By Benno Schwinghammer, Christian Andresen and Carsten Hoffmann, DPA/Berlin/New York
Germany’s top-level delegation to the UN General Assembly next week is bringing with it a pledge to phase out coal at home and attempts to help save the rainforests abroad, government ministers said.
The country will join an international alliance of countries committed to phasing out the use of coal, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze told the Funke Media Group of newspapers yesterday ahead of today’s UN climate summit.
“The coal exit is a central pillar of global climate protection,” she said.
Schulze arrived yesterday in New York to prepare some of the groundwork.
She will be joined by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Development Minister Gerd Mueller.
Climate change and sustainable development will be core themes for the 74th UN General Assembly, whose session begins tomorrow with a general debate attended by world leaders.
Mueller will be lobbying for efforts to save the world’s forests during his time at the summit, while Merkel will present today Germany’s domestic climate plan that was agreed after tough negotiations by the country’s coalition government on Friday.
Despite some criticism from environmental groups and industry back home, Schulze insisted as she arrived in New York that the government’s climate plan – particularly its binding targets for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions – was received well internationally.
“I think that we in Germany have not really realised how important the decisions of Friday are internationally and how strong they are being recognised,” she said.
Schulze said earlier that the climate targets agreed to by Merkel’s coalition government showed that Germany was “officially” committed to ending its dependency on coal.
“With that, we can finally also join the alliance of coal-exit countries,” she told Funke Media Group.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance, founded in 2017, is comprised of 30 national governments and has also attracted support from regional governments and industry.
Members of the alliance are committed to stopping the construction of new coal plants, halting international funding for coal, setting a target date for their own coal exit and sticking to the goals set out in the Paris climate accord.
Germany aims to close down all its coal-powered plants by 2038 at the latest.
They have a collective production capacity of 42.5 gigawatts.
By 2030, they should be producing no more than 17 gigawatts.
In Schulze’s view, the alliance’s goal shows that coal-powered electricity is becoming a thing of the past in various countries around the world.
“When a big industrial country like Germany turns away from nuclear and coal and transitions step-by-step towards meeting its energy needs entirely with renewable energies, that sends a strong signal to other parts of the world,” she said.
In comments to DPA, Mueller said that he plans to hold talks with World Bank officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly about an aid programme worth hundreds of millions of euros to save the world’s forests.
“The destruction of the planet’s rainforests through slash-and-burn clearances in the Amazon, the Congo Basin and Indonesia – that alone accounts for 11% of worldwide CO2 emissions.
So we have to think about and deal with climate protection internationally,” he added.
Mueller said he is scheduled to meet World Bank President David Malpass in order to discuss forest conservation and reforestation initiatives.
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