German government agrees to €54bn climate change package

Following intensive all-night discussions between governing parties, the German government has announced that it has agreed upon a €54bn (£48bn) package to support measures to fight climate change.

The announcement coincides with a worldwide ‘climate strike’ which has seen millions of workers and students take to the streets to demand that governments move to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The strikes precede the UN Climate Action Summit, which begins in New York next week.

In the past year, widely-reported instances of extreme weather, the popular activism of Swedish teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement, along with some high-profile policy proposals - such as the ‘Green New Deal’ - have all helped draw greater attention than ever to the concept of climate change as an existential emergency.

Now, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that the country’s governing parties have agreed upon a multi-billion euro package to fight climate change.

The package will go towards measures such as establishing an emissions trading system which will set a cost for carbon dioxide produced by fuels in transport and heating (beginning at just €10 in 2021 and rising to €35 in 2025) with which their impact will be offset. Director of Greenpeace Germany Martin Kaiser described the initial charge as “ridiculously low”.

Other measures will include raising the ‘climate charge’ on flights and funding for low-emission public transport, such as low-emission trains. This will include reducing tax on train tickets.

Germany has set a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030. The UK government has set its own target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“We believe that we can achieve the goals and that we’ve truly laid the foundations for this,” she said. German environment minister Svenja Schulze described the package as a “new beginning for Germany’s climate policy.”

According to a poll by German broadcaster ARD, 63 per cent of German voters believe the government should prioritise climate mitigation over economic growth, with just 24 per cent believing that economic growth should take priority.

The opposition Alliance 90/Greens Party has long criticised the government for taking insufficient action to reduce emissions under lobbying pressure from industrial groups and has demanded more serious commitments to decarbonisation in exchange for support to form a coalition. The party saw a surge in support this year, coming second in May’s European Parliament election.

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