There would have been enough reasons to present the German strategy for international climate policy. For example, the Petersberg climate dialogue in early summer, for which the federal government brought together ministers from all over the world to Germany. Or the United Nations General Assembly, which has also served as a top meeting for climate issues for years.
The federal government let both pass. Only now, parallel to the climate conference in Dubai, did the cabinet approve the German “climate foreign policy strategy” on Wednesday. Behind this, however, is less tactical calculation than endless wrangling. Because many people want to have a say in this government when it comes to climate policy. Maybe too many.
The “Climate Foreign Policy Strategy” is more ambitious than the Climate Protection Act
To this end, Germany now has a plan on almost 70 pages, including appendices, as to how it wants to act on the international stage. It says that the government wants to align all structures and instruments with “implementing the transformation into a climate-friendly future in a socially just and economically successful manner”. The pivotal point for this is the Paris Agreement and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, on the basis of which it was created.
“We will use all our resources and instruments to drastically reduce global emissions and almost halve them by 2030 compared to 2019,” the paper says. An ambitious goal, as even the German climate protection law only provides for a reduction of 45 percent. Six percent of this had been achieved by last year.
But the strategy is not about the internal, but about the external. And Germany wants to be a “pioneer and bridge builder” on all channels. In German embassies, climate policy should become a “matter for the bosses”; it should be carried out through development cooperation as well as through trade agreements. Germany also wants to provide international support for the development of systems that would put a price on climate-damaging emissions; as well as the fight against the loss of forests and biodiversity. A new round of state secretaries will coordinate work in the various ministries “and ensure strategic foresight.”
Today, climate policy is a cross-sectional task
Over the years, climate policy has literally become a cross-sectional task for the federal government. The Foreign Office of Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is responsible for international climate policy and was also responsible for developing this strategy.
However, there is also the “Climate Protection Ministry” of her party colleague Robert Habeck, for domestic climate policy. The Federal Environment Ministry of the Green Party Steffi Lemke has a lot to do with this; it is responsible for “natural climate protection” in the country.
And then there is Svenja Schulze, the SPD’s development minister: a large part of the climate aid for foreign countries falls into her area. “Climate protection can only be achieved as a joint project,” says Schulze. Precisely because so many things are connected, good coordination is important.
Together, the four ministries call themselves the “climate cloverleaf,” which could promise four-leaf luck but also suggests unity. In fact, decisions often don’t become easier when four houses want to have a say; Officials report jockeying for authority and jealousies. This didn’t always make working on the strategy any easier either.
In addition to the “climate cloverleaf” of the ministries, the Chancellery is also involved
In this specific case, however, the Chancellery also wanted to have a say; it is pushing at every opportunity for a back door that would allow new gas projects abroad to be developed despite all climate protection. As it is said, these should now remain possible in individual cases – “if they are necessary for national security or geostrategic supply security interests” and “in compliance with the 1.5 degree Celsius limit”. How this contradiction can be resolved is not stated in the paper.
The budgetary hardships have also left their mark. While earlier drafts said that they “wanted” to continue to provide six billion euros annually for international climate financing, the federal government now wants to “make every effort” to achieve this – success is uncertain.
In the meantime, everyone should now know what Germany is up to. Immediately after the cabinet’s decision, the Foreign Office published a summary in English of the “most comprehensive strategy of its kind in the world.”