Germany debates programme to save 2020 climate target

  • 17 Nov 2014, 16:55
  • Mat Hope

Germany solar | Shutterstock

Germany plans to its cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. But three years of increasing emissions have raised questions about whether Germany can stick to its target.

The country's  environment minister is adamant that Germany will not relax decarbonisation targets. Today the energy and economics minister dismissed reports the target would be weakened.

The government is set to agree a new Climate Action Programme next month, designed to get the country's emissions back on track. But  a leaked draft shows a number of key issues are yet to be resolved.

The Energiewende's emissions gap

In 2010, Germany embarked on an ambitious programme to decarbonise its energy sector, known as  the Energiewende or 'energy transition'. The Energiewende set a  series of 2050 targets to guide Germany's climate and energy policy for the next 40 years.

To assess the Energiewende's progress, the government also set shorter-term targets. A goal to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels is just one of these.

But Germany's greenhouse gas emissions have been rising for the last three years, bringing this interim goal into question.

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Source:  Clean Energy Wir e


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Are countries contributing their fair share to the UN’s climate adaptation fund?

  • 14 Nov 2014, 13:10
  • Mat Hope

Credit: UNFCCC

President Obama is poised to pledge  around $3 billion to help the world's most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change. That sounds like a lot. But is the US set to pay its fair share?

The US's contribution will be the largest yet to the UNFCCC's Green Climate Fund (GCF). Such pledges are seen as critical in the run-up to next year's international negotiations to formulate a new global climate deal. Negotiators hope Obama's promise will encourage other countries to make similarly bold contributions.

We take a look at who's pledged what so far, and whether countries are offering their fair share.

Green climate fund

The GCF was established at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. But it has been struggling for funds.

World leaders have promised to eventually contribute $100 billion a year to the GCF by 2020. The GCF originally aimed to get countries to pledge $15 billion by the end of this year. It  lowered the target to $10 billion this September.

The GCF is politically important. It is the most high profile mechanism that allows developed countries to transfer funds to more vulnerable states. Many of the nations set to receive funds from the GCF have said they can't commit to cutting emissions unless developed economies honor their promise to contribute to the fund.

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A detailed look at the US and China’s historic climate deal

  • 13 Nov 2014, 15:00
  • Mat Hope
  • The US and China both make new pledges to cut emissions.
  • The pledges are not enough to prevent temperatures rising by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
  • Negotiators say the agreement is vital to policymakers' chances of agreeing a new climate deal in 2015.

The US and China yesterday agreed new climate targets. The deal is being hailed as  "historic" and "a  watershed moment for climate politics". Some have questioned whether the targets are ambitious enough to help the world avoid the worst impacts of climate change, however. Here's our guide.

China's emissions to peak in 2030

China has pledged to ensure emissions peak in 2030. It has also promised to aim to produce 20 per cent of its energy from low carbon sources by the same date.

No one knows how high the country's emission peak will be and it's unclear how much carbon dioxide China will be emitting when 2030 comes around.

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Can we use gas as a 'bridging fuel' to a low carbon world?

  • 13 Nov 2014, 11:48
  • Christian Hunt

Credit:  Richard Humphrey

Gas can be a bridge fuel, displacing coal and helping to reduce carbon emissions, a  new report concludes. But only for the next twenty years, and only if the world sorts out carbon capture and storage (CCS) and sees a dramatic cut in coal use.

Limiting climate change means the world is eventually going to need to get energy from power sources that are essentially zero carbon. That means renewables, nuclear power, and perhaps CCS power plants. If CCS can be used in conjunction with burning wood, effectively drawing carbon out of the atmosphere, so much the better.

But in the short term, why not begin with an easier task and replace coal power with gas, saving carbon emissions in the process? Effectively using gas as a 'bridge' to a low carbon energy system.

The problem is it's tricky to know exactly what a 'gas bridge' would look like. For instance, how much gas can the world burn, and for how long? A new report from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) crunches some numbers to try and answer those questions, and offers some insight into exactly how gas could help the world bridge to a low carbon future.

Gas as a bridge fuel

It might seem odd that climate policy could lead to increased use of fossil fuels. But, say UKERC, putting a price on carbon would initially push gas use up, not down.

The UKERC report uses economic modelling to look at the effect of introducing a carbon tax on the world's energy mix. As gas produces less carbon dioxide than burning coal, pricing carbon would make gas cheaper than coal, pushing gas use up at coal's expense.

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How gas use rises with various carbon prices: the black line is with no carbon tax, the yellow line corresponds with a two degree target, UKERC says.

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Why the government adds green levies to household energy bills

  • 07 Nov 2014, 11:40
  • Mat Hope

Gas bill | Shutterstock

The government expects household energy bills to increase significantly over the next 15 years. But its energy and climate policies will help curb the rise, it argues, making households better-off than they otherwise would be.

It's become a familiar refrain from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The media  has something of an obsession with whether the government's efforts to decarbonise the UK's energy sector  add to people's bills. Perhaps because of this, DECC appears to have stepped up its efforts to persuade us that its policies are beneficial to consumers.

Yesterday, it  updated its estimates of how the government's policies impact household energy bills. We take a look at what DECC expects to happen, and the assumptions behind its projections.

Bills in 2020

DECC expects an average household energy bill in 2020 will be £50 lower than today in real terms.

But its projections go further than this. DECC also says it expects households will pay £92 less in 2020 than they would if the government doesn't implement any climate or energy policies, such as subsidising low carbon energy projects or installing smart meters.

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How can climate negotiators avoid Paris 2015 being a rerun of Copenhagen 2009?

  • 05 Nov 2014, 10:25
  • Mat Hope

Climate march | Shutterstock

World leaders have a self-imposed deadline to agree a new global climate deal by the end of 2015.

The last time politicians met under such a spotlight was in Copenhagen in 2009, and the headlines following it were heavy with adjectives like  "failure" "setback" and  "disaster". So the next 13 months are being touted as crucial preparation for next year's crunch talks in Paris.

This week, representatives from business, government and civil society mulled over past mistakes and future obstacles at international affairs thinktank Chatham House's annual climate change conference - a kind of high-level get-together for climate.

Carbon Brief was there, and while the conference was held under the famous Chatham House Rule meaning we can't say who said what, we can give you an idea of what the attendees say needs to be done to get to an agreement in Paris.


Outside the conference,  protesters waved banners complaining about Shell's sponsorship of the event. That was presumably music to the ears of those inside the room, who were talking up the need for more public engagement on climate change in the build up to 2015.

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Media round-up: The IPCC synthesis report

  • 04 Nov 2014, 16:54
  • Robert McSweeney & Rosamund Pearce

Rajendra Pachauri on Sky News

On Sunday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its synthesis report, which summarises the findings of three huge assessment reports. It prompted a flurry of media coverage. Here are some selected highlights.

Broadcast media

  • BBC News discusses the "controversial" recommendation that fossil fuels should be phased out by the end of the century - "a huge undertaking". Since every attempt to negotiate a new climate treaty has failed, and with Paris on the horizon, the BBC asks: "has anything really changed?"

  • With the "glacial" pace of the UN negotiating process,  Channel 4 news asks: can we adapt fast enough? Professor Joanna Haigh argues that climate change has not dropped of the agenda, discusses geoengineering versus preventative measures, and the value of the political process.


  • In The IPCC report: why it matters, the BBC debates why another report was needed right now. Scientists believe that political leaders are in the process to agree a new climate deal - and they want to give them the most succinct report for this - "It may be the runt of the litter in size, but in political terms, it could turn out to be a real heavyweight".

  • In Climate change action will cost, the BBC broadcasts Ban Ki-moon's speech at the launch of the report.

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The implications of the US midterm elections for climate change policy: An international perspective

  • 03 Nov 2014, 17:00
  • Mat Hope

US Capitol | Shutterstock

US voters will head to the polls tomorrow to decide which party rules Congress for the next two years. Environmental groups have  spent millions trying to make climate change an electoral issue. Come Wednesday morning, they'll see what those bucks bought.

The US legislature looks like it's heading for a shake up. Polls show the Republican party has a  good chance of winning a majority in both chambers of Congress for the first time in almost a decade. That could have serious ramifications for the country's climate policy.

US commentators have done a good job of rounding up  what that could mean state-side. We take a more international perspective, looking at what it might mean for the world's chances of agreeing a  new global climate deal.


Congress is a perennial thorn in the side of those pressuring the US to take action on climate change. The outcome of this week's election could make the task a whole lot harder.

Unlike the President, who gets elected every four years, Congressional elections take place every two years. This week's election is known as the midterms, as it's held midway through the President's term.

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Carbon Brief’s guide to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report

  • 03 Nov 2014, 09:45
  • Carbon Brief staff

Night earth | Shutterstock

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just completed a major review of global climate research - its fifth assessment report (AR5).

The report is split into three sections. The first two instalments cover the science and impacts of climate change. The third part looks at policies to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC also produces a synthesis report, drawing all the research together.

We've covered each instalment in detail. Here's a catalogue of Carbon Brief's summaries, guides, and analyses of the IPCC's fifth assessment report.

Working group 1: The science

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Why the IPCC synthesis report is necessary but not sufficient to secure a response to climate change

  • 31 Oct 2014, 13:45
  • Simon Evans

Factory chimneys | Shutterstock

On Sunday 2nd November, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its latest synthesis report, distilling the latest knowledge on what UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has  called the greatest threat ever faced by humanity.

The synthesis report will wrap up the IPCC's fifth assessment (AR5) of climate change. It draws together information from the IPCC's reports on the science of climate change, climate impacts and the  ways climate risks can be addressed.

It takes a mammoth collective effort on the part of scientists, economists and policymakers to produce these IPCC reports. Is it worth it?

We've collected a range of views on the need for, and wider significance of, the IPCC's work. These suggest it remains a necessary but not sufficient part of the job of addressing climate change.

The synthesis report is necessary

Does the world need an IPCC, asks former IPCC chair and former scientific adviser to the UK government Bob Watson. "My answer would be absolutely yes," he says. "I think it's critically important the IPCC does routinely report back on what we know."

The synthesis report collects together scientific opinion on the technical and socio-economic aspects of the causes of climate change, the risks it poses and the options for adaptation and mitigation. It is unique in taking such a wide ranging and considered view of climate.

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