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Germany stresses 'co-operative' climate foreign policy

25 Jan 2022 16:46 GMT
Germany stresses 'co-operative' climate foreign policy

Berlin, 25 January (Argus) — Germany will emphasise in its G7 presidency the need for co-operation between countries and regions to tackle climate change, including acceptance of "heterogeneity" between countries and the climate policy instruments they choose, Germany's G7 government "Sherpa", Joerg Kukies, said this week.

"We cannot expect everyone to immediately embrace explicit carbon pricing mechanisms," Kukies told delegates at an online conference hosted by think-tanks on the occasion of Germany's G7 presidency. And it is "extremely" important that "we find a level playing field, how we can make those instruments comparable with each other", he said.

The German government's "biggest fear" is that instead of a co-operative solution — in which "ideally" as many countries and regions of the world as possible agree on standards and norms, pricing, regulation and incentives — the "unco-operative" alternative prevails, "where we all impose barriers to trade and tariffs on each other as a function of carbon emissions", Kukies said.

Asked whether Germany views the G7 as a kind of avant garde for a climate club or envisages a wider group of countries, Kukies said the processes must go hand in hand. While he believes that there is an opportunity now to sign an agreement within the G7, it would be "inefficient" to focus only on this group, he said.

Kukies pointed out the importance of connecting this year's G7 process with the G20 process under Indonesia's presidency. Kukies said he is in touch with his G20 counterpart and that there is a "common spirit" between the G7 priorities and those of the Indonesian presidency with its focus on global health architecture, sustainable energy transition and digital transformation.

The UN Cop 26 climate conference in Glasgow last year showed some "very encouraging elements of co-operation", Kukies said. It is "no secret" that some of the G7 countries have been among the most active in forging the deal to support South Africa's coal phase-out.

Kukies pointed to German chancellor Olaf Scholz's speech at Davos last week in which he championed the creation of a "climate club", bringing together large economies pushing for more ambitious climate action. "We want the element of non-exclusivity to be key for the climate club," Kukies said.

Forming a climate club is about a "paradigm shift in international climate policy", Kukies said, adding that "we don't want to wait for the slowest but lead by example".

Kukies reiterated the need stressed by the German government on 21 January to open up the G7 process to civil society to "avoid thinking in terms of foregone conclusions". Continued research, for instance, will be needed to find the most efficient way of using the planet's resources or making industry-related investment decisions. Germany, with its strong industrial base and limited renewables capacity, will become a "client of the world, so to speak", Kukies said.

Germany's government last week presented its G7 programme, which puts climate policy and multilateralism at the forefront.

The findings of a recent study suggest the most promising way for global warming to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is if international relations undergo a "systemic shift" towards global co-operation. The study, commissioned by climate policy think-tank E3G, was carried out by the German KAS foundation, which is close to Germany's opposition right-of-centre CDU party.

One climate policy priority, according to the KAS study, should be to further develop sector agreements in which some progress has already been made, such as in resolved trade disputes. The joint agreement on steel and aluminium tariffs signed by the US and EU in October 2021 could be used as the basis for a "clean steel deal". The US and EU delegates in their joint statement pledged that they "intend to negotiate for the first time, a global arrangement to address carbon intensity and global overcapacity".

Reaching a global clean steel deal would be more feasible in a global co-operation scenario, according to the report. But the EU and US could move forward even without crucial players such as China and India, provided they take active measures to contain the geopolitical fallout, the authors said.