Climate change means structural change

Climate change is very unpleasant. But it also becomes uncomfortable to do something about climate change. In Germany, the Coal Commission was formed with the task of conceiving and planning the phase-out of coal. It can last up to twenty years, it’s been agreed. The affected regions painfully fast, and the climate protectors unbearably long. Germany’s withdrawal from coal is not enough for global climate protection. Around 1,300 new coal-fired power plants are currently being built or planned worldwide. And 90 percent of all new coal-fired power plants are built in developing countries. Those who understand these figures will think that the game against climate change has long since been lost.

However, there is a solution. It is called the “Budget Approach” and was developed in Germany by the WBGU (German Advisory Council on Global Change). This approach aims to give countries of all kinds the same per capita budget for CO2 emissions. However, the old industrial countries would have used up their budgets very soon and would then have to buy all their licences abroad. The exciting thing is this: For the first time in history, a developing country facing the decision to build a coal-fired power plant would not automatically start construction, but would first conduct a cost-benefit analysis for the two options: build or not build.

High prices for CO2 licenses would make non-construction temptingly lucrative. And if renewable energies were promoted and energy efficiency greatly improved, the balance would very quickly move towards the non-construction option. And this for purely economic reasons.

Unfortunately, the USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia and a few others came to the Copenhagen climate summit with the clear intention of blocking the discussion on the budget approach. German industry was not enthusiastic either. However, I also consider it feasible and even economically attractive for countries such as Germany to run ahead.

read more in H2-international October 2019

Prof. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker
since 1991 Member of the Club of Rome, Co-President (2012 to 2018)

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