Monday, January 6, 2020

The Climate Leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German German Chancellor Angela Merkel proves that major industrial powers can also be climate leaders. Merkel stands out in stark contrast to nations failing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The climate failure of the political regimes in the U.S., Australia, and Brazil are highlighted by wildfires.

Merkel is the polar opposite of U.S. president Donald Trump, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro. She has a long history of environmental advocacy which has earned her the nickname of "climate chancellor". She holds a doctorate in quantum chemistry and is a former research scientist so it should come as no surprise that her approach is science-based. Her first portfolio was that of minister of the environment. In 2005 she became Germany's first female chancellor and in 2011 she launched an energy transition policy called energiewend which is moving the country away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy towards renewable sources of energy.

Her goal was to generate 35 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, 50 percent by 2030, 65 percent by 2040, and more than 80 percent by 2050. At the same time, Merkel vowed to cut carbon emissions (compared to 1990 levels) by 40 percent by 2020, 55 percent by 2030, and more than 80 percent by 2050.

As of 2014 Germany was getting 27.4 percent of its gross electricity consumption from renewable sources, and greenhouse gas emissions were down 27 percent, compared to 1990 levels. In 2018, renewable energy generated an average of 40.4 percent of the country’s electricity. In 2019 Germany increased its renewable energy goal from 55 to 65 percent by 2030. Last year Germany set a new record getting nearly 65 percent of the country's electricity from renewable sources in the first week of March.

Early in 2019 Germany announced that it would close all of its coal plants. At the end of 2019 at a New Year's speech at the chancellery in Berlin, Merkel said she is fighting climate change with all her strength to enable future generations to live in peace and prosperity.

"Global warming is real. It is threatening...So we have to do everything humanly possible to overcome this human challenge. It is still possible," Merkel said. She is looking towards the future, beyond her lifespan. "At 65, I am at an age at which I personally will no longer experience all the consequences of climate change that will occur if politicians do not act," the chancellor said. This is what leadership looks like.

"It will be our children and grandchildren who have to live with the consequences of what we do or refrain from doing today. That is why I use all my strength to ensure that Germany makes its contribution - ecologically, economically, socially - to getting climate change under control. To do this, we need more than ever the courage to think in a new way, the strength to leave familiar paths, the willingness to try new things, and the determination to act faster, convinced that the unusual can succeed - and must succeed if the generation of today’s young people and their descendants should still be able to live well on this Earth," Merkel said.

Barack Obama's last phone call as president was to Merkel. It was as though he was passing the torch to the German chancellor. He knew that under Trump U.S. leadership on the world stage would come to an end. In the wake of Trump's abdication, Merkel's climate leadership and her efforts to protect liberal democracy have made her the de-facto leader of the free world.While Trump has exited the Paris Agreement, Merkel was a key supporter. She said, "It is no exaggeration to say that climate protection is no more and no less than a question of survival." Under Merkel's leadership Germany is an inspiration for the world.

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