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New German Government Wants to Accelerate Climate Protection Significantly

December 2021 | Background

German flag
Image: iStock/hanohiki

The new Federal Republic is officially in office, the coalition agreement sealed. One theme in particular runs like a red thread through the joint government program of the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats: climate protection. The 177-page agreement states that man-made climate change is “one of the greatest challenges of our time”. At the same time, however, overcoming this crisis together offers great opportunities for Germany as an industrial location, for new technologies and for climate-neutral prosperity. The traffic light coalition has therefore set itself ambitious climate protection targets for the coming years.

More Speed, More Funding, Less Bureaucracy

The coal phase-out will be advanced by eight years to 2030. This is to be made possible by a massive expansion of renewable energies: they are to cover 80 percent of electricity requirements by 2030. The EEG amendment previously envisaged only 65 percent. In addition, it is planned to generate 50 percent of heat in a climate-neutral manner by 2030, so that a high proportion of renewable energies will also be required here. Accelerated planning and approval procedures for the construction of wind turbines, grids and infrastructure are to ensure the rapid growth of green energy sources. In the future, every suitable roof surface will be used to generate solar energy. This will become the rule for new private buildings and even mandatory for commercial buildings.

Likewise, two percent of the state’s land will be designated for wind energy. According to the Federal Environment Agency, this figure is currently around 0.8 percent. The aim is also to significantly increase capacity for offshore wind energy: the current 7.8 gigawatts (GW) fed into the German power grid are to be increased to at least 30 GW by 2030 – instead of the 20 GW previously planned.

Until renewables can secure the power supply, modern gas-fired power plants are to be used on a transitional basis, converted to climate-neutral gases such as green hydrogen. The German government plans to make Germany the lead market for hydrogen technologies by 2030. It also wants to push for the establishment of a European Union for green hydrogen. The traffic light parties also want to promote other sustainable technologies. For example, Germany is to become a center for research, production and recycling of battery cells and a global location for the semiconductor industry.

The coalition has big plans in the mobility sector: at least 15 million purely electric cars by 2030, one million public charging points and a strengthening of rail transport. For comparison: according to Statista, there were only around 517,000 electric cars on the road in Germany in 2021. Before 2035, only CO2-neutral vehicles are to be registered in the Federal Republic.

In terms of digitalization, the nationwide provision of fiber optics and the latest mobile communications standard has been announced. The areas of public administration, education and business are to be comprehensively digitalized.

No Climate Protection Without Strategic Raw Materials

Most of the planned measures require the use of critical raw materials. Permanent magnets made of the rare earths neodymium and dysprosium are used in the construction of electric motors and wind turbines. Gallium arsenide or cadmium tellurite can be used to produce particularly lightweight and cost-effective thin-film solar cells. Indium compounds also play an important role in photovoltaics. Hafnium, terbium and tellurium are in demand in semiconductor technology. The technology metal germanium is the most important component in fiber optic cables. Platinum is needed for the production of green hydrogen. Demand for technology metals and rare earths could therefore increase significantly again in the coming years.

German flag
Image: iStock/hanohiki

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