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Climate Protection: Economy Tops Politics

Some appalling figures have reached us from politics in recent days. Hardly any country in Europe will achieve its climate protection goals for 2020, while there are more and more refugees elsewhere. Nevertheless, something is changing - albeit from an unexpected direction.

Image: PixabayImage: Pixabay

Only few people - including the U.S. President - nowadays deny that the climate is changing. Looking around the U.S. tangible effects are easy to detect: Temperatures are rising, and in California deadly bush fires are multiplying. Meanwhile, ice in Alaska is melting and sea levels are rising. East coast storms are becoming increasingly extreme, with strong snow and rain dominating the weather every year.

According to statistics, weather extremes in the U.S. have doubled over the past three decades. "Climate change is here, it's happening now and is hitting us from all sides," says climate researcher Kathie Dello from Oregon State University in Corvallis in the German WirtschaftsWoche.

Elsewhere, climate change has even more dramatic consequences: As the recently published UN report shows, there were more refugees last year than ever before. More than 68.5 million children, women and men have fled their homes, almost three million more than in 2016, and the trend is rising for the fifth time in a row.

"In addition to increasing conflicts over resources, we are particularly concerned about climate change. So far, the challenges in the industrialized countries in particular have not been taken on as they should be," explains Welthungerhilfe President Bärbel Dieckmann in an interview with German newspaper FAZ. That makes far-reaching measures for climate protection all the more important. "It is unacceptable that a country like Germany with sufficient financial resources will not achieve its climate targets by 2020," stresses Dieckmann.

This puts Germany in line with almost the entire EU, as the latest study by the Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe) shows. Not one single European country can score in setting ambitious targets and in making progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The top position in this ranking remains unfilled, because not a single country tackles both problems satisfactorily. (Image: CAN Europe)

Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe, does not spare any criticism: “Sweden, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg score highly because they recognise the importance of ensuring that EU climate policy is ‘Paris Agreement-proof’. The lack of willingness to act on climate among all other Member States is underwhelming. While all EU countries signed the Paris Agreement, most are failing to work towards delivering on its objectives. Countries urgently need to improve their ranking by speaking out and acting in favour of more ambitious climate and energy policies and targets domestically and at EU-level.”

"Ambitious climate protection is an indispensable future project for the EU. If the German government put its energy into fighting the climate crisis instead of repelling people seeking protection, a lot would be gained," says Anton Hofreiter, German Greens parliamentary group leader.

Meanwhile, our stricken planet receives support from an unexpected side. More and more business enterprises are breaking with familiar routines. The usual scenario: Politicians decide, economy grumbles, but has to bow to abide by the law. However, there has been a new trend in climate protection in recent years: Politicians have been reluctant to introduce strict laws on climate protection delaying more ambitious goals and rigorous measures. But instead of simply accepting or even welcoming this, more and more companies have been getting active about climate change themselves. Too often they have already felt the effects first hand - thus, in business figures.

Reinsurance allows insurance companies to remain solvent after major claims events (Image: Pixabay)

Driven by the tech industry obtaining their increased energy requirements from renewable sources, more and more companies and now also banks and investors have been turning to sustainable sources.

Almost half of the global reinsurers no longer invest in coal - a movement that Hannover Re, the world's third largest reinsurer, has now also joined, as bizz energy reports.

Aim of the so-called divestment movement is to weaken the political influence of the coal, oil and gas industry, who have been blocking steps to combat climate change again and again for many years. "With every institution that publicly divorces coal, oil and gas companies, we are undermining their power to pursue their immoral business plans a little more," writes the Fossil Free Germany group on their homepage.

Sooner or later this movement will prevail, as figures of the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report point out. The report provides financial developments of the energy industry once a year. “Coal emerges as the biggest loser in the long run," says Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at BNEF. "Beaten on cost by wind and PV for bulk electricity generation, and batteries and gas for flexibility, the future electricity system will reorganize around cheap renewables – coal gets squeezed out.” 50 percent of the energy should come from renewable sources by 2050, which would significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

It is to be hoped that politicians will no longer ignore the clear signals from economy and society and implement a corresponding legal framework for this development - so even the most outdated persons are forced to join in.

Katrin Radtke
climate change, Germany, EU, fossil free, CO2, climate protection, economy, politics, refugees, UN

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