate change, global warming, and the recent re-entry of the United States into the Paris Agreement are much discussed issues in our society. But what is the Paris Agreement? What is being done concretely? Our guest author analyses the German model in response to climate change in accordance with this international agreement.

Anyone reading the latest news on the subject of climate change these days, often first thinks of the consequences for the environment. But, of course, this fight is not merely environmentalist. It is strongly linked to those most basic human rights such as access to the conditions suitable for a healthy life.

The Paris Agreement

In this context, Germany, together with other countries, signed the on April 22, 2016. The Agreement’s main goal is to achieve global carbon neutrality in the second half of the century to keep global warming at bay. In this matter, the pathway for the German government is the .

The Climate Action Plan 2050

According to this plan, the long-term goal is to become largely greenhouse gas-neutral by 2050 which is in line with the Paris Agreement. The plan also sets medium-term targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Germany: they are supposed to decline by at least 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

The targets for 2030 are focused on individual sectors and the plan describes the necessary pathways for development and measures to be implemented. Moreover, it sets up a process for monitoring and self-updating along the way. The concrete areas of action for these medium-term targets are energy, buildings, transport, trade and industry, agriculture and forestry.

Restructuring the energy sector is a key aspect of the plan. The further expansion of renewable energies and the gradual phasing out of electricity from fossil fuels will reduce the energy sector's emissions by 61 to 62 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. For this process to be realistic and successful, it was necessary to work together with industries and regions affected to agree on the strategies and to create the necessary financial conditions.

The reduction target for industry was set at 49 to 51 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. The main measure for this sector involved a research and development programme aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from traditional industrial processes. The programme is the product of the German government and the industry joining forces, both guided by the target of greenhouse gas neutrality.

As buildings have a very long service life, the foundations for 2050 needed to be laid early. The goal is a reduction of 66 to 67 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. To support this goal, the main incentives will be using and constructing buildings that generate more energy than they use. Thus, installing new heating systems that use renewable energy sources efficiently is a far more attractive option than those that run on fossil fuels.

The transport sector will contribute a reduction of 40 to 42 percent (compared to 1990) to the 2030 climate target. The strategy will mainly address emissions from cars, light and heavy commercial vehicles and also the interlinking of different transport sectors. Needless to say that alternative drive systems, local public transport, rail transport, cycling, walking and a digitalisation strategy will also play a key role in the transport sector.

Agriculture will contribute a reduction of 31 to 34 percent (compared to 1990) to the 2030 target. The mitigation potential is generally limited in the agricultural sector. But the German government will work with the federal states to ensure a significant reduction in nitrous oxide emissions arising from over-fertilisation.

For land use and forestry, the focus is on maintaining and improving the forest’s capacity to act as a sink. For example, reducing emissions can be achieved through CO2 sequestration in plants and soils. Efforts will be geared towards expanding Germany's forests. Other measures include sustainable forestry management, permanent grassland conservation, protection of peatlands and the potential of natural forest development to mitigate climate change.

Taxes & Levies

As part of these overarching measures, the German government will review how the system of taxes and levies can be developed further to help achieving the 2050 climate targets. In brief, it will strengthen economic incentives which encourage polluters to reduce their environmental footprint and move towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns. The effects of any changes on low-income households and on the international competitiveness of the affected industries will also be taken into account.


The German government’s Climate Action Plan 2050 will basically be reviewed and updated every five years as laid down in the Paris Agreement. Regular updates serve to implement the mechanism set out in the Paris Agreement for progressively raising the ambition of national climate policies.

Final Thoughts

Climate change is the greatest challenge, the greatest threat of our times and awareness is our best way to combat it. Our social interest is a powerful tool that reflects directly on our politics and leads governments towards common goals, like the Climate Action Plan 2050.

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