One of the most significant events in Germany’s overall emissions this year was the invasion of Russia into Ukraine.
Not only did this event disclose Germany’s major dependency on the Russian energy supply, but it also triggered a still ongoing debate on military rearmament and cooperation and long-term partnerships with controversial countries. Countries, that before were not even taken into close consideration for long-term objectives.
From a humanitarian viewpoint, the intervention of Russia into Ukraine counts as a crime against humanity, killing hundreds of citizens, and fatally destroying cities, all while trying to annex a country, which has been officially declared as an independent state since 1991.
From an ecological view, it is still unidentifiable how many environmental consequences the war and this immense destruction have had on nature’s flora, fauna, and all areas under strict conservation. According to the Royal United Service Institute, Ukraine usually hosts 35% of Europe’s full biodiversity and along with Russia supplies 25% of the world’s wheat. As supply and production systems had been nearly shut down for months, prices were drastically increased around the world, causing scarcity disasters in developed and developing countries.
And then there is Oil and Gas. The risk of being cut off from Russian energy drastically shifted Germany’s progress from slowly adapting to a more climate-centric energy focus, and large-scale deployment of renewables to making a step back towards the direction of fossil fuels.
The global rise in energy prices and logistic costs triggered by the war were already felt quite quickly: The price for diesel fuel exceeded 2€/l diesel for the first time in Germany in March this year. Russia’s threat to stop energy supplies, made Germany’s government realize the country’s need to accelerate its efforts in establishing a new energy policy. Securing energy supplies- and streams became Germany’s top priority. While Habeck, Germany’s Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minster stated that all considerable options “[are]on the table”, including the prolonging of Germany’s coal-fired power plants:
Although the phase-out of coal is already deeply embedded in Germany’s Net Zero strategy (with a targeted phase-out in the latest 2038), concerns on short-, to mid-term energy security are now changing the game. Meeting energy demands, the government is currently increasing coal consumption plans for the next years and therefore puts the timely phase-out plan at risk. But this decision is not only affecting a set phase-out timeline but is also affecting the direct emission rates and yearly targets set, to comply with keeping a 1.5-degree target. The government currently ensures that this is a temporary set measure and that the coal increase is one of the only ways to bridge the energy supply and would not affect overall phase-out plans. We will need to closely monitor this in the next months to come.
Gas bills have already doubled and could as much as quadruple over the winter, “which could even represent about a month’s income for some families”, Habeck has warned. Germany’s citizens are urged to be mindful of their consumption behaviors and cut gas as much as possible in these summer months, to ensure warmth in winter and help to reach an adequate reserve level (gas storage facilities were only about one-third full beginning of this year. Since July they reached a filling capacity of about 63%, amid saving measures and efforts to procure supplies from elsewhere). It is to see if the 90% goal for November will be reached.
Lastly in the search for new suppliers, Germany started to contract gas and renewable energy suppliers from the Middle East: It recently announced a new long-term energy partnership with oil mogul Qatar, a state, that holds one of the poorest sustainability scores and keeps a constant media reputation for violation of human rights (e.g., slavery allegations, forced labors, death and further). Compared to the country’s position before the war, to mainly reject cooperation with countries that disrespect human rights, this long-term deal underlines that the focus is now set on people talking business and actively overlooking the politics in the background. Germany should focus on solving the issue on European grounds rather than approaching countries that were put in the same basket not long ago with countries such as Russia. This reflects a double standard behavior and would question the country’s overall flexibility of attitude in conflict situations. Germany needs to stay accountable and will be monitored closely along the way. The next years will be a critical test for Germany’s ability to reach its goal to reduce emissions. This goal should remain a priority when making short-, mid-and long-term decisions and be taken seriously. Let’s see about the months to come.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Germany Country Manager Cimberley Gross