Economy Beats Greens in German Emissions Compromise

by William Yeatman on March 30, 2004

in Kyoto Negotiations, Politics

Several members of the European Union are having a hard time complying with the EU Commissions deadline for filing their detailed plans for meeting Europes Kyoto targets. The German government was rocked by open political warfare between the governments Socialist Party Economics Minister, Wolfgang Clement, and its Green Party Environment Minister, Juergen Tritten, until Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder personally intervened on the side of Clement.

Tritten had proposed emissions reductions from the current level of 505 million metric tons per annum to 488 million tons in 2005-2007 and to 480 million tons in 2008-2012. Clement, a key figure in Schroeders unpopular but necessary economic reforms, had objected strongly to these targets, saying, “Growth isn’t possible that way. I can’t support that as Economy Minister” (Reuters, Mar. 26). Schroeder decided on minimal cuts in the near future, with a target of 503 million tones in 2005-2007, followed by a deeper cut to 495 million tons in 2008-2012 (AP, Mar. 30).

The powerful German environmental movement reacted furiously to the news. Greenpeace energy policy expert Sven Teske told the German news wire DPA (Mar. 30) that the agreement “has nothing more in common” with the Greens’ policies.

“With this compromise, Red-Green [the ruling SPD-Greens coalition] has bowed out from climate protection,” Teske said. DPA concluded, “Clement, by rigidly defending industry’s interests, had cast a dark taint on the credibility of German climate policy, the Greenpeace expert charged.”

The argument seems to have affected Herr Schroeders attitudes towards energy suppression agreements like Kyoto. On March 26, he publicly questioned whether the EU should go ahead with its plans to implement Kyoto targets in the absence of Russian ratification. Reuters reported (Mar. 26) that he told a news conference, “We hope that Kyoto will be ratified, for example by Russia. But if that doesn’t happen, it will distort competition at the expense of European and especially German economy.” Reuters went on, “Without giving a direct answer, he asked: What happens with the emissions trading system if Kyoto is not ratified?”

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