Germany cuts CO2 targets for industry ahead of Morocco talks

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government has bowed to pressure to water down its CO2 reduction targets for industry in the final version of its climate action plan, a document seen by Reuters showed.

The sun rises behind the billowing chimneys of a power station in Berlin, November 27, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is determined to hammer out the final details this week so that Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks can present the plan at global climate talks in Morocco next week.

The government is now calling for German industry to cut its CO2 emissions by 20 rather than 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2014, according to the document which was seen on Friday.

The plan sets out how Europe’s biggest economy expects to move away from fossil fuels and cut CO2 emissions by 95 percent by 2050 to implement pledges made as part of a global climate treaty agreed in Paris in September 2015.

A leader of the Greens, Anton Hofreiter, said the watered-down goals as showed how Germany, which once considered itself a leader in climate protection, has gone off course.

“The climate protection plan remains just a skeleton,” he said. “There still aren’t any clear goals or measures. This government is afraid to tackle issues like more CO2-free vehicles on the road or closing down coal-burning plants.”

In the new plan, the emissions-cutting target for power stations was reduced, although only slightly.

Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) who share power with Merkel’s conservatives, blocked a deal late on Tuesday on the initial plan, aimed at cutting German CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

His unexpected veto came after trade union IG BCE, with the support of the BDI industry group, raised concerns about plans for Germany to end its use of brown coal amid calls for it to set out a timetable for ending coal-fired power production.

Gabriel said it was important to achieve ambitious climate and energy policies that also take into account modernization, economic growth and job security.

The document also dropped a previous government call to set a minimum price for carbon permits auctioned by countries under the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The ETS charges power plants and factories for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit, but to stop industries moving their operations to countries with looser environmental regulations, many firms have been handed free permits.

The German document suggested 10 percent of the most efficient plants in sectors that could be vulnerable to so-called carbon leakage should continue to get free allowances.

EU lawmakers are currently working on reforms of the market that will reduce the share of free carbon permits handed out after 2020 as part of an effort to fix the oversupply in the system and boost prices.

Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; Writing by Michael Nienaber and Erik Kirschbaum,; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alexander Smith