TCS Daily

Germany's Green Hypocrisy

By Evgeny Morozov - July 14, 2006 12:00 AM

Germany has finally bid auf wiedersehen to "the first climate neutral World Cup", as FIFA dubbed it. Yes, the organizers worked hard to give the host country the greenest tint possible. For example, according to BBC News, the stadium in Munich harvested rainwater and stored it in underground reservoirs, while the stadium in Dortmund, the venue of Germany's semi-final loss to Italy, was equipped with solar panels that generate 550,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year. Fans have even been encouraged to commute by trains and buses rather than by cars and planes -- and Franz Beckenbauer, German soccer legend and the big boss of the tournament, was criticized for using his helicopter too often. So, if not "climate neutral", then at least "climate correct".

How appropriate for a country that prides itself on adherence to eco-friendly practices and plans to rid itself of nuclear power by 2021. Yet, the actual deeds of the German government—with global repercussions for Kyoto, EU, and the rest of the world—expose the country's green attitude as another exercise in cheap PR cloaked in heavy lobbying. Two weeks ago, in what could be the death knell for the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), the German government decided to tighten the emission requirements for all new power plants, including the heavy polluting coal stations.

Here's how it works: for every new carbon-free plant fueled by coal, Germany will build eight coal-fired and carbon-emitting stations, all which are planned to open for commercial use between now and 2011. 1:8 -- not a very environmentally friendly ratio, is it? Especially when the opt-out given to the power industry is set to last until 2020...

To sweeten the pill, the German government agreed to curb the emissions limit for all others by 3.4 percent. What a treat -- especially given that in the first year of operating the ETS German companies emitted 21 million tons less than they had been given permits for, sparkling the first major ETS crisis. Those permits eventually made it to the open market, collapsing the price of carbon permits and eliminating the major incentive for other companies not to pollute. As green as it as it gets.

This, among other things, poses a question: How diligently did the Germans estimate their level of emissions, if they allowed for such a huge gap? Well, according to Sigmar Gabriel, the German environment minister, they just used a bizarre averaging system...

"To calculate this cap reliable data for 2005 were taken into account, but not exclusively, because we believe that data from a single year do not provide a sufficient basis to determine the cap. So we took the average over several years..."

It would be great if the world had known how each country arrives at those estimates prior to the failure of ETS, not subsequent to it, don't you think? The transparency of the ETS, under which countries continuously fail to submit reliable data on time, leaves much to be desired, and currently punishes those countries that take it seriously.

Take the Brits, who, because of their meticulous and diligent analysis prior to the launch of the ETS, were forced to buy extra permits. The Brits had been running a relatively successful national scheme before they were pushed to accept ETS. Now, they have to partially subsidize the big industry polluters in Germany, not to mention the distribution of benefits from ETS inside the country, where the oil companies turned out to be net beneficiaries of the scheme. So, when the costs of the country's membership in ETS were estimated at 531 million pounds and the benefits at zero, one only has to wonder where all this British euroskepticism comes from...

It is, perhaps, not a surprise that Germany is hardly pushing to discuss climate change -- which dominated last year's discussions at the G8 -- at this year's meeting in St. Petersburg. It is time somebody tells the Germans that energy security, which they covet so much, will come only if the country joins its ranks with other European countries in re-embracing nuclear energy, which Germany, paradoxically, wants to get rid of. And while the Brits, who are quite wary of coal, have started debates about going back to nuclear energy at the highest level, the Germans still prefer to play a nasty game of overstating their emissions, ignoring the excesses of its power industry, and striking secret gas deals with Russia. Could it get more hypocritical? Oh yes: as BBC reports, the motorists are slated to pick up the final bill for the government's leniency in reducing carbon emissions. They will be trained to drive "more economically"...

With Germany exploiting every chance to attack the US for not ratifying Kyoto while undermining the very principles on which it is based, it is high time to reform ETS. A recent study by the British think tank Open Europe has found many deficiencies in the scheme. The question that needs to be answered is: why continue with the largely ineffective ETS, which somehow includes hospitals, military bases, and universities -- all of whom have to bear the costs of monitoring and compliance , but excludes the actual polluters for whom this scheme had been designed in the first place? Especially, given that, according to Open Europe, there are no hard proof that ETS has actually helped to reduce emissions.

Well, at least the German government seems happy: finally, they found an excellent opportunity for the European project to pay back whatever Germany invested in it since 1950s. And also, of all people, Joschka Fischer, the long-standing leader of the German Greens and thus one of the architects of the country's current energy policy, seems to have made up his mind: he's given up his post at the Bundestag and is leaving for an academic job at Princeton. Too bad that all the German motorists can't follow him. So much for green anti-Americanism in Germany; the captain has left the ship...

The World Cup was, indeed, climate neutral...The problem is that the German government wasn't.

The author is a TCS Daily contributing writer. He blogs at


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