Transforming the energy supply – protecting the climate

As delegates meet for the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, mitigation of climate change is again at the very top of the agenda. Energy policy will be key to finding a solution.

Gesamtansicht des Planeten Erde auf eier grünen Wiese© istockphoto/Alexander Cernyakov

On 1 December, climate change mitigation was again moved to the very top of the agenda in international policy. Delegates from 196 countries are meeting in Paris to attend the UN Climate Change Conference. The goal is to adopt an agreement that will introduce binding climate targets for all Members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – which is to be a successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol. What is clear is that countries around the world will only be able to meet their climate targets if they fundamentally transform their energy supply.

A model for success: climate policy in Germany combines environmental protection and economic growth

The energy transition is Germany’s most significant contribution to mitigating climate change. With a market share of more than 30 per cent, renewables have become the most important source for electricity generation in Germany. This share is to rise to 50 per cent by 2030, and 80 per cent by 2050. The Federal Government has also adopted clear energy efficiency targets. Energy consumption is to be reduced by 20 per cent by 2020, and to be cut by half by 2050 compared to 2008. To this end, the German government has adopted a number of measures which are set out in its National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency.

This will not only benefit the climate, but also our economy. The energy transition is a real driving force for innovation. In 2014, 1,600 new patents on renewable energy were registered compared with only 399 in 2005. This shows that the energy transition is driving new technology and innovation that help combat climate change and secure Germany’s economic strength. By 2050, some 230,000 jobs are to be created in the renewables sector alone.

If we can make the energy transition a success by combining environmental protection and economic growth, other countries could also be encouraged to transform their energy supply. This can only be done by working together, which is why we are already cooperating with our neighbours in Europe. If we were to go one step further and implement the energy transition at European level, this could help us to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

EU energy ministers step up efforts to combat climate change

There is good news regarding Europe’s climate targets. Last week, the EU energy ministers agreed on measures that are to ensure that the EU’s climate and energy targets for 2030 can be met. These measures include better coordination of national energy policies. Europe’s goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 relative to 1990 levels, increase the share of renewables in energy consumption to 27 per cent and raise energy efficiency by 27 per cent.

State Secretary Rainer Baake said: “The Energy Council has sent a very important signal to the Paris climate summit showing that the EU is right on track for meeting its 2030 energy and climate targets adopted last October. The fact that we agreed for the first time on a clear structure for implementing the binding EU renewables targets is a great success. By combining Member States’ voluntary contributions with a European back-up instrument, we are striking a balance between the flexibility called for by many Member States and the security urgently needed by investors.”

The energy ministers also revised the European energy labelling system. As ever more appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers reach the highest level of efficiency – ‘A+++’ – the energy label loses its effectiveness for consumers. The return to the A to G scale will help consumers distinguish the most efficient products more easily.

Mitigating climate change at global level. Emerging economies have an important role to play

The progress achieved in Germany and Europe is important. However, mitigating climate change has to happen on a global scale. This is why State Secretary Rainer Baake called for better integration of the emerging economies into the IEA at the IEA ministerial meeting which was held before the UN Climate Change Conference. Emerging economies are becoming ever more important for global energy generation and energy consumption.

According to the current rules, only OECD countries can join the IEA. China, Indonesia and Thailand are the first emerging economies that were awarded Association status at the IEA ministerial meeting. More countries are to follow. The Association countries are given access to the IEA’s comprehensive expertise on sustainable and climate-friendly energy supply. By awarding these countries Association status, the IEA will also be able to better map and analyse the overall energy landscape.

“The energy transition shows how we can set up our energy supply in a way that is environmentally compatible in the long term and at the same time secure and affordable”, State Secretary Rainer Baake said. “We are relying on technological innovations that open up new business opportunities. This is a success story that needs to be continued at a global level as energy consumption shifts to emerging economies. We have to implement the energy transition at global level, otherwise we will not be able to stem climate change.”