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ENVIRONMENT

Developing a sensible biofuels strategy for Germany

Reinhard Schultz from the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) parliamentary group remains optimistic Germany will continue to develop biofuels despite the government’s recent decision to shelve its E10 project.

Developing a sensible biofuels strategy for Germany
Photo: DPA

Many crocodile tears have been shed over the past week by those who would like to consider the government’s biofuel strategy a failure. But what actually happened?

A technical requirement for regular petrol to contain ten percent ethanol cannot be implemented as planned. The reason? The automobile industry isn’t able to stick to promises made to the government because it wasn’t informed about an agreement for older foreign cars in Germany. That’s regrettable. But is it a catastrophe? No. Ethanol has up till now played a minor role in Germany. The biofuel market runs on diesel. And a biodiesel mix is available in greater quantities than before.

Moreover, the technical aspects of such mixtures have nothing to do with the level of the biofuels quota, which can be fulfilled either through fuel additives or via the straight sale of biofuels. The choice is largely up to petroleum industry. Of course, the big oil companies don’t like to sell pure biofuels. They don’t have the infrastructure to do so. But they could – and legislation specifically allows this – make use of the services of independent midsized petrol stations. The oil firms only need to make up the price difference between “normal” gasoline and diesel. Until greater quantities of biofuels can be added to the mix this method is certainly reasonable demand to place on the petroleum industry.

Naturally, we are also keeping an eye on the global market for biofuels and the raw materials they require. We are aware of the limits to its growth if our biofuel strategy is to remain both sustainable and oriented on meeting climate change goals. But we also see a lot of room to expand the use of biofuels in both Germany and Europe. And that’s exactly what we aim to do.

Parts of the petroleum and automobile industries, and of course Germany’s car lobby ADAC, have publicly made a fool of both the Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel and the government in the worst possible way – especially since they were the ones directly responsible for the information chaos. But it won’t be much use to them. Germany will continue to pursue a sensible biofuels strategy.

Reinhard Schultz is a member of the Bundestag for the SPD.

Translation by The Local.

ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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