Climate Change

Germany Flops on Climate Change Goals

Germany won't be able to meet the goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent before 2020. But the attempt caused residential energy prices to double.


Caro / Lueger/Newscom

State-sponsored ventures into renewable energy have hit a wall in Germany, the supposed leader of the war on climate change.

The Associated Press reports that Germany's environment minister, Svenja Schulze, said that the country will probably not meet its carbon emission reduction goals for 2020. This follows the government's official decision to abandon these goals in January.

Germany set out to establish itself as a leader in the international fight against man-made climate change by promising to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and up to 95 percent in 2050, relative to 1990 levels. The German government now says it will miss the 2020 target by eight percent.

Moving towards cleaner, sustainable energy is certainly a noble goal, but Germany's attempted green revolution doubled residential energy rates for consumers in the form of greater surcharges. This does little for lower income households who now face much larger electricity bills and much smaller disposable incomes. Furthermore, the higher costs take money away from more productive sectors of the economy, inhibiting innovation and production.

Germany's failed endeavor shows that fossil fuels are still very much a part of our near future. Alternative energy sources may have potential that can best be explored through the market, but as of now, they simply cannot compete, in terms of efficiency and reliability with fossil fuels, which have played, and continue to play, a huge role in human development. Even after the effort to boost alternative energy, over one-third of Germany's energy still comes from coal. This slow transition, coupled with Germany's growing aversion to nuclear power, make it highly unlikely green energy will help Germany meet its carbon emission goals.

Even so, Germany appears adamant about its energy goals, and followed its setback with an even more sweeping promise of achieving a 55 percent reduction in its carbon emissions by 2030. Considering Germany's failure, American legislators should be wary of similar proposals.