Dhe times in which the economy castigated climate policy as a threat to the future viability of Germany as an industrial location are over. In the meantime, great opportunities are also seen – but provided that politicians set the course for the required transformation to a climate-neutral economy so that Germany can play to its strengths.
Alongside digitization and demographic change, the decarbonisation of the economy is one of the three mega-trends that will determine the future prosperity of Germans. At national and European level, politicians are pushing climate protection with increasingly ambitious goals.
The reduction in CO2-Emissions are in the foreground. In the Paris Climate Agreement, Germany committed itself to becoming largely greenhouse gas neutral by 2050. The EU is now aiming for a reduction in CO by 20302-Emissions compared to 1990 by 55 percent instead of the previously planned minus of 40 percent.
Germany is thus under massive pressure to sharpen its national climate policy accordingly. And shortly before the turn of the year, Federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier explicitly spoke out in favor of increasing the German targets, for example for the expansion of renewable energies. “We are facing major challenges here, not only in terms of electricity consumption, but also in the building sector and in the transport sector,” said Altmaier.
The local economy, which in the past tended to be on the brakes when it came to climate change, is increasingly becoming a driver, as the study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) “Everything to zero” shows. According to this, 25 of the 30 companies with the highest CO2-Emission of corporate goals that go beyond what the federal government demands of corporations.
These include energy suppliers such as Eon or RWE and car manufacturers such as VW or Daimler. The cultural change in top German companies is of crucial importance for the success of the climate change, as the study emphasizes. After all, the 30 largest emitters together emit around half as much CO worldwide2 like Germany as a whole.
“Contrary to popular belief, climate protection is not an economic killer – on the contrary, the economic benefits outweigh the above”, emphasizes BCG climate expert Jens Burchardt: “Companies in emission-intensive industries such as energy, steel, cement and chemicals that reduce their CO2– Reduced emissions, achieve a price / sales ratio that is ten to 15 percent higher than the industry average. ”Burchardt warns that without a drastic change in direction, Germany will not be able to achieve the climate targets.
How Germany could become a driver of technological progress is shown by the study “Climate 2030. Sustainable Innovation”, which the research institute Prognos has prepared together with the future council of the Association of Bavarian Economy (vbw). The authors warn that it is imperative to hurry with the politically desired restructuring.
Germany as a technological pioneer
Because the faster the development and improvement of low-emission technologies takes place, the more the location benefits. “For Germany and German companies, the development and ambitious application of climate protection technology is definitely worthwhile,” the study says.
As a technological pioneer, Germany could also do the most for climate protection. The share of the Federal Republic of the global CO2Emissions at just two percent. The future council makes it clear that the opportunities to slow down climate change by reducing one’s own greenhouse gas emissions are correspondingly small. After all, climate protection is a global task, emphasizes the committee made up of experts from business and science.
“Those who offer the best technologies, products and key competencies for greenhouse reduction make an effective contribution to international climate protection and will also open up new export and growth areas”, says Alfred Gaffel, entrepreneur and chairman of the future council. “With this we can contribute to saving several times our own emissions on a global level.”
The extent to which a more ambitious and at the same time technology-friendly climate policy has a positive effect on economic growth depends, according to Prognos’ calculations, on whether Germany is leading the way alone or whether it succeeds in adopting appropriate measures at EU level or, at best, even internationally coordinated.
In the “business as usual” scenario, ie without further national and international efforts, the negative consequences of climate change would lead to considerable losses in this country. Growth would then be 1.4 percentage points lower in the long term.
If the EU takes on a pioneering role in climate protection and adaptation – as the EU Commission is aiming for with its Green Deal – this would be less effective from an environmental point of view, but according to Prognos it would nevertheless have a growth-enhancing effect on the local economy. And even if Germany went ahead on its own, there would still be a slightly positive overall effect, because the growth-enhancing effect of a good one percentage point would be somewhat greater than the economic losses due to climate change.
In order to profit economically, Germany would not only have to act more ambitiously, but also more efficiently. Because so far the country has been struggling to meet its previous climate targets. The grand coalition therefore decided last year with a climate protection program 2030, a whole range of further measures to increase the pace. The promotion of electromobility and the reform of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) were just as much a part of it as the Building Energy Act.
Starting next year, the annual emissions data in the individual sectors will be checked and further tightening of the rules will be adopted if necessary. In the transport sector and in agriculture in particular, there is a gap between target setting and degree of achievement. In contrast, industry, like the energy sector, has made significant progress, as the Prognos study shows.
According to the Future Council, Germany does indeed have a good chance of marching with some of the world’s leading climate protection technologies. Examples are 3D printing, networked manufacturing, intelligent power grids or hydrogen production. If you combine all the relevant areas into a “climate innovation industry”, this already represents the third largest industrial sector in Bavaria with around 130,000 jobs after the car industry and mechanical engineering.
But not all industries are among the winners of the transformation towards climate neutrality, which is to be achieved in Germany by 2050. This applies, for example, to energy-intensive industries such as glass, metal, ceramics or cement, which face tough international competition.
Industry criticizes focus on e-mobility
Here the Future Council is calling for state support measures to cushion the restructuring process. In addition to direct help for new technologies, measures such as a CO2– Proposed border levy at the EU’s external borders to prevent manufacturers in countries without corresponding climate protection requirements from having a competitive advantage.
But above all two points are indispensable for the economy with a view to climate policy: technological openness and planning security – both at national and European level. And in both areas there is definitely criticism in German industry.
For example, when it comes to the required restructuring of the automotive industry, politicians are relying heavily on e-mobility, although it is by no means clear to which technology the future belongs. “The EU Commission wants to enforce a Euro7 standard for exhaust gas limits that is designed in such a way that it would de facto be a ban on the internal combustion engine,” criticized Stefan Wolf, President of Gesamtmetall, who also represents Germany’s most important key industry.
Wolf warns that the consequence would be a massive crash in the German auto industry and the end of these jobs. In its European climate policy, the federal government must make it even clearer that the requirements should be strictly based on what is technically feasible, warns the German industrial lobbyist. It also needs technology openness instead of one-sided guidance, emphasizes Wolf. “Because no politician knows which technology will ultimately prevail on the market.”