GERMANY AS A 'CLIMATE SAVIOUR' DEBUNKING THE MYTH – THE SOCIO- ECOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF GERMANY'S MODEL OF CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT

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GERMANY AS A 'CLIMATE SAVIOUR' DEBUNKING THE MYTH – THE SOCIO- ECOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF GERMANY'S MODEL OF CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT

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  SUSTAINABILITY   ANALYSEN TOBIAS HAAS GERMANY AS A ‘CLIMATE SAVIOUR’ DEBUNKING THE MYTH – THE SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF GERMANY’S MODEL OF CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT  CONTENT Prologue: the myth of Germany as a climate pioneer – a winter’s tale 21 Introduction 32 Capitalism and the green movement in Germany 53 Germany: a pioneer in climate protection? 8 3.1 An ecological glimmer of hope? Initial steps towards an Energiewende 83.2 Busy roads, little action: the failure to transform transport 103.3 No signs of a transition in agriculture 123.4 The downside of the export economy: Germany’s raw materials policy 143.5 The champion of climate policy is missing its goals 15 4 The failure of German climate policy 17Bibliography 19  2 PROLOGUE: THE MYTH OF GERMANY AS  A CLIMATE PIONEER – A WINTER’S TALE Once upon a time there existed a country in the heart of Europe that had learnt its lessons. Under great pains it had strug-gled to come to terms with its dreadful history. Purified by this process, our country rose again, generously reaching out to its neighbours and helping them to navigate the choppy waters of the ‘great recession’ (the financial and economic crisis that has held us tight in its grip since 2008). It provided leadership in women’s and men’s football, generously opened its doors to refugees, and, after a raving madman took office in Washington, our country’s calm and reasonable Chan-cellor quietly assumed the role of ‘Leader of the Free World’. Naturally, our country was also the standard-bearer when it came to environmental and, in particular, climate policy, a field where it had for decades been lauded as a pioneer. Long before the tabloids dubbed the leader of this country the ‘Climate Chancellor’, this blessed nation had gained an almost mythical status and was praised for its leading role at annual UN climate nego-tiations. In early June, when Donald Trump announced that the US was pulling out of the Paris climate agree-ment, everyone seemed convinced that the hopes of the world now rested on our country’s slender shoulders. Germany must succeed where in the past it has repeatedly failed – it must lead the world, and this time, take us out of the fossil era and into the age of renewables and green growth: it must pave the way for climate action. To celebrate Germany’s leading role in climate protection, the world will convene in Bonn this year for the 23rd Conference of the Parties (the COP23); it may be presided over by Fiji, but the loca-tion will be Bonn – a city in the Rhineland, which is one of Germany’s key regions for lignite (brown coal) surface mining. A winter’s tale in mining country? It’s time to wake up from the fairy tale. As we will see, Germany is by no means an ecological pioneer or a champion of climate protection. This is a country whose wealth is based on a both socially and environmentally highly destructive economic model. Germany is primarily a global leader in lignite mining; its mission to develop renewables comes a distant second. A lot of work remains to be done to close the gap between Germany’s aspirations and the current reality. Tadzio Müller, Berlin, September 2017  3 1 INTRODUCTION In June 2017, US President Donald Trump announced the US’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Now more than ever before, the hopes of the world rest on China and the EU. The latter has in the past repeatedly claimed to be in favour of an ambitious global climate policy – at least during discussions. Observers frequently portray the EU as a key player in global environmental and climate policy (Oberthür and Roche Kelly 2008). One country in particular is often lauded as a pioneer of green policy: Germany. Its Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has repeatedly and successfully portrayed herself as the Climate Chan-cellor   on the international political stage. During the G20 Hamburg summit, she was able to convince every government, with the exception of the US, to reaf-firm its commitment to the Paris climate agreement. The credibility of Germany’s image as a pioneer in climate protection, however, is to a considerable degree grounded in the country’s powerful envi-ronmental movement and its energy transition (Energiewende),  which has been influenced by events stretching as far back as the 1970s (Schreurs 2016). Germany’s energy transition has even caught on in English-speaking coun-tries, so much so that the term Ener- giewende  is now commonly used by English-language media outlets. Two examples demonstrate the huge appeal the Energiewende  has had. After his visit to Germany, Thomas Friedmann, called Germany ‘The Green Superpower’ in his New York Times column. The docu-mentary ‘This Changes Everything’, which was inspired by Naomi Klein’s 2014 book of the same name, explic-itly portrays the German Energiewende  as a positive example of energy policy (Müller 2017). But in Germany itself, the Energie-wende  has come in for harsh criticism from conservative groups. Hans Werner Sinn (2008) demands an ‘illusion-free climate policy’ and Joachim Weimann (2010), a Magdeburg-based economist, sees ‘Germany muddling under the dim light of energy-saving bulbs’. For the right-wing populists of the AfD (Alter- native für Deutschland)  party, German energy policy had always struck the right balance between providing reliable and sustainable energy at cost-effective prices – at least until a social democrat (SPD) and Green Party coalition govern-ment passed the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) back in 2000 (AfD 2016: 78-83). Following Trump’s with-drawal from the Paris Agreement, the CDU’s right-wing conservative Berliner Kreis  demanded a complete government overhaul of climate policy (  Zeit Online  2017).A great deal of overlap appears to exist between the external and internal perceptions of the country: for most, Germany is the world’s pioneer in envi-ronmental and climate policy. By and large, however – as this text will show – the idea of Germany being a climate trail-blazer is merely a myth. With the excep-tion of the real progress that has been made in expanding the share of renew-ables in the energy mix, and which is, moreover, a success delivered fore-most by German social movements and not the government (the grand coali-tion government left out no opportu-nity to hamper the process), Germany’s  4 record when it comes to climate policy is anything but commendable.To substantiate this hypothesis, I will consider the structural makeup and dynamics of change inherent to the German model of capitalism and analyse them in the context of conflicts over climate policy and the  imperial mode of living  (I explain this concept below). Climate policy, after all, is not made in an economic and political vacuum. Thereafter, I analyse four central fields of German climate policy: energy transition in the electricity and heating sector, as well as in transport, agriculture and raw material policy, before taking a look at the development of German emissions and the related discussions.
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