Climate targets for 2030: Avenues to a sustainable reduction in CO2 emissions
In the Paris Agreement of 2015, Germany and the global community agreed to limit anthropogenic global warming to less than 2°C. But that goal can only be reached if both national and international agreements are adhered to, effective immediately. Consequently, in the ad hoc statement “Climate targets for 2030: Avenues to a sustainable reduction in CO₂emissions”, the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina calls for an immediate transformation spurt and describes various climate protection measures that can quickly gain social acceptance and promote innovation. Antje Boetius, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, co-released the statement. The deep-sea researcher is also the speaker for the interdisciplinary working group that prepared it.
The Leopoldina working group’s statement echoes the sentiments of the latest expert assessments, which recommend introducing a uniform price for greenhouse gas emissions, valid across all sectors. The initial price for CO₂, they claim, needs to be substantially higher than the current price used for European emissions trading (ca. 25 euros / metric ton of CO₂) and should be gradually increased over the next several years. In addition, the political community is called upon to review the CO₂pricing system on a regular basis, and to adjust it as needed. Further, the instrument of CO₂pricing has to be recognisable as a non-negotiable climate policy strategy.
However, the statement also claims that a uniform CO₂price alone won’t be enough to meet the climate targets set for 2030. To help reach them, revenues from the CO₂pricing should be transparently reinvested in a low-carbon infrastructure and shared goods, in a relative reduction of electricity prices, and in social compensation in the form of a ‘climate dividend’. The purpose of doing so is to create incentives for behaviour and ways of doing business that protect our climate. It goes on to say that climate-benign behaviour could then even lead to financial gains for consumers, especially those in lower-income groups.
According to the statement’s authors, effectively pricing CO₂would also make an earlier discontinuation of coal energy more likely. Taking this step is technically feasible in Germany, especially through collaboration with European partners. The prerequisites for this to happen include investments in renewable energies, in a modern electrical power grid, and in energy storage technologies (power-to-gas, batteries, and power-to-liquid). In terms of transportation, which produces ca. 20 percent of all CO₂emissions, the statement recommends a massive electrification campaign. Regional public transportation, long-range rail transport and rail freight transport need to be significantly expanded and improved in terms of quality. With regard to private automobiles, the transition to hybrid and fully electric vehicles offers an effective short-term solution. In cities, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian traffic should be given priority. Moreover, the authors point out that the current transport costs in freight transport don’t sufficiently take the consumption of environmental resources into account. They also recommend applying the uniform CO₂price to international air and ship travel through corresponding agreements.
The member countries of the European Union have agreed on concrete and legally binding targets for limiting climate change by 2020 and 2030. Based on the progress made to date, Germany won’t reach its targets for 2020. The federal government outlined various measures and defined reduction targets for specific sectors in its Climate Action Plan 2050. According to the plan, by 2030 at the latest, mean CO₂emissions for all sectors together are to be at least 55% below the levels from 1990. To make that a reality, the national climate policy now needs a more consistent, transparent and rapid implementation strategy, the researchers claim. This strategy has to offer planning reliability for citizens, cities and rural regions, as well as the economy as a whole, and has to rapidly provide a roadmap that will take us off the increasingly expensive and unjust ‘business as usual’ route and put us on track for sustainable development. Given the current level of support from the populace, the authors claim, the political community now has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to overcome this challenge.