In the media

Amendment to Germany’s Climate Protection Act fails to re-align political incentives for stronger climate policy

Despite widespread criticism, the amendment is not a disaster, but Centre for Sustainability researchers identify missed opportunities for improvement.

In an article published on 6 May in Verfassungsblog, researchers from the Hertie School Centre for Sustainability comment on the recent amendment to Germany’s Federal Climate Protection Act and its implications for climate policy. The authors, Professor of Climate Policy and Director of the Centre for Sustainability Christian Flachsland, Research Associate and PhD candidate Claudia Zwar and Jacob Edenhofer (Oxford University), respond to widespread public criticism for one of the significant changes in the amendment: the removal of annual sector-based targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The authors argue that this mechanism in the original Climate Protection Act, with its sector targets and immediate action programs, was ineffective in enforcing ambitious climate targets in the first place. They suggest that instead, institutions need to restructure incentives for political actors to ensure compliance.

The authors argue that, while the amendment introduces some improvements, such as a shift to a more cross-sectoral and ex-ante perspective in climate policymaking, it still misses opportunities to strengthen institutional frameworks for climate policy. Additionally, while formal institutional design plays a role in climate policy, according to the authors, it has limits, and other means beyond legislative mandates are necessary to ensure long-term adherence to climate goals. They emphasise that the EU emissions trading systems, ETS and ETS2, set “a highly ambitious and effective institutional framework for German and European climate policy. From a climate policy perspective, the aim should be to supplement this framework with targeted reforms in such a way that it is in the interests of any future government to adhere to this high level of ambition.”

Despite the missed opportunities, the researchers do not deem the amendment as a disaster. Rather, they see it as a step that fails to sufficiently realign political incentives toward ambitious climate policy.

Read the full article on Verfassungsblog in English here and in German here.

The Hertie School is not responsible for any content linked or referred to from these pages. Views expressed by the author/interviewee may not necessarily reflect the views and values of the Hertie School. 

More about our experts