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COP Out! How Germany Went From Energy Policy Ideal To Moral Failure

Germany was once a leading light in the green energy transition, but no longer. The country arrives at the COP27 climate conference empty-handed and lacking in moral authority.

COP Out! How Germany Went From Energy Policy Ideal To Moral Failure

At a protest for more social justice in the energy crisis in Berlin

Daniel Wetzel

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The international climate change conference (COP27) that begins in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday will see Germany unveiling a new joint climate and foreign policy. For the first time ever, it will not be Germany’s environment ministry leading the negotiations around protecting the planet but its foreign office.

The move to send experienced diplomats to the conference is designed to increase Germany’s influence over global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, but it will likely have the opposite effect.

Head negotiator Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock and her State Secretary for International Climate Action Jennifer Morgan will not only arrive at the Egyptian seaside resort empty-handed but also lacking in moral authority. Germany has lost its reputation as a leading light in the move towards renewable energy. No coal-dependent developing country will be put to shame by Germany's energy and environmental policy now.


The emissaries from the foreign office can no longer claim the moral high ground. The German government’s announcement that it would be the only country in the world to do away with both coal and nuclear energy at the same time was once met with disbelief, but also admiration. The general feeling was: “If anyone can manage it, the Germans can.”

Steam rises from the cooling tower of the Mehrum power plant

Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/ZUMA

COP out

But the Germans haven’t managed it. That undeniable fact will form the backdrop to every discussion in Sharm El-Sheikh. On the international stage, Germany’s move away from nuclear energy is now seen as wrong-headed as well as seriously counter-productive. That is because it pushes up the price of electricity and carbon credits in neighboring countries and makes it more difficult to cut gas usage across the continent.

Shortly before the conference, the German government announced a relaxation of its climate policy, saying that its earlier plan to introduce annual carbon limits for every sector of the economy, a move somewhat reminiscent of a socialist planned economy, was unfeasible.

In Sharm El-Sheikh, the failure of this law will be seen as further proof of Germany’s overreaching ambition. Germany’s only contribution to discussions will be as an example of what not to do, showing others how excessive regulation and bans on certain technologies will not achieve our aim of protecting the environment.

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