Germany has seen record-setting temperatures this summer as the climate emergency grips the continent of Europe. While the country is praised in the EU for implementing necessary and effective environmental policies, it still has a long way to go if we want to avoid extinction.
Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, presented the first draft of a German climate action law in February. The law would enforce greenhouse gas reduction targets for the first time, as these necessary targets were previously non-legally binding. If goals are not met, the ministries would be held financially responsible for their economic sectors.
The law met fierce opposition among conservatives, specifically regarding ministries’ financial obligation to meet the targets. In May, Schulze sent the draft to her cabinet colleagues without chancellery consent, stating on Twitter, “I cannot justify wasting any more time on this.”
The EU has already implemented a legally binding 2030 climate target to all EU members, which calls for a cut to greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent. Schulze wants to break down the annual budget for each economic sector to successfully reach the target.
What Germany is Doing Now
While wandering through the streets of Berlin, it is rare to see discarded plastic or glass bottles as there is an effective recycling system. Residents receive a bottle deposit when they return the bottle to be truly recycled and reused by manufacturers. From a reduction of waste standpoint, Germany has been making strides toward a sustainable circular economy.
Prime Minister Schulze is proud that Germans are exemplary recyclers. In fact, they are not just above the EU average—as the minister stresses—but by far the most efficient of all Europeans when it comes to recycling, according to a study by the German Economic Institute (IW). The IW study states that almost 70 percent of all German waste is recycled.
By 2022, all of Germany’s nuclear power plants will be closed, directing focus to renewables and conservation. This plan reminds us why Germany is referred to as the “world leader in renewable energy.” While seemingly unrealistically ambitious, it is important to consider that in the first half of 2018, Germany produced enough electricity to power every household in the country for a year.
Germany’s public transportation is accessible to many residents, where 88 percent of Germans live near a bus or train stop. There are over 200 long-distance bicycle paths, encouraging residents to take alternative modes of transportation rather than a car.
Germany recently launched the world’s first hydrogen-powered train in September of 2018. This challenges the idea to use fossil fuel emitting trains for a more expensive, yet cleaner mode of transportation.
The company responsible for this new innovation is Alstom, a French TGV-maker. They plan to deliver another 14 of the zero-emissions trains to Lower Saxony state by 2021. The hydrogen train can run for 600 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, about the same range as diesel trains.
Germany has certainly started a great eco-friendly trend in hydrogen-powered transportation as other countries have also showed interest. Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Canada are looking into their use, while France plans to have their first hydrogen train running by 2022.
As the global world is adapting to the severities of climate change, there is also a lot of room for innovation. When one country begins to implement a radical and eco-friendly solution to the gas-guzzling alternatives, other countries follow suit. Although to see true structural change, we can’t depend on these measures alone. We need an entire international coalition of countries treating climate change as the emergency that it is. We must continue to demand the change we wish to see to take power from pollutant corporations and save the biodiversity on the planet.