For many decades, the dramatic global climate and the global warming that threatens our existence have been discussed every year. Scientists worldwide keep sounding the alarm and asking nations and political leaders for explicit action and binding agreements. There seems to be no shortage of commitments from countries, but serious action is still lacking around the planet.
In 1988, scientists and representatives of powerful nations first met in Toronto to talk about climate protection. What followed were promises to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2005. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established. Numerous findings from scientific research were to be brought together here and define concrete measures for the world. The first report of the commission about two years later was catastrophic. The world was called to immediate action.
Reading a 2019 report by Greenpeace, the summary reads like the failure of all humanity. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, industrialised nations pledged to reduce emissions levels by 2000 drastically. New targets. New promises. In the meantime, the effects of climate change have become visible.
At the third UN climate conference in 1997, the so-called Kyoto Protocol was formulated. Details were worked out, and conditions for the binding implementation of climate-friendly measures were negotiated - with the headwinds of industry and some governments.
In 2001, the IPCC published its third report, clearly stating that humans play a central role in climate change. In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol finally entered into force. It was ratified by 191 countries, including all EU member states. The USA was the only remaining industrialised country that refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol from the beginning. The industrialised countries made a binding commitment to reduce emissions of the most important greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) or chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by at least five per cent below 1990 levels.
Years followed without concrete results. The IPCC shows that many regions of the earth will change. Coastal areas will disappear into the sea, 20 to 30 per cent of all known species would probably become extinct. More actionless years dragged on. Climate conferences without concrete results showed an apparent failure of global climate policy.
In 2015, a breakthrough was achieved in Paris. 195 countries agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The German government keeps questioning its climate protection targets, also favouring industry.
In 2017, Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the USA from the climate protection agreement. They did not rejoin until February 2021 under President Joe Biden. The country once again wasted valuable time.
At the climate conference in Glasgow in 2021, the community of states agreed on new measures against climate change. Above all, the phase-out of coal combustion is to be initiated. However, this alone will not achieve the 1.5-degree target.
Germany passed a new climate protection law in 2021. By the end of the decade, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 65 per cent compared to 1990.
Due to the Corona crisis, Germany was still able to achieve its climate target in 2020. However, as the pandemic subsided, it became apparent that the increased energy demand in 2021 was mainly met with energy from sectors that were harmful to the climate. The Süddeutsche Zeitung summarised it this way in December 2021: "Thus, the use of lignite and hard coal each grew by 18 per cent - while renewable energies almost stagnated. Solar power and hydropower each increased by five per cent. But onshore wind power was often in the doldrums, its output shrinking by eleven per cent."
Therefore, in 2021, energy-related emissions will be 25 million tonnes higher than desired. Germany has thus more than missed its climate targets.
The new climate law provides concrete "immediate programmes" in all areas. It remains to be seen what Germany's new climate minister Robert Habeck will pull out of his hat. In any case, the legacy burdens on his shoulders weigh heavily.
"Humanity is behaving like a blindfolded group entering a minefield. Every step could lead to disaster. But we keep pushing forward, despite the growing danger," warns Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change Secretariat.
Austria's goals are also precisely defined on the website of the Austrian Ministry for Climate Protection and the Environment. Austria is pursuing the specific goal of being climate neutral by 2040 at the latest. This is to be achieved by using the eco-social tax reform adopted only this year, which intends to relieve the burden on the people of Austria on the one hand and to make energy sinners pay more on the other. The focus is on the further expansion of public transport, district and local heating, renouncing energy production from coal, oil or fossil gas for space heating, massive development of renewable energy sources, and incentives for private investments in climate-friendly technologies.