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News broadcast 2020

December 2020

December 17, 2020: EEG reform

Renewable energies already cover almost half of electricity consumption in Germany. In order to further accelerate the expansion of wind and sun, the Bundestag has just passed the EEG reform.

Where do we stand with the energy transition?

  • Renewable energies (RE) currently cover around 46 percent of the electricity generated and consumed in Germany. Ten years ago this proportion was only 17 percent.
  • Nevertheless, the expansion has to go even faster in the next few years: well before the year 2050, our power supply should be climate-neutral and based entirely on sun, wind and the like. As an intermediate goal, renewable energies must already achieve a share of 65 percent of electricity consumption by 2030.

What does the EEG regulate?

  • The EEG obliges network operators to give priority to connecting renewable energy systems to their network and to primarily purchase and forward the electricity generated.
  • Plants that would not be economical without subsidies are subsidized. The funding period is usually 20 years and, for larger systems, is determined by competitive tendering.
  • In order to increase the share of renewables to 65 percent by 2030, the new EEG stipulates specific expansion paths for individual technologies such as offshore wind or solar systems. The achievement of objectives is continuously checked and adjustments can be made in good time as part of this monitoring.
  • An increase in the expansion path is to be defined as early as the first quarter of 2021 so that the expansion of renewables in Germany is compatible with the EU's more stringent climate target. The new EEG forms a good basis for this.
  • EEG subsidies will soon end for a large number of onshore wind turbines. So that functioning systems do not have to be taken off the grid, a connection rule applies for two years: operators of wind turbines receive the market value for the electricity fed in plus a surcharge. From the summer of next year, further operation can be secured by means of a tender. Only those who cannot replace old systems with larger, more efficient systems can participate in the tender.
  • A connection regulation also applies to old solar systems. In addition, operators of solar systems up to a size of 30 kilowatts (kW) will benefit from the elimination of the EEG surcharge if they use the electricity themselves.
  • The regulations on tenant electricity have also been improved and expanded. In the future, a landlord will be able to supply tenants in several buildings within one quarter.
  • In order to increase public acceptance, plant operators will in future be able to use voluntary payments to allow those municipalities that are affected by wind power plants to participate in the yields of the plants.

What's next?

  • The Federal Cabinet had already passed the EEG amendment in September. Federal Environment Minister Schulze already emphasized at the time that she hopes for improvements in the parliamentary procedure. Most of these could now be achieved.
  • After the approval of the Bundestag, the Bundesrat must also approve the law. It can then come into force on January 1, 2021.

December 16, 2020: Disposal of electrical devices

Not just before Christmas: In Germany, more and more electrical appliances are being bought - and thrown away. But when the television, smartphone or refrigerator give up their ghost, many do not know: what to do with the old devices? The Federal Cabinet today decided to change the law to improve the return and recycling of old electrical appliances.

Dispose of electrical devices correctly

  • It is best for the environment if electronic waste does not arise in the first place. Better to repair and use it for longer than throw it away and buy a new one!
  • The following applies to disposal: Everything that is operated with a power cable or with batteries / accumulators, regardless of whether they are fixed or replaceable, must NOT be disposed of with household waste.
  • With a change in the law, we are making it easier for everyday consumers to dispose of old electrical devices correctly (and free of charge):
    • at the nearest recycling center. In Germany there are a total of around 2,500 such collection points, also in your area.
    • In the store: Large electrical specialist stores, but also supermarkets and discounters (from a certain sales area) are obliged to take back old devices free of charge and have them recycled in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • The following applies: Small devices (edge ​​length less than 25cm, for example razors, electric toothbrushes, power banks, etc.) can easily be returned, regardless of where the old device was bought and without having to buy a new device. Larger devices (refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, etc.) have to be taken back when the customer buys a new device.

Incidentally, this also applies to online trading. If the seller states when concluding the contract that he wants to return a comparable old device when the new device is delivered, the dealer must ensure that the old device is collected free of charge.

Why is that important?

  • While we Germans are exemplary when it comes to separating and disposing of old glass and paper, there is still a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the correct disposal of electrical devices: More than half of all electrical devices are disposed of incorrectly! The more devices are collected, the more can be recycled with high quality.
  • Many devices contain not only valuable resources such as copper, gold or silver that should be reused, but also harmful substances that must not be allowed to enter the environment, such as mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic.

The draft law has to be passed by the Bundestag and passed by the Bundesrat. The law is expected to come into force on January 1, 2022.

Additional Information:


December 11, 2020: Paris Climate Agreement

An important day for climate protection: The EU has agreed on a higher climate target. The climate target for 2030 has been tightened from the current 40 percent to at least 55 percent greenhouse gas reduction (compared to 1990). In this way, Europe is making an important contribution to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was passed exactly five years ago today. For more information on the agreement and developments in international climate protection, please reply to this message with the word Paris.

What is the Paris Agreement?

  • In December 2015, 197 states agreed on the Paris Climate Protection Agreement - a milestone because it is the first comprehensive and legally binding global agreement on climate protection.
  • 180 countries have now ratified the agreement, including the European Union and Germany.
  • The aim of the agreement is to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius (° C), but if possible to 1.5 ° C, compared to the pre-industrial era.
  • In order to achieve this goal, global greenhouse gas neutrality is to be achieved in the second half of the century, i.e. no more emissions are generated than can be absorbed, for example, by forests or other sinks.
  • In addition, the ability to adapt to climate change is to be strengthened, financial flows are to be brought into line with climate goals and poorer countries are to receive more support in climate protection.

How will the Paris Agreement be implemented?

  • How much the individual contracting states have given the CO2-The need to reduce emissions was not specifically stipulated in the agreement. The agreement follows the principle that the states proceed jointly and step by step - this can create a global dynamic in climate protection.
  • In order to achieve the goals, the individual states themselves set out comprehensive national action plans for reducing their emissions (national contributions, NDC), which together lead to curbing global warming.
  • However, it was already clear in Paris that the previous climate protection contributions were not enough to limit global warming to below 2 ° C. That is why the Paris Agreement contains an ambition mechanism: every five years a global stocktaking takes place and the states have to present new, more ambitious goals.
  • The NDC of the European Union has so far aimed to reduce emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 (for Germany this has so far resulted in a reduction target of -55 percent). Today the EU states agreed on an ambitious climate target: In the EU, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced by at least 55 percent compared to 1990 levels - by 2050, Europe is to be the first climate-neutral continent.

What has happened in terms of climate protection since 2015?

  • The bad news: global warming is already around 1.2 ° C compared to pre-industrial times, including CO2-Concentration in the atmosphere continues to increase. So there is not much room left - the consequences of climate change are already leading to serious damage in Germany and around the world. Despite Corona and a slight global decrease in emissions this year, the world has not yet moved any closer to the goal of the agreement. In the long term, however, we are even heading towards global warming of 3 ° C.
  • The good news: The Paris Agreement sparked an irreversible, global climate protection movement. Almost all countries in the world take measures to reduce emissions. With the European Union, China, Canada, Great Britain, South Korea, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, key players have committed to making their societies climate and CO2-to want to design neutrally. Even the (temporary) withdrawal of the USA from the agreement could not stop this trend.
  • And it does not stop at goals: The share of renewable energies is already growing worldwide, more and more countries are getting out of coal, and the energy-related CO is already before the Corona crisis2-Emissions in the 20 largest economies in the world fell slightly for the first time - the trend reversal in climate protection has begun.
  • Now it is important that as many states as possible increase their national contributions (NDC). The EU's agreement on a more ambitious climate target today is therefore also an important international signal.

December 2nd, 2020: Climate protection in Germany

The climate package with numerous measures and legislative changes was passed a good year ago, and today the Climate Cabinet is taking stock of the situation. What is happening in Germany in terms of climate protection?

Climate Protection Act: For each area (energy, transport, industry, agriculture, buildings, etc.) annual CO2- Upper limits set. There are clear rules that ensure that every responsible ministry has to step up immediately if emissions in one area do not decrease as planned.

CO2-Price: Heating oil, natural gas, petrol and diesel will have a gradually increasing price from 2021, which increasingly reflects their harmfulness to the climate. The income is fully reinvested in climate protection measures or returned to the citizens, for example by reducing the electricity price.

Coal exit: The exit from coal is a done deal and has already begun: Power plants will be taken off the grid this year. All coal-fired power plants will be shut down by 2038 at the latest. More than 200 million tons of CO2 are saved in this way (around a quarter of today's emissions in Germany).

Structural change: In order to make the coal phase-out socially just, there is massive support for the economic development of the coal regions. The federal government is supporting the Lausitz, Central German and Rhenish regions with up to 40 billion euros. There is also an adjustment allowance for employees.

Expansion of renewable energies: By 2030, the proportion of sun and wind must be at least 65 percent - we are committed to expanding it even more quickly. With the amendment to the EEG, the increase in the installed capacity for the individual technologies (solar, offshore, onshore wind power) is specified for the first time.

Climate-friendly traffic: The reduction in VAT on train tickets will make rail travel more attractive (especially because the ticket tax on flights has been increased at the same time). In addition, another 2.5 billion euros are flowing from the federal government into the operation and expansion of local public transport.

Electromobility: Anyone who buys an electric car will continue to receive a large subsidy (up to 9,000 euros). In addition, more and more public charging stations are being built, including at petrol stations. As a result, the number of e-cars in Germany has increased significantly (most recently over 30,000 applications in October).

Green hydrogen: Hydrogen is a key element in making those areas climate-friendly in which electricity-based drives (e.g. air traffic, shipping or the heavy metals industry) are not an option. Therefore, the production of green hydrogen is to be exempted from the EEG surcharge and the legal framework for a hydrogen pipeline network is to be created.

Forests and moors: The federal government supports forest owners in rebuilding forests and in converting to climate-friendly forest management. In addition, a peatland protection strategy is planned to reduce the CO2-Reduce emissions from drained moors.

Building renovation: There is a tax subsidy - even for smaller modernizations such as the installation of new, energy-saving windows - and a bonus for replacing old oil heating systems. From 2026, the installation of new oil heating systems will no longer be allowed.

Energy intensive industries: In industries such as steel, cement, lime and parts of the chemical industry, large amounts of process-related emissions are generated. The federal government supports the switch to more climate-friendly production processes.

Stimulus package: In the course of the Corona crisis, the federal government decided to provide aid to the economy worth billions. In contrast to previous economic crises, climate protection was always considered. Together with the Climate Protection Program 2030, we have the largest investment program for the ecological modernization of our country that has ever existed (over 54 billion euros).

Conclusion: Even before the Corona crisis, the CO2Emissions in Germany. The 2020 target of 40 percent CO2Reduction (compared to 1990) is expected to reach Germany. The 2030 target of minus 55 percent is also feasible. Because the climate package ensures unprecedented investments and a clear path towards greenhouse gas neutrality.


November 2020

11/27/2020: Plastic bags ban

An important step towards less plastic waste: From the beginning of 2022, plastic shopping bags will no longer be allowed in German supermarkets and shops - this has now been decided by the Bundestag.

Why is the plastic bag ban important?

  • Even if the numbers are falling, 1.6 billion plastic bags are still used in Germany every year. Lined up in a row, the bags would circle the equator 20 times! With the ban we come to zero.
  • Large amounts of crude oil are required to manufacture plastic bags - this is bad for the climate and an enormous waste of resources, especially because the bag is often only used briefly and then thrown away.
  • Once the bag gets into the environment, it takes over 100 years for it to degrade. In the process, it breaks down into microplastics, which can cause severe damage to many living beings and ecosystems.

When does the ban apply?

  • On November 26th, the Bundestag agreed to the ban. If the law also passes the Federal Council (no approval law), the ban can come into force at the beginning of 2022.
  • The transition period is important because many shops are already under considerable pressure due to Corona and it should be avoided that residual stocks of plastic bags have to be destroyed.
  • If retailers continue to offer disposable plastic bags after the ban has come into force, they must expect fines of up to 100,000 euros.

Which bags does this apply to?

  • Disposable plastic bags with a wall thickness of 15-50 micrometers - i.e. the classic plastic bag that is offered at the checkout in many supermarkets and shops - are prohibited.
  • So-called bio-plastic bags, which are nothing more than sham packaging, are also banned.
  • The particularly thin one-way plastic bags, i.e. the “shirt bags” on the fruit and vegetable shelf, are still allowed. They are often required for hygienic reasons when selling loose food. In the event of a ban, they would be replaced by more complex packaging, which in turn would lead to more packaging waste. Here we are working with retailers on solutions to reduce plastic in the fruit and vegetable sector.

11/26/2020: Sustainable consumption

Repairing and using it for longer is better than throwing it away and buying a new one - also for the sake of the environment. And not only on "Black Friday".An overview of our measures to support sustainable consumption.

Longer shelf life of devices

  • The European Ecodesign Directive obliges manufacturers to make household appliances easier to repair and easier to recycle at the end of their life. From March 2021, manufacturers of various products will only be allowed to bring devices onto the market if they have spare parts and repair instructions in stock.
  • In addition, it must be possible to replace spare parts with generally available tools and without permanent damage to the device. From the time the last copy is placed on the market, manufacturers (depending on the product group) have to provide spare parts for seven to ten years.
  • We are also working to ensure that these regulations are extended to smartphones and tablets and that a guarantee obligation to provide information is anchored in the Ecodesign Directive.

Stop the destruction of returns

  • We have introduced a duty of care for goods in the Recycling Management Act in order to put a stop to the destruction of returns and excess goods.
  • Companies are only allowed to destroy overhangs and returns if this is necessary for safety or health reasons. Slightly damaged goods can, for example, be sold or donated at reduced prices. As long as new products are functional, they should continue to be used.

Better disposal of electrical appliances

  • Correct disposal is important for old and discarded electrical devices (which can no longer be used or repaired). If electrical devices are disposed of with household waste (residual waste bin or yellow bin), valuable raw materials are lost.
  • That's why we're making it easier for consumers to properly dispose of old devices. All large electronics stores that cover more than 400 square meters (m2) Selling electrical appliances in the shop are obliged to take back old appliances free of charge and dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner. This rule should also apply to supermarkets with retail space over 800 m2 be expanded.
  • The law makes no distinction between stationary retail and online trade (obligation to collect free of charge when shipping a new device).
  • Large electrical appliances such as refrigerators and televisions always have to be taken back free of charge when a new device is purchased. Smaller devices such as razors, electronic toothbrushes and cell phones (devices that are not longer than 25 cm in any dimension) must always be returned free of charge, even without a new purchase.

Blue Angel

  • The "Blue Angel" environmental label shows consumers that the product is a particularly environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative.
  • Well over 12,000 products have now been awarded the Blue Angel, including not only paper and washing-up liquid, but also household items and electrical appliances such as coffee machines and computers.
  • Products and services with the Blue Angel have less of an impact on the environment and at the same time protect health by, for example, saving resources during production, being made from sustainably produced raw materials, being particularly energy-efficient, particularly durable and repairable and being easy to recycle - that all with high usability and high quality.

11/23/2020: Packaging Act / Measures against plastic waste

There is still far too much packaging waste in Germany. That is why we are tightening the measures against single-use plastic and strengthening reusable offers. To this end, the Packaging Act is to be changed.

  • Extended compulsory deposit: In future there will be a deposit on all single-use plastic bottles and cans. Previous exceptions (for example for fruit juices or alcoholic mixed drinks) are to be abolished. This is important because deposit bottles are almost 100 percent returned or collected. The single-type collection enables high-quality bottle-to-bottle recycling (over 90 percent of the PET bottles collected are recycled).
  • More reusable in the to-go area: Fast-food chains, coffee shops, snack bars & Co. that offer food and drink to-go are to be obliged to always offer reusable cups and reusable packaging in the future. The reusable alternative must not be more expensive and the reusable packaging must also be taken back by the respective restaurant or café. Small shops with a maximum of three employees are exempt from the obligation, but must, if requested, fill their customers with food or drink in containers they have brought with them.
  • More recycled plastic: Wherever plastic cannot be avoided, it should be recycled. That is why there should be a minimum proportion of recyclates for certain beverage bottles made from disposable plastic: From 2025, PET disposable bottles must contain 25 percent recycled plastic, from 2030 we will increase this quota to 30 percent for all single-use plastic bottles.

At the end of last week we presented the draft bill. Now the cabinet and the Bundestag have to agree, then the changes in the Packaging Act can come into force at the beginning of July 2021.

Further measures against plastic waste

  • Ban on disposable plastic products: straws, cotton swabs, plastic cutlery, balloon holders as well as to-go cups and fast food boxes made of Styrofoam are banned across Europe. These are the products for which there are environmentally friendly alternatives and which end up in the environment particularly frequently. The Bundestag has already passed the European regulation, the ban will apply from July 2021.
  • Ban on plastic bags: Plastic bags at the checkout should be banned entirely. Around 1.6 billion plastic bags are still used in Germany every year. The Federal Cabinet has passed a corresponding law, the Bundestag will vote on it in the next few days.
  • More recycling of plastic packaging: The binding recycling rate has been 58.5 percent since 2019, and will rise to 63 percent in 2022. What is new is that this quota applies to the amount of actually recycled plastic waste. For other materials, the recycling rate will increase to 90 percent in 2022.
  • New incentives for environmentally friendly packaging: In their license fees, the dual systems must take into account the recyclability and the use of recycled material in packaging. That means: in the future, manufacturers of packaging that can be easily recycled or that are made of recycled plastic will pay less.
  • Better labeling of returnable bottles: In supermarkets, returnable bottles must be clearly labeled as non-returnable or returnable bottles. In this way, consumers can make a more conscious choice between reusable and disposable. Clearly legible signs on the shelf or in another clearly visible place are required.
  • Less plastic in the supermarket: A round table has been set up, at which we regularly receive reports on the steps retailers and manufacturers have taken. For example, offering more goods unpackaged, reusable nets instead of plastic fruit bags, a higher proportion of reusable bottles in the range.
  • Curb plastic exports: From 2021, stricter regulations for the export of plastic waste will apply. In the future, they will only be allowed to be freely traded if they have been cleaned, are well sorted and can really be recycled. The export of poorly recyclable waste from the EU to Asia and other parts of the world is prohibited.
  • Clean parks and streets: Manufacturers of disposable products such as to-go cups will have to contribute to the cleaning costs of public places in the future. Among other things, the money will be used to buy more trash cans and cleaning vehicles.

11/19/2020: Car summit / hybrid vehicles

Anyone who buys an electric car will continue to receive a high subsidy - the federal government agreed on this and on a greater expansion of the charging infrastructure at the car summit. However, half of the newly registered electric cars in Germany are plug-in hybrids (combustion engine & battery). How environmentally friendly are these vehicles and under what conditions are they subsidized by the state?

  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles help with the transition to completely emission-free cars: Although they are not as climate-friendly as electric cars, they generate less CO2Emissions as a pure combustion engine.
  • This is why state subsidies for electric cars currently also include hybrid vehicles. But: In the future, hybrid vehicles will only be subsidized via the environmental bonus if they have a minimum electric range of 60 km from 2022 and of at least 80 kilometers (km) from 2025. Because: How environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles really are depends above all on whether they are driven electrically to a considerable extent.
  • Due to the still limited range and the charging infrastructure that is not yet ubiquitous, many drivers worry that their usual flexibility will be limited with pure electric cars. The rapid expansion of charging stations is important to ensure that electromobility prevails and that hybrid vehicles drive electrically as often as possible.
  • The federal government is therefore supporting the expansion of the charging infrastructure on a large scale. The number of charging stations is expected to more than double over the next few years, and more fast charging points are to be created, especially at petrol stations (by 2024 charging columns at every second petrol station).
  • In addition, the framework conditions for charging on your own parking space and at the employer will be improved. The federal government has already made charging at the employer tax-free. Charging at home should become easier for those who do not already have their own private garage with the modernized home ownership and tenancy law. And with the lowering of the EEG surcharge and the introduction of CO2-Price increases the price advantage of electricity compared to "home charging". Petrol and diesel.
  • As the Federal Environment Ministry, we are also committed to improving the test procedures for plug-in hybrids at European level. Because the real CO2-Emissions from hybrid vehicles deviate considerably from the factory information in many cases (mainly because the proportion of electric driving is "overrated").
  • Hybrid vehicles are currently being criticized because many new vehicles with this drive are registered as company cars. Refueling is usually free with company fuel cards, while recharging is rather complicated - as a result, hybrid company cars are rarely electric. That is why in future the power supply at the employer and the installation of a charging station for the employee will be subsidized by tax.

November 12, 2020: BVerfG judgment on the Atomic Energy Act

Today the Federal Constitutional Court announced a ruling on the Atomic Energy Act and granted a constitutional complaint by the Swedish utility Vattenfall.

What is the judgment about?

  • The judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) does NOT affect the nuclear phase-out per se. This was largely confirmed by the BVerfG in 2016 and will be implemented as planned by 2022. The nuclear phase-out is therefore not being shaken.
  • The judgment announced today concerns a marginal area, namely regulations for certain possible compensation claims of the nuclear power plant operators.
  • To this end, the Federal Government initiated an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act in 2018, which implemented the provisions of the BVerfG from 2016.
  • From the point of view of the BVerfG, however, this change from 2018 did not come into force due to the lack of binding approval from the EU Commission and there is also a need to correct the content. Specifically, it is about compensation payments for the nuclear power plants Brunsbüttel, Krümmel and Mülheim-Kärlich.
  • The federal government will now thoroughly analyze the judgment and quickly bring a legal regulation in motion that meets the requirements of the BVerfG.

Additional information:


11/11/2020: Alternative drives

What will drive cars in the future? Green electricity, hydrogen, bio-fuels or e-fuels, i.e. synthetic fuels? And how much of it?

First of all: there is no silver bullet, the technology that makes traffic climate-friendly in one fell swoop. Important is:

  1. A fuel not only has to be climate-friendly - we also want to avoid damaging the environment during its production. This is especially true for bio-fuels and electromobility.
  2. A fuel has to be efficient - because large amounts of electricity are needed to produce hydrogen and synthetic fuels, for example. The electricity, in turn, has to come from renewable energies (otherwise nothing would be gained for the climate). However, electricity from renewable energies is not available indefinitely.

Bio fuels

  • Environmentally friendly bio-fuels are important, because despite the turnaround in traffic, millions of combustion engines will still be on the road in the next few years. And it is important to drive this as climate and environmentally friendly as possible.
  • The problem: Large areas are required to grow plants from which bio-fuels are made - which is then lacking for food production. Bio-fuels also often contain palm oil and thus drive the deforestation of the rainforest.
  • That is why we are limiting the subsidies for bio-fuels from food and feed crops (palm oil will be banned completely from the tank by 2026) and increasing the subsidies for bio-fuels that are more environmentally friendly.

Synthetic fuels (e-fuels)

  • Large amounts of energy are required to produce synthetic fuels. A comparison: To drive 100 km with a car filled with e-fuels, the bottom line is 115 kWh of electricity. A battery-operated electric car only needs around 18 kWh of electricity for the same distance.
  • E-fuels should therefore be used in areas where efficient electric drives are no alternative (for example in air or ship traffic). We are therefore campaigning for a mandatory quota for synthetic fuels in aviation.

hydrogen

  • Large amounts of energy are also required to produce hydrogen, so the drive is not very efficient. While around 70 percent of the electricity produced in an electric car arrives as movement on the road, it is only around 25 percent in a hydrogen car with a fuel cell.
  • Hydrogen is too good for the car tank - but it pays to use it where fossil fuels cannot be replaced by the direct use of electricity from renewable energies.
  • That is why we are promoting the market ramp-up of hydrogen, among other things with a targeted funding program for green hydrogen in industry.

Electromobility

  • Electromobility is by far the most efficient drive. And the further the energy transition advances in Germany, the cleaner the "fueled" electricity will be.
  • We not only set strong incentives for the expansion and operation of the charging infrastructure for more electromobility, but also give purchase grants for private individuals, businesses, social institutions and many other areas.
  • In order for e-mobility to be thought of "afterwards" from the outset, we specifically support the development of recycling processes for batteries in e-cars. In addition, more and more electric motors and batteries are being developed that get by with fewer or no critical raw materials at all. There are already batteries without cobalt and engines without rare earths.

Conclusion

  • We don't just blindly want more alternative fuels in the tank. We want to specifically promote energy sources that are not harmful to the climate or the environment.
  • In the passenger car sector, electromobility is by far the most efficient alternative. For vehicles that are already on the road, advanced bio-fuels can be an alternative. In those areas in which the direct use of electricity reaches its limits, we need synthetic fuels and hydrogen.

November 9th, 2020: USA / Paris climate protection agreement

The US has elected a new president. At the same time, the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement formally entered into force a few days ago. What do these developments mean for international climate protection?

What is the Paris Climate Agreement and what role does the US play?

  • In the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the international community agreed to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees and, if possible, even to 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era.
  • The agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016. Once it has entered into force, the agreement can only be terminated after three years have elapsed; the termination can in turn take effect one year after its submission at the earliest. This is exactly what happened in the USA: On November 4, 2019, the USA applied to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which now came into effect on November 4, 2020.
  • However, the exit of the USA did not slow down the positive global momentum for more climate protection. 189 states have now ratified the agreement - in addition to the EU, other important nations such as China, Japan and South Korea have recently underscored their efforts to become greenhouse gas neutral by the middle of the century.
  • The designated US President Joe Biden had repeatedly stated that he wanted to rejoin the Paris climate protection agreement. This is possible by means of a domestic executive order, for which Biden does not require a congress participation. Then the US could ask for re-entry with a simple letter to the United Nations, which would then take effect after just 30 days.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze commented on the US election as follows:

"I congratulate the Americans on the election result. With a President Joe Biden and a Vice-President Kamala Harris, international cooperation and committed climate policy will return to the White House. I look forward to the revitalized cooperation with Washington and I hope that the US government will act a strong ally in climate protection and the ecological restructuring of the world economy. "


November 5th, 2020: The wolf in Germany

There are more wolves in Germany again. This emerges from current monitoring data recently published by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.

Occurrence of the wolf

  • In the monitoring year 2019/2020, 128 wolf packs, 35 wolf pairs and 10 sedentary solitary wolves were detected in Germany.
  • That is an increase: In the previous year, 105 packs, 41 pairs and 12 individual wolves were counted in the federal states.
  • The occurrence is mainly concentrated in an area from Saxony in a north-westerly direction via Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania to Lower Saxony. Individual wolf territories can also be detected in other federal states. In addition, a sedentary wolf was confirmed in the Bavarian Alps for the first time in 10 years.
  • However, the number of dead wolves found has also increased. In the monitoring year 2019/2020, 126 deaths were reported, mostly after traffic accidents, but also through illegal killings.
  • The basis of the monitoring is clear evidence of the wolf, such as genetic evidence or photos. The data are collected by the federal states in accordance with uniform standards and then checked by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. Almost all wolves found dead in Germany are also examined centrally.

State of preservation

  • The wolf is considered an endangered species in Germany.
  • Although the population has grown steadily in recent years, the wolf is still a long way from a favorable conservation status (that is, the survival of the species can be ensured without protective measures). In addition to the parameter "population", which is not only determined on the basis of the number of animals, the parameters "distribution area", "future prospects" and "habitat" are included in the assessment of the conservation status.
  • The wolf is under strict protection. Hunting wolves is and remains forbidden, and illegal stalking and killing of wolves is also a criminal offense.

Wolf and human

  • There has not been a single attack on humans since the wolves returned to Germany.
  • Wolves that grow up in cultural landscapes avoid humans, but not human structures.
  • So that wolves do not lose their fear of humans, a strict feeding ban was passed by law last year.

Grazing animals

  • There are cracks in grazing animals especially in regions where the wolf has only recently returned.
  • The number of cracks drops significantly if the owners take the recommended protective measures, i.e. set up fences for protection of the herd or purchase dogs for protection of the herd.
  • Most of the costs for such protective measures are reimbursed by the federal states. Should cracks occur despite herd protection measures, the damage will be reimbursed.
  • The financial resources that are spent on herd protection measures are considerably higher than what is spent on pure compensation for damage. The idea behind this is to permanently prevent damage from occurring in the first place, to increase acceptance for the returning wolves and to support those affected.

Shooting only in exceptional cases

  • Hunting the wolf is prohibited in Germany.
  • Only in the event that a wolf repeatedly overcomes the recommended protective measures, causes serious damage or comes too close to people, the state's nature conservation authority can issue an exceptional permit under species protection law and initiate the removal, which may then only be carried out by selected experts.
  • In the event of repeated livestock tears, individual animals from a pack of wolves may be removed if the wolf causing the damage cannot be determined with certainty and there are no alternatives, namely "until no damage has occurred". This creates legal certainty when granting exceptions to the bans on access under species protection law.
  • Even in these cases, however, an order by the responsible state environment ministries is required after a strict examination of species protection law. Lump-sum or preventive releases are still strictly forbidden.

October 2020

10/30/2020: Destruction of nature and pandemics

In spite of all acute crisis management, it is important not to forget the deeper causes of the corona pandemic: The advancing global destruction of nature means that so-called zoonoses (transmission of viruses from the animal kingdom to humans) are becoming more and more common. A new report by the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES), which was presented today, shows this connection.

Destruction of nature & pandemics

  • The way in which the corona virus arrived in humans has not yet been conclusively clarified. What is certain is that the virus jumped over from wild animals.
  • Around 70 percent of human infectious agents originally come from the animal kingdom - for example HIV, Ebola, influenza and SARS.
  • The risk of such zoonoses, which in the worst case can lead to global pandemics, increases the more humans destroy nature and invade untouched habitats of animals.
  • Clearing of forests, overexploitation of nature, fragmentation of habitats, spread of monocultures, change of entire ecosystems - this not only leads to the extinction of numerous animal and plant species, but also to humans and animals getting too close to each other more and more often.
  • Another connection lies in wild animal markets and in the unregulated trade in (often still living) animals, especially in Asian and African countries. When different wild animal species are crammed together and humans and animals come together in a confined space, these are very good conditions for the transmission and spread of viruses.
  • According to the World Biodiversity Council IPBES, around 1.7 million (so far undiscovered) viruses occur in the animal kingdom, of which up to 850,000 also have the potential to be transmitted to humans. That is why committed, global nature conservation is an important key to preventing new infectious diseases!

What to do about it

  • Prevention does not only take place in the health system, but also through the protection and sustainable use of natural resources. That is more sustainable and costs less than pandemics and their consequences.
  • Germany is campaigning for an ambitious new global framework for biological diversity to be adopted at the UN Biodiversity Conference next year. This should not only include more protected areas and better international funding, but also clear rules for implementing and monitoring global nature conservation.
  • As part of the German EU Council Presidency, a new European biodiversity strategy has already been adopted, which, among other things, provides for the expansion of existing protected areas and the restoration of damaged ecosystems. The decision is an important step for the EU to take a leading role in the international negotiations.
  • In addition, Germany is working on an international level to systematically combat the uncontrolled and unregulated trade in wild animals. Projects in Africa and Asia are already being funded with up to three million euros per year to counter poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
  • In addition, the BMU supports initiatives to regulate more strictly markets in which wild animals are offered for consumption in the future.

Conclusion: If we humans want to be healthy, we depend on a healthy environment. We cannot accept another decade of loss of biodiversity.


10/26/2020: EU biodiversity strategy

The EU environment ministers have agreed on an ambitious approach to protecting threatened species and ecosystems. A biodiversity strategy for the next ten years was decided on Friday.

The most important points

  • At least 30 percent of the land area and 30 percent of the marine areas of the EU are to be protected by law, including all remaining primary and virgin forests in Europe.
  • At least 25,000 kilometers are to be renatured as free-flowing rivers by 2030; in addition, around 3 billion trees are to be planted.
  • Legally binding goals for the restoration of destroyed natural landscapes are set.
  • The protection of insects (especially pollinators) should be improved through targeted measures.
  • The use of dangerous pesticides is to be halved and the use of fertilizers is to be reduced by at least 20 percent.
  • At least 10 percent of the agricultural land should have areas with great biological diversity, and at least 25 percent of the agricultural land should be cultivated organically.

Why is that important?

  • Because the state of nature in Europe is getting worse and worse: A current report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows: 63 percent of the animals and even 81 percent of the ecosystems that are protected in the EU are in insufficient condition.
  • In addition to the fragmentation of natural habitats (e.g. through roads and settlements), the reason for the decline in species is increasingly intensive agriculture and forestry.
  • The approval of the EU environment ministers gives the European Commission the necessary tailwind to implement its ambitious EU biodiversity strategy. Now it is important to have sufficient funding in order to realistically achieve the objectives of the strategy.

How does that fit in with the current agricultural reform?

  • The agriculture ministers of the EU states and the EU parliament decided last week to reform the agricultural policy (CAP). Even if more EU funds are linked to environmental services in the future, the current system, which is based primarily on area-dependent direct payments for farms, will remain in place.
  • Agrarian reform is not yet what is needed to stop climate change and species extinction. It is all the more important now that the European Commission counteracts this with the biodiversity strategy.
  • In addition, the agricultural reform leaves the member states a lot of leeway, so the national implementation is decisive. The federal government has already unanimously advocated high environmental standards. This must now be taken seriously in the German GAP strategic plan.

October 21, 2020: EU agricultural reform

The EU agriculture ministers today agreed on a reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP).

Why is?

  • Well over 300 billion euros are to flow into agricultural policy from 2021 to 2027 (this corresponds to almost a third of the total EU budget).
  • A large part of the money goes in the so-called 1st pillar as direct payments to the farmers. The amount depends primarily on the size of the cultivated area. What is new is that part (20 percent) of the direct aid for farmers is to be linked to their participation in environmental protection programs ("Eco-Schemes"). The funds from the so-called 2nd pillar flow, among other things, into the development of rural areas.
  • The agricultural reform is important for environmental protection because biodiversity is declining in rural areas in particular and because environmental and nature conservation measures have so far not paid off for many farmers due to the ongoing price pressure.
  • After the agreement in the EU Agricultural Council, negotiations with the European Parliament and the Commission follow. The new GAP regulations will then apply from 2023.

assessment

  • When it comes to protecting the environment and the climate, the Council is falling behind the Commission's proposal. There should be less land for biodiversity and fewer net funds for environmental and nature conservation in the second pillar of agricultural finance. The new eco-regulations in the 1st pillar with a specific minimum budget are in turn only a gain if the member states actually define effective measures and do not offset the environmental performance.
  • A reform towards environmentally friendly agriculture must primarily take place nationally. The EU regulation gives the member states a lot of leeway in this regard. In addition, the heads of state and government have once again significantly expanded the option of reallocating funds to the 2nd pillar in the EU budget negotiations.
  • It is now a matter of setting the course in Germany for this. In the end, we need significantly fewer pesticides and more biodiversity on our fields. At the same time, we have to ensure that farmers who protect the environment and nature more than others also earn more money.

The national implementation of the CAP in Germany should therefore follow five guidelines:

1. Understand the German GAP strategic plan as part of the social contract with agriculture: Appreciate and reward public services by farmers, create planning security for the necessary system change in agricultural policy towards environmentally friendly agriculture.

2. Make 10 percent of the agricultural area available for biodiversity - through fallow land, flowering areas and hedges; also promote species-rich grassland, extensive arable farming and biodiversity-friendly farming practices.

3. Take climate protection seriously: 40 percent of the GAP funds may not be assessed as a global climate benefit, but only if they are actually used for peatland protection, permanent grassland and humus development.

4. Learn from greening - implement the new eco-regulations with ambition: bring only effective, long-term and regionally differentiated measures into the area, including significantly less use of pesticides and fertilizers.

5. Use EU agricultural tax money for the environmentally friendly conversion of agriculture: Farmers should gradually receive more funds for services in environmental, nature and climate protection: from 2023 onwards, start with at least 30 percent of the GAP funds across all pillars and thus also set a trend-setting path for the CAP after 2027.


October 9th, 2020: Climate-neutral federal administration

By 2050, the whole of Germany should be climate neutral. The BMU is setting a good example and has been working greenhouse gas-neutral since this year. Now we are supporting other authorities on the way to a climate-neutral federal administration in 2030.

In terms of climate neutrality, the federal government has a role model function and a legal obligation: With the Climate Protection Act, we have set ourselves the ambitious goal of having a climate-neutral federal administration by 2030.

What is the federal administration's carbon footprint?

  • The buildings and business trips of the federal administration alone currently cause around two to three million tons of greenhouse gases per year.
  • In addition, there are emissions from commuting, equipment, events and canteens.

How will the federal administration become climate neutral?

  • A newly established "Coordination Office for Climate-Neutral Federal Administration" in the BMU's business area will work out a program with specific requirements by 2023 - together with the other federal authorities. Because the project can only succeed if everyone is involved.
  • In addition, the coordination office creates specific tips and guidelines that help ensure that daily administrative work, buildings, canteens, business trips and events no longer cause greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
  • The office monitors progress and makes suggestions for improvement. Other administrations, companies and private individuals can also benefit from the experience gained in this way.

What does the BMU itself do?

The BMU takes its role as a role model seriously: we will be climate-neutral by 2020.

  • The subordinate authorities of the BMU - the Federal Environment Agency, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection - are to become climate-neutral by 2022. Until then, the necessary data must still be recorded. On the way to climate neutrality, we want to offset fewer and fewer emissions and avoid more and more in-house.

Additional information:


October 2nd, 2020: Green Belt

Hardly any other place in Germany stands for overcoming division and the peaceful convergence of East and West like the Green Belt. Where border guards used to patrol, nature now spreads.The area along the former inner-German border is not only an important place of remembrance, but also a valuable biotope network after years of dedicated nature conservation work.

What is the Green Belt?

  • The Green Belt runs along the former inner-German border, over a length of almost 1,400 kilometers from the northern German lowlands to the low mountain ranges.
  • During the division of Germany, the area was excluded from any use for decades. So nature could develop largely undisturbed.
  • Shortly after the fall of the Wall, the idea of ​​permanently preserving this natural area arose. The first major nature conservation projects were implemented in the early 1990s.
  • In the years 2005 to 2011 the Green Belt was secured as part of the "National Natural Heritage" and the land ownership of the federal government was transferred to the neighboring federal states for permanent nature conservation care.
  • Here is the longest network of biotopes in Germany, which represents a cross-section of the national diversity of landscapes and offers habitat for over 1,000 (also rare) animal and plant species.

How is the Green Belt protected?

  • Many municipalities and nature conservation organizations are committed to securing and developing the Green Belt. Several conservation projects have already been successfully completed, for example on the Schaalsee landscape, the Lenzener Elbe valley meadows and the Drömling.
  • In those places where the Green Belt is still incomplete, we support projects to close the gaps and restore the functioning of the biotope network.
  • Another project has recently started to better connect the Green Belt with neighboring, near-natural habitats. This creates a valuable network of specially protected areas - in the middle of Germany.
  • Our goal is to extend the protection of the Green Belt even further. Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt have already placed their shares under special protection as "National Natural Monuments". The other federal states now want to follow suit and take the first steps this year to fully designate the Green Belt as a “National Natural Monument”.
  • The idea behind this protection status is to preserve this previously barely surmountable border as a living monument to modern history. The Green Belt is both: a memorial to the division of Germany and a lifeline for nature.

September 2020

29.09.2020: Search for a repository

Germany is phasing out nuclear power - but even if the last nuclear power plant is shut down in 2022, thousands of tons of radioactive waste will remain. The search for a suitable location for a nuclear waste repository is progressing: Today the Federal Association for Final Storage published an interim report that shows which areas have favorable geological conditions.

End of nuclear power

  • The last nuclear power plant in Germany will go offline at the end of 2022 - the nuclear phase-out was decided in a broad political and social consensus.
  • But even after all nuclear power plants have been switched off, one task remains: the safe storage of the radioactive nuclear waste that has accumulated in recent years and decades.
  • Around 1,900 Castor containers with around 27,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste must be kept safe for a million years. For comparison: a technology that has only been in operation for three generations will affect 30,000 generations.

Search for a repository

  • After decades of constant political and social dispute (keyword: Gorleben), the search for a repository was reset to zero in 2017 with the Site Selection Act and started again with a white map. The following criteria apply to the search:
  • The search is strictly science-based: The decisive factor as to whether an area is suitable as a repository is not political considerations, but scientific findings, in particular geological data on the nature of the rock.
  • The process is transparent, traceable and verifiable: the selection criteria are clearly defined, all essential documents are put online, all important intermediate steps - like the first sub-regional report today - are publicly consulted.
  • Broad social consensus: The public will be actively involved in the selection process, and Parliament will ultimately make the decision based on scientific pre-selection.

Is there no alternative?

  • The fact that we need a repository in Germany is not encouraging, but it is the only sensible solution. We owe it to future generations to find a lasting solution to the rubbish our generation has created.
  • Exporting nuclear waste abroad is not an option: The search for a repository has not yet been satisfactorily resolved anywhere. Germany is further ahead than most other countries.
  • Using nuclear waste again is a dream that believes in technology, with which some are trying to make nuclear power socially acceptable again in Germany. The fact is: Even after decades of global research, nuclear waste cannot simply be magically removed or conveniently rendered harmless.

First sub-areas

  • A first report by the Federal Association for Final Storage (BGE) lists all regions in Germany that are expected to have favorable geological conditions for the safe final storage of radioactive waste.