Horsepower-flush automobiles and the 7,200-mile highway system that accommodates those vehicles, called the autobahn, belong to Germany’s national mythology. For decades, German drivers have relished the ostensible perk of its long stretches of asphalt without a speed limit. But the climate crisis has called this cherished tradition into question, prompting Germans to rethink their relationship to internal combustion engines – and to the autobahn itself, writes Paul Hockenos.
When looking at clean energy expansion and the drive toward a sustainable future, it makes sense to start with the big picture. After all, one can easily get lost in the myriad of bit pieces. But the micro is important, too, and there’s a universe of innovation happening in the private sector: small start-ups that are filling niches in the sustainable economy (like Tesla once did.) An annual competition organized by the German Energy Agency’s Start-Up Energy Transition reflects the private sector’s advances on the countless parts of the larger Energiewende.
Defying the grimmest projections, Europe made it through the temperate winter of 2023 with remarkably little collateral damage – and even a few big wins. The energy crisis may have displaced Europe’s climate aspirations by a fraction, but thanks to a record rollout of renewables and conservation measures, the continent’s emissions footprint inched downward and positioned Europe to remain within reach of its goal to slash emissions by 55 percent in seven years’ time. And it’s on track to comfortably outpace its pledge to generate 45% of its total energy from clean sources by 2030.
At the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung in Berlin, several international experts including two from Ukraine, underscored the precarious events unfolding at Ukraine’s nuclear power stations, among them the Zaporizhzhia complex, the largest nuclear power facility in Europe.
The US’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) counts on massive direct subsidies to its private sector to stimulate a green transformation of the economy. The EU has opted largely for carbon pricing and other taxes to make the same transition. The two approaches are in no way mutually exclusive – and both have benefits. Paul Hockenos looks at the European answer to the IRA in the second installment of the two part series. Read part one here.
The US’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a moonshot moment in global climate protection, underscoring that the public sector will spend hundreds of billions in subsidies to drive decarbonization and a green economic transition. The EU’s bet on carbon pricing doesn’t rule out state aid, too. It now has to match the US plan. Paul Hockenos explains the details in the first installment of a two part series.
In 2022, negative prices occurred during 69 of the total of 8,760 hourly prices in German day-ahead trading. Last year, there were 139 cases of hours when utilities had to pay to give away electricity. This adds to the high price of electricity in Germany, but it doesn’t explain it. Paul Hockenos has the details.
Although overall energy consumption fell, Germany’s emissions declined only slightly: because coal-fired power plants stepped in for Russian gas. A leading German energy think tank argues that Germany has to undertake structural reforms to get on track. Nevertheless, Germany’s emissions are lower than ever before – evidence that Germany can hit targets by replacing fossil fuels with renewables. The catch is that once replaced, fossil fuels must be eliminated from energy production altogether. Experts think that Germany can still phase out all coal-fired generation by 2030.
When the world’s wealthy and powerful descend on the Swiss ski resort of Davos every year to offer prescriptions to fix the world, the assumption from many on the outside is that these moguls are converging to fix it in a way that will protect their riches, or better yet expand them. Thus while there was XXL greenwashing afoot at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 16 to20, at least it’s clear to the Davos crowd that the climate crisis is an acute threat, if foremost to their fortunes. Paul Hockenos on the role of climate change debates at the billionaires’ summit in Switzerland.
Its many manifestations give those intent on helping curb climate breakdown a spectrum of choices and models. The no-holds-barred climate activism of Letzte Generation and Just Stop Oil grabs headlines today the way Fridays for Future did a couple of years ago. But the climate movement is a broad and textured phenomenon that encompasses thousands of bottom-up groups around the world, with strategies and approaches that vary immensely. Paul Hockenos has an overview.