Germany’s Climate Action Plans Set Ambitious Goals but Often Lack Specific Implementation Measures

Germany’s Climate Action Plans Set Ambitious Goals but Often Lack Specific Implementation Measures

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Germany Country Manager Zahi Badra

Germany has detailed action plans published in recent years, paving the path to achieve its reduction goals of 55% (recently updated to 65%) by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050 (recently updated to 2045). These plans contain a package of measures covering almost all fields of life – energy production and consumption, transportation, construction, and industrial activity. The goals were adapted recently after a dramatic ruling of the constitutional court, stating that the current plan violates the freedom of future generations, compelling the federal government to amend the goals and to add more specific detail on the measures and their implementation, especially when considering the time frame of after 2030.

This dramatic ruling confirms the long existing criticism on Germany’s climate action plans; they set ambitious goals, but often lack specific measures. The court, as many critics before, identify that as the main hurdle in the way to achieve the reduction targets for 2030 and 2050.

As we investigate the existing plans and the criticism on them along the years, we can identify several key examples for this lack of detail, which was also pointed out by the court:

  • The current action plan includes an additional, German carbon trading system, yet without setting a minimum price for those certificates. This was criticized by the many, including the WWF and leading German environmental economist and former co-chair of the IPCC Ottmar Edenhofer. Furthermore, since German industry participates in the EU carbon trading mechanism, business leaders criticized the lack of detail as one that would bare more costs for the industry without creating an incentive to reduce emissions.
  • Phasing out coal was postponed in the plan to a long spot in the future, in 2038. Thus, without sufficient detail on how the process will look like past 2030. The Green Party, which leads the opposition and is also ahead in the polls pending the near election this fall, is pushing to amend this part and to phase out coal as soon as 2030.
  • While there are specific goals for emissions reduction in the industrial sector in the plans for each year until 2030 and later for the year 2050, there are no comprehensive measure packages but rather vague recommendations.

Putting pressure on the industry to push it towards emission reduction is a politically controversial topic in Germany. The current German coalition, led by the conservative Christian-Democratic party, tends to be more lenient with the business sector, a position held for example by the minister of the economic affairs and energy Peter Altmaier, who published a competing plan intended to “work together with the industry on that topic, not against it”. This position was criticized by the center-left coalition partner, the Social-Democratic Party (SPD), as well as by the opposition parties, the Green Party and the Left Party.

Germany’s highest court challenged Germany’s government to tackle this issue and to update its plans, just four months before the coming federal elections, in which climate change will take a central role in the debate. We can only hope that the political pressure will lead to prompt and meaningful action.


Marie Luise Doett, Speaker for Environmental Issues in the CDU faction

Olaf Scholz, Finance Minister and leading candidate of the SPD faction

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Court ruling, in English:

Photo: Germany’s Supreme Constitutional Court


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