Revised Climate Change Act – Climate Neutrality till 2045

In response to the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling of March 24, 2021, the German government submitted a draft law on Wednesday, May 12, 2017, to adjust climate protection targets. In its sensational decision, the Federal Constitutional Court had declared various provisions of the Climate Protection Act unconstitutional.

Adjustment of climate protection targets

The draft law provides for an adjustment of the climate protection targets anchored in Section 3 of the Climate Protection Act. The existing national climate protection target for 2030 is to be increased from 55% to at least 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with the base year 1990. This increase also represents an adjustment to the new EU climate target of 55% instead of the previous 40% greenhouse gas reduction in 2030. For 2040, the German government agreed on a new national climate protection target of at least 88%. By 2045, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced to such an extent that net greenhouse gas neutrality is achieved. After 2050, negative emissions are to be achieved.

Adjustment of sector targets

The permissible annual emission levels for the sectors named in Section 4 (1) of the Climate Protection Act for the years 2023 to 2030 will also be adjusted in order to ensure that the more stringent climate protection target of at least 65% is achieved in 2030. For the years 2031 to 2040, the permissible annual emission levels are to be set by statutory order. However, this must be based on the annual reduction targets set out in the new Annex 3 to the Climate Protection Act. The statutory order shall be adopted in 2024. For the years 2041 to 2045, the German government has to submit a legislative proposal specifying the annual reduction targets in 2032 at the latest and the corresponding ordinance specifying the permissible sectoral annual emission levels in 2034.

The highest reduction targets are in the energy sector. Whereas the current provisions of Annex 2 to the Climate Protection Act still stipulate a maximum permissible annual emission volume of 175 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2030, this is reduced by around 1/3 to 108 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in the present draft legislation.

Target for the preservation and expansion of natural greenhouse gas sinks

The new Section 3a of the Climate Protection Act, which is to be introduced, also aims to strengthen the contribution of the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector to emissions reductions. This sector has an impact on climate change through greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 sequestration. Most natural ecosystems, especially natural sinks such as forests and peat lands, can sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and thus remove it from the atmosphere. In order to achieve the climate protection goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045, the continuous sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere is essential, as greenhouse gas emissions cannot be reduced to zero in all sectors with the mitigation options currently available.

Strengthening the Council of Climate Experts

In addition, the role of the Expert Council on Climate Issues will be strengthened. In future, the Council is to submit a report every two years, for the first time in 2022, on the achievement of targets to date and on trends (Section 12 (4) Climate Protection Act-E).

Further measures

The new Climate Protection Act does not contain any concrete measures on how the climate targets mentioned are to be achieved. The law thus retains its character as a framework law. However, the German government has adopted a so-called “Climate Pact Germany”, which was published as an accompanying resolution to the amendment to the Climate Protection Act. In addition to accelerating the expansion of renewable energies, it also calls for an investment pact with industry for “climate-friendly production in Germany,” especially for the transformation of traditional industries with high process emissions, such as the steel industry and the chemical industry. In addition, the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy is to be accelerated. The German government intends to present an action program on this in the next few weeks.

(14 May 2021)