Modernise and accelerate, yes, but please think ahead

German Council for Sustainable Development to support implementation of coalition committee findings with constructive feedback

Potsdam, 30 March 2023 – Recently reappointed by the Federal Chancellor, the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) discussed the latest decisions of the coalition committee at its kick-off meeting in Potsdam on 29/30 March.

RNE Chair Reiner Hoffmann acknowledges that the federal government has adopted common guidelines for accelerating the energy transition and the expansion of infrastructure. “Already in late 2022 the Council for Sustainable Development produced proposals for speeding up planning and approval procedures while still doubling down on nature conservation. The RNE will embed these ideas in the upcoming changes to legislation.”

The changes to the sectoral targets of the Climate Change Act announced in the coalition partners’ paper, on the other hand, did not go down so well with the RNE. The Council’s Deputy Chair Gunda Röstel: “The Climate Change Act, which was amended in 2021 under pressure from the Federal Constitutional Court, stipulates ambitious interim targets for all sectors to keep Germany on track for greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045. All sectors will have to push themselves to reach their respective interim targets. It seems inconceivable to us, given this situation, to relieve a sector of its obligations. All sectors, including transport, have to do their bit, now and in the future. Germany’s game-changing Climate Change Act should be upheld.”

Reiner Hoffmann continues: “The decision to control the transformation through an increased focus on emissions trading and therefore via the market going forward, rather than via the Climate Change Act, is a risky one. Such an approach will lead to energy price rises, which in turn will hit socially vulnerable groups harder, thus jeopardising social cohesion. We the RNE will provide close guidance to the federal government to ensure social cohesion in a just transformation.”

The use of certain new technologies as well as new and innovative solutions can, the RNE believes, play a key role on the way to greenhouse gas neutrality, says Hoffmann. “That said, new technologies alone are not enough. At the same time, we also need new business models in order to capitalise on the economic opportunities that can go along with the transformation.”

All told, the RNE feels the coalition committee’s approach is too technology-driven. The Council points out that the necessary changes will be accompanied by social hardship for individual population groups unless counteracted by policy. Reiner Hoffmann: “But these unequal pressures have to be cushioned by socially differentiated measures from day one. Those with broader shoulders must bear a larger share of the transformation costs.”

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