Berlin Partner/FTP-Werbefotografie

Berlin Partner/FTP-Werbefotografie

Climate Protection – Berlin is on the right track

Germany can become climate neutral by 2050 – according to the recent Agora climate study. Berlin has set that ambitious goal for itself – and takes on a pioneering role as a Smart City. Specific recommendations for action are now to come also from the scientific community. The newly founded “Ecornet Berlin” research association wants to support the Berlin Senate in shaping the transition to a climate-neutral city in both social and ecological terms – with the help of practitioners and the public.

Periods of drought, extreme weather incidents, rising average temperatures. Even in Germany, the impact of climate change is now strikingly evident. With the 2030 Climate Target Plan, the EU member states have committed to reduce their CO2 emissions by at least 40 percent as compared to 1990 over the next ten years. But time is pressing. One of the main objectives of the “European Green Deal” that is currently negotiated in the European Union, is to accelerate climate policy in Europe and to reduce the target value by 55 to 60 percent.

Germany could go even further – and become climate neutral by 2050. This is the conclusion of the study “Towards a Climate -Neutral Germany” published in October by Prognos AG, the Öko-Institut and the Wuppertal Institut on behalf of the think tanks Agora Energiewende, Agora Verkehrswende and Stiftung Klimaneutralität.

The study proposes three stages of development:

  • Stage 1: German CO2 emissions will be 65 percent lower than in 1990. 
  • Stage 2: Complete changeover to climate neutral technologies. Emissions could be reduced by 95 percent.
  • Stage 3: Any unavoidable residual emissions are offset by CO2 separation and storage.

According to the study, a prerequisite for the implementation of this scenario is a comprehensible investment programme, which should drive the expansion of renewable energies, include the substantial electrification of traffic, heating and industry, comprise a smart and efficient modernisation of the existing building stock, and initiate the development of a hydrogen infrastructure for industry.

An essential component of an accelerated climate policy would also be the more rapid construction of wind and solar plants, which should triple compared to today. Quite drastic, but possible: Dr. Patrick Graichen, Director of Agora Energiewende, compares the path to climate neutrality with another important German period of transition: the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

What does the climate study mean for the Smart City Berlin?

“First of all, the study is encouraging, because it shows that Germany can achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The proposed strategies and measures are – compared to other studies – well within the realm of achievable goals,” said Beate Züchner, Head of the Department for Climate Protection and Climate Adjustment at the Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection. “It also shows that Berlin is already on the right track with its ambitious climate targets and strategies.”

In 2016, the Berliner Energiewendegesetz (Berlin Energy Revolution Act) became effective, which defines climate neutrality as a binding objective. Until 2050, the city wants to be climate neutral and the CO2 emissions are to be reduced by at least 85 percent compared to 1990. Until 2030, the target is 60 percent. An ambitious goal, because currently, the figure stands at about 40 percent. The schedule and therefore the central tool of the energy and climate protection policy in Berlin is the Berliner Energie- und Klimaschutzprogramm 2030 (BEK, Berlin Energy and Climate Protection Programme 2030). It comprises around 100 measures, that are mainly based on three pillars: energy savings, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies. Because climate policy is not only about avoiding CO2 emissions in the future, another central aspect of climate protection is adapting those measures to the consequences of climate change.

Urgency is required in climate policy, as the climate gets warmer all over the world – and resources are getting scarce. In December 2019, Berlin was the first federal state to declare a “Klimanotstand” (“Climate Emergency”). The German capital joined other cities around the world that resolutely address the dramatic risks of global climate change. The continuing global warming requires urgent action and additional efforts to protect the climate, according to the Senate resolution.

Cities are an important driver of climate policy

Cities like Berlin are not only the main cause of global warming, but also important drivers of climate protection policy. The Smart City Berlin takes on a pioneering role – as Beate Züchner confirmed: “Berlin will complete the phasing out of coal before 2030. And in the area of mobility, the city already set the right course with comprehensive and substantial measures so that the transport sector can also become more sustainable and climate-friendly”. But the building sector remains a major challenge, she added. “We will set ambitious energy standards for the public building stock as part of the amendment to the Berlin energy revolution act and with a mix of advice, subsidies and alternative approaches we will reduce energy consumption in the private building sector and improve energy efficiency.” The first measures for decarbonisation of heating were already implemented – for Beate Züchner a key factor in achieving the climate targets.

This is a further step on Berlin's path towards the climate target it has set itself for 2050: To make its own actions more transparent and at the same time strengthen the city's efforts to protect the climate, at the end of October, the Berlin Senate decided on a “Climate Check” for Senate bills. The decision on a climate protection package though, which includes a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles in the city centre from 2030, and the mandatory installation of solar energy systems on Berlin roofs, has so far been postponed.

Specific recommendations for action from the research community

Ecornet Berlin is the name of the association of five independent, charitable research institutes, funded by the Senate, that was also set up at the end of October. In various research projects and in close cooperation with relevant actors in the urban community it will develop concrete recommendations for action for Berlin's social and ecological transformation into a climate-neutral city. And that will happen “transdisciplinary”, that is, practice-oriented. The title of the inter-institutional research project involving the Ecologic Institut, the Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung (IÖW, Institute for Ecological Economy Research), the IZT – Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung (Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment), the Öko-Institut (Berlin, Eco-Institute) and the Unabhängiges Institut für Umweltfragen (UfU, Independent Institute for Environmental Issues): “Wissen. Wandel. Berlin” (Knowledge. Change. Berlin).

“To be able to shape the dynamic transformation of the city at the interface between nature and society, Berlin needs specific knowledge,” explained Thomas Korbun, spokesperson for the association and scientific director of the IÖW. “Together with the urban society, we are researching fields of outstanding importance for sustainable development in Berlin and developing approaches to solutions, for example, for a socially acceptable and ecological heating revolution. Or for the sensible use and regulation of data, which benefits Berlin's sustainable development – and of course also affects the Smart City Berlin”. When choosing its research topics, Ecornet Berlin considers the already existing strategies and priorities of the Berlin Senate, such as the Berlin Energy and Climate Protection Programme 2030. “But we also go beyond that and try to set impulses together with practitioners.”

Korbun hopes to be able to present the first substantial research results within the coming months. There are also plans for some exchange with other cities. “We have a whole series of events planned for next year, during which we seek dialogue with other cities and want to reflect on experiences – within Germany as well as with other European cities.” Expert exchange also takes place at project level.

Beate Züchner confirmed that the exchange of experiences is important to firmly anchor the issues of climate protection and climate change in society and achieve the set climate targets: “This requires a variety of tools. They range from comprehensive and targeted investment programmes, networking and exchange of experience, to incentives to make personal lifestyles more climate-friendly – especially in the areas of mobility, consumption and nutrition.”

To facilitate sustainable transformation processes and to allow life-friendly cities to grow, environmental and climate protection measures must also be designed in a socially acceptable manner, said Züchner. “Climate protection needs a clear framework and long-term investment security.” Berlin offers the best possible conditions for this. (vdo)

Further Information:

„Klimaneutrales Deutschland bis 2050“ (Towards a Climate-Neutral Germany) – 5 online events

In five “deep dives” to the study, Agora Verkehrswende and Stiftung Klimaneutraliät get to the bottom of the various sector scenarios. (In German language only.) Please use the following links to register:

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