100 billion / Federal budget / Implementation of climate finance

The German federal elections: what do the parties have to offer regarding climate finance?

German parliament

The German federal elections: what do the parties have to offer regarding climate finance?

The Paris Agreement is something of a lifeline, in particular for people in poor countries whose livelihoods are increasingly being destroyed by storms, floods or droughts. The agreement is considered a milestone in international climate diplomacy. It aims to limit the increase in global average temperature to no more than 1.5°C if possible and cut global greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” over the course of the century. All countries will submit their climate protection goals every five years, and rich countries undertake to provide adequate support to poor countries in coping with climate change. Talk is cheap, however. Implementation, in Germany for example, will be crucial.

The future federal government and the distribution of seats in the next Bundestag will determine the degree to which Germany will advance or perhaps even undermine the Paris Agreement. The phase-out of climate-damaging coal will likely be the crucial issue in this regard. However, the next legislative period will also show whether Germany will adhere to its existing pledges and commitments to help poor countries protect the climate and adapt to climate change. The central issue here is the rich countries’ pledge to increase climate aid to $100 billion annually by 2020.

The conservative CDU/CSU will hopefully continue to feel bound by this pledge. It was, after all, CDU Chancellor Merkel who in 2015 promised to double German climate finance from public funds to just under €4 billion by 2020 – a move that put other donor countries under considerable pressure at the time, even though Germany’s fulfillment of the pledge has since involved some creative accounting.

The Social Democrat SPD goes a step further – in its election program, at any rate: it states that climate finance must be provided in addition to development cooperation funds. And rightly so, as climate finance is part of Germany’s fair contribution (apart from reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions) in dealing with the worldwide climate change that has placed an additional burden on poor countries that have done little or nothing to cause it. Climate finance must therefore not be diverted from the already tight budgets for education, healthcare or poverty reduction in developing countries.

Alliance 90/The Greens take a similar stance and propose that, in order to implement the “additionality” of climate finance required by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, development cooperation should first be rapidly increased to 0.7 percent of GDP – a level that was promised decades ago – and then continue to grow for climate finance. This would ensure additionality step by step.

The leftist LINKE calls for climate finance to be increased to €7 billion by 2020, also (to a large extent) in addition to development cooperation. Like the Greens, the LINKE wants to use revenue from a financial transaction tax for climate finance. Furthermore, the LINKE proposes setting up a compensation fund at the UN level that would be financed by the rich countries. Its objective would be to support poor countries in dealing with the impact of climate damage that will inevitably occur, despite adaptation measures.

The liberal FDP’s call for more quality rather than quantity in development cooperation leads us to believe that the party will be less inclined to adequately increase climate finance. In addition, it apparently wants to eliminate existing regulations from Brussels that currently stipulate that part of the auction proceeds from emissions trading must be earmarked for specific purposes – including climate finance. The FDP is thus unlikely to become the new vanguard of solidarity with countries of the global South beset by climate change (which is driven in part by German coal-fired power plants).

The right-wing populist AfD (which is in no danger of assuming power in government) is in a class of its own: it is the only party likely to be present in the future Bundestag that is calling for Germany’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and denies scientific evidence of climate change – a position more typical for U.S. President Donald Trump or the fossil fuel industry (apart from occasional statements by FDP politicians). As to be expected, its program makes no mention of climate finance.

The federal election will set the course in Germany’s climate policy – one way or the other. Anything is possible, from ambitious climate protection in the spirit of Paris, to further muddling along in the energy sector, to irresponsible setbacks. On the international scene, climate finance is of great importance in determining whether Germany will continue on the path of global partnerships with progressive countries and fulfill its commitments, not only by the letter but also in the spirit of the Paris Agreement. It is now up to the voters.

Jan Kowalzig, Oxfam