There’s a good chance that with Trump occupying the White House, the Paris agreement may lose the participation of America, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter. If this is the case, the rest of the world needs to step up and take charge – and if Germany’s anything to go by, then even in a worst-case scenario, there’s still hope.
As reported by the Guardian, the coalition government has reached an agreement on climate change mitigation that will aim to reduce its GHG emissions by anywhere from 80 to 95 percent by 2050. This will require German industry to reduce its carbon footprint by a fifth by 2030 and the energy sector to cut down emissions by 50 percent.
This is an incredibly rapid pace of change, but it matches the sort of rhetoric coming out of the UN climate meeting in Morocco, where experts, environmentalists, and signatories of the Paris agreement have taken a defiant stance. One said that they were willing to give Trump the “fight of his life,” while another said that the agreement would live on without America’s help.
Germany has been under pressure since the US election results shocked the world. A powerful nation with global influence, it has strong green credentials when it comes to cutting its carbon footprint, partly thanks to the number of environmentalists in its governing coalition. Where it leads, others follow.
However, its path forward will be difficult to say the least. Although it has heavily invested in renewable energy, many agree that it will not be able to achieve energy security without changing its stance on nuclear power, an efficient and very low-carbon energy source.
After the deadly 2011 Tohoku quake and tsunami led to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor, the appetite for nuclear energy plunged in many countries, including Germany. Despite the fact that Germany does not suffer from earthquakes or tsunamis, the government swiftly announced it was to mothball its nuclear power plants by 2022 and won’t construct any new ones.
Without nuclear power, it’s difficult to see how Germany will continue to power itself if it relies solely on renewable energy sources and phases out almost all fossil fuels incredibly quickly.
The nuclear debate notwithstanding, the leader of the German Greens, Anton Hofreiter, was fairly critical of the final framework agreed upon – primarily because the specifics for reaching the 95 percent target haven’t been clearly outlined.
“The climate protection plan remains just a skeleton,” he told Reuters. “There still aren't any clear goals or measures. This government is afraid to tackle issues like more CO2-free vehicles on the road or closing down coal-burning plants.”
So even without America, there is hope – but idealism without pragmatism is a hopeless path to take.