Germany unveils $60 billion climate package

  • >>Melissa Eddy, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-09-21 11:12:00 BdST

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during the budget debate in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament in Berlin, Germany September 11, 2019. REUTERS

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government agreed Friday to support a $60 billion package of climate policies aimed at getting Germany back on track to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Opposition politicians and experts on climate science quickly condemned the package as lacking the ambition needed to restore the country’s status as an international leader in efforts to battle climate change.

Once a front-runner in climate action and a champion of an energy-transformation project aimed at weaning its energy sector from depending on fossil fuels, Germany has scaled back its ambitions in recent years. The government has said it will fail to reach its 2020 target to reduce emissions by 40% of 1990s levels.

The proposed measures — which include a scheme to charge industrial polluters for carbon emissions and a raft of incentives — had been discussed for weeks, and Merkel’s conservatives and their junior partners, the center-left Social Democrats, took more than 18 hours to reach the agreement.

As the leaders deliberated, tens of thousands of schoolchildren and their parents packed the streets of Berlin, the capital, and more than 500 cities across the country as part of global climate protests. The German demonstrators demanded that Merkel, who early in her tenure was known as the “climate chancellor,” take more concrete, ambitious action to reduce the country’s climate footprint.

Under the terms of the new package, Germany will work to reduce carbon emissions by 55% of 1990 levels by 2030.

A cornerstone of the agreement is to begin charging in 2021 for carbon emissions that are generated by transportation and heating fuels.

Companies in the transportation industry will be required to buy certificates for 10 euros (about $11) per ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The price will increase to 35 euros per ton by 2025, and a free-market exchange will open afterward, allowing the polluters to auction their carbon pollution permits. Consumers will likely face higher gas prices that the government will offset by raising tax breaks for commuters.

Another measure is establishing a panel that will regularly review the government’s progress toward reaching its climate goals, to adjust the plan along the way and keep the country on track.

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