Cablegate: Climate Change -- German Opinion Ahead of Un

Published: Mon 3 Dec 2007 09:19 AM
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1. (SBU) The Germans have endorsed a roadmap approach at
Bali that is not dissimilar to that of the U.S. (Reftel A),
but Chancellor Merkel's government is committing itself to
increasingly ambitious environmental objectives that could
challenge the U.S. position in Bali and other international
negotiations. Climate change remains a major issue in
Germany; support for drastic measures to reduce greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions cuts across all party lines and societal
strata. Merkel has made climate change one of the signature
issues of her Chancellorship (Reftel B). She -- along with
most other German political leaders -- supports mandatory,
targeted global limits on GHG emissions supported by an
international cap-and-trade regime. The Chancellor has been
in the forefront of those calling for dramatic reductions in
GHG emissions in Germany, the EU and globally. She favors a
system that would link permissible GHG emissions to
population, rather than measuring GHG intensity by linking
emissions to units of GDP. The German government has,
nonetheless, demonstrated a willingness to consider
alternative solutions and to consider the potential positive
role of new technologies, including renewable energy sources
and clean coal technologies. The Germans plan to announce a
120 million euro contribution to be used for technology
transfer to developing countries at Bali. The Germans were
somewhat skeptical, yet willing, participants in the
September Major Economies Meeting, and appear willing to work
with the U.S. as we focus on more flexible approaches to
climate change. End Summary.
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German Retrospective on the Major Economies Meeting (MEM)
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2. (SBU) While Germany thought the MEM was a modest success,
our interlocutors have expressed some disappointment over the
apparent unwillingnesss of the U.S. to adopt more concrete
objectives. On November 7, we reviewed German impressions of
the MEM with Karsten Sach, Deputy Director General for
International Cooperation in the Environment Ministry. In
Sach's view, too much time at the MEM was set aside for
presentations. He said that attendees already know the
issues and the positions of the various parties. The
discussion on the last day of the MEM was better, although
there was disappointment in the room about the lack of
concrete proposals presented by the U.S. Sach also lamented
the perceived back-tracking of the U.S. position after
Heiligendamm, explaining that the U.S. had gone back to the
same climate change presentations that had been used long
before the G-8 Summit. "It would have been better if the U.S.
had made more movement all summer instead of going
backwards," he said. Sach believed using the phrases
"process" and "willingness to consider" were not movement
enough and the U.S. really needs to set specific emissions
reduction targets.
3. (SBU) We also discussed the MEM with Martin Bergfelder,
the Desk Officer for Climate Change Issues in the Foreign
Ministry as well as his boss, Reinhard Krapp, on November
28th. Bergfelder will attend the UNFCCC conference in Bali.
While he was not present for the MEM, he had understood from
his colleagues that, with the exception of the technology
fund announcement, the U.S. did not have any concrete
proposals during the MEM. The Germans, he said, are wondering
what the specific U.S. climate change goals and contributions
will be.
German Short-Term Goals for Bali Deliverables
4. (SBU) The Germans largely echo the U.S. position on the
short-term goals to be achieved in Bali: to create a roadmap
for future negotiations and to define the themes that will be
discussed in these negotiations. At a CDU/CSU Climate Change
Conference on November 26th, Chancellor Merkel said that Bali
should lead to a "binding" road map to discuss where to go in
addressing climate change over the next two years and the
instruments needed to get there. Merkel also reiterated her
support for an international trading system to lower GHG
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5. (SBU) Peter Roesgen, Merkel's senior environment advisor
in the Chancellery, told EMIN and ECONOFF that the themes in
Bali should include technology transfer and carbon markets.
He said it was also important to work on the relationship
with emerging economies and developing countries; U.S.
leadership was essential to ensure China's participation.
While Roesgen did not expect that binding goals will be set
in Bali, he thinks the parties should discuss the GHG
emission reduction ranges recommended by the IPCC.
6. (SBU) The MFA's Bergfelder said that the Germans are in
line with the EU and will focus on eight major themes in
Bali, as decided by the EU environmental council in both
February and October 2007 in Luxembourg. Those themes are:
1) a shared vision to reach a global long-term target; 2)
deeper absolute cuts by developed countries; 3) further fair
contributions by other countries; 4) expansion of carbon
markets; 5) technology research and transfer; 6) action on
adaptation; 7) aviation emissions; 8) deforestation.
Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, in an address on
November 28th to the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (the think tank
for his SPD Party), said that deforestation will be a major
focus in Bali.
Germany's Ambitious Climate Change Targets
7. (SBU) As the leader on environment within the EU, and as
Europe's largest economy, Germany feels obligated to assume a
disproportionate share of the continent's emission
reductions. On this issue, there is little light between the
positions of the coalition partners. Heidemarie
Apel-Schmelter, senior staffer for the SPD environmental
caucus working group in the German parliament, told us on
November 28th that, while Germany is in line with EU goals,
it recognizes that it must set higher targets for itself.
Dr. Bergfelder explained that just as there was a previous
redistribution among EU countries of their different
responsibilities within the Kyoto Protocol 8% reduction goal,
so will there be a similar EU internal redistribution in any
post-2012 reduction goals. Thus, when the EU agreed this year
to a 20% GHG reduction goal for 2020 (Reftel C), Germany
declared it would make a 30% reduction. If the EU moves to a
30% GHG reduction goal (as it will if other OECD countries
agree), then Germany will commit to a 40% GHG reduction. In
August 2007, the governing CDU/SPD coalition agreed to the 29
point Meseberg Plan. This plan lays out the specific
measures the German government will use to achieve a 36%
reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) by 2020.
8. (SBU) Germany has thought carefully about the specific
measures it will use to achieve its own targets.
Apel-Schmelter explained that most of Germany's GHG reduction
goals will concern CO2, as Germany emits relatively little of
the other GHGs. The Meseberg measures primarily rely on
increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewables.
Apel-Schmelter explained that specific sectoral approaches
will be used to address those additional GHG emitted from the
specific industries that generate them.
9. (SBU) Germany is putting its money where its mouth is.
Minister Gabriel announced that the German government is
developing a package of 15 climate change-related measures
that will be introduced in parliament on December 5. This
package includes changes to the renewable energy law,
increases in the supply of biofuels and regulations that
require labeling of automobiles. Finally, Gabriel will make
the announcement during the Bali conference that Germany will
give 120 million euros - gained through the auction of
emissions trading certificates -- to support developing
countries in their efforts to address climate change (via
Clean Development Mechanism projects, renewables and
technology). He expects this to be an annual contribution.
In the long-term (by 2050), Merkel believes carbon dioxide
emissions should be limited to two tons per person per year.
German Patience Wearing Thin: High Hopes for Significant U.S.
Deliverables post-Bali
10. (SBU) While expressing understanding for the U.S.
approach to climate change, our German Government
interlocutors stress the urgent need for the U.S. to take
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additional significant steps forward. Environment Minister
Gabriel has cited the Montreal Protocol concerning
chlorofluorocarbons and argued that, since the U.S. accepts
other internationally binding commitments, it doesn't make
sense for the U.S. not to accept them with respect to climate
change. In her speech to CDU/CSU party members, Chancellor
Merkel said that it was "sad" that the U.S. had not ratified
the Kyoto Protocol. She said that all countries must work
together and commit to reduction targets and that the world
cannot stand around doing nothing for 20 years. Referencing
the Stern Report, Merkel said that the costs of taking no
action on climate change would amount to 5%-20% of global
GDP. Roesgen also cited these Stern Report figures in his
meeting with us and argued, by comparison, that the cost of
taking action on climate change was only 1% of global GDP.
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Sequencing and Burden Sharing: Echoes of Kyoto
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11. (SBU) Germany expects the U.S. to take on more
responsibilities than other countries. German officials
believe that U.S. acceptance of GHG reduction goals is
critical to winning the engagement of emerging economies like
China, India, Brazil and Mexico. In her November 26th
speech, Merkel used the term first coined in the 1995 COP-1
Berlin Mandate and embodied in the COP-3 Kyoto Protocol:
"common but differentiated." The Germans are convinced that
if the world sees that the U.S. is committed to combating
climate change, emerging economies such as India and China
will begin to move. Roesgen said that the U.S. must play a
leading role on climate change, "when the U.S. agrees, only
then is the basis good for others to agree." But emerging
economies should be expected to make a "fair contribution" in
line with their circumstances. Sach said that "Germany and
the U.S. must lead by example." While developing countries
need to participate more deeply, "their contributions will be
different in kind" than developed countries.
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Making Connections Beyond the Executive Branch
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12. (SBU) The Germans are speaking openly about support from
constituencies in the U.S. besides the Executive Branch. Dr.
Sach cited the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP
- which includes the U.S. states of California, Maine,
Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Oregon, Washington
and New Mexico) as one example. He also said Germans were
carefully following Congressional proposals as well as
reviewing the issue papers of the leading U.S. presidential
contenders. He cited the 80% GHG emission reduction goal of
Senator Hillary Clinton in particular. Minister Gabriel said
that it was not just the Democratic presidential contenders
who were addressing climate change, but all the Republican
candidates had proposals as well. Gabriel mentioned the
interest of the U.S. business community in emissions trading
and he also expressed pleasure that U.S. senators and
congressional representatives were heading to Bali.
13. (SBU) Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier -- a
possible SPD contender for the Chancellery in 2009 -- also
made reference to the ICAP in a November 28th speech. He said
it was just a matter of time before additional states became
more involved in emissions trading. During a meeting on
November 20th, Uwe Traeger and Cornelia Droste, staffers on
the CDU/CSU environmental working group within the Bundestag,
asked well-informed questions about climate change
initiatives taken on a local and regional level in the U.S.
The state of California was routinely cited as a climate
change leader. In addition, specific Congressional
proprosals for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions are being
followed attentively by German officials.
14. (SBU) The support for strong environmental reform
crosses party lines in Germany. If anything, the SPD is
pressing Merkel for even tougher measures to cut emissions.
And although some energy intensive industries have
criticisms, there is virtually no opposition to Merkel's
climate change position from the German public. End Comment.
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