Low carbon energy policy benefits our ecological and economic development: Minister Johannes Remmel of North Rhine-Westphalia

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7 March 2016

As the Energy Transition Platform is launched today, Minister Johannes Remmel, Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Conservation and Consumer Protection from lead government North Rhine-Westphalia, discusses why this initiative comes at a crucial time, and the opportunity that governments like his own can seize from it.

Wide-scale change of our energy systems is happening too slowly in the face of mounting pressure to combat climate change. The world is moving, but not quickly enough. State and regional governments like my own aren’t waiting though, and are already moving forwards with innovative energy policies that are not only helping accelerate this energy transition, but also decarbonize our economy.

To address this challenge and engage more governments, we must turn our attention to developing the action plans that will deliver low carbon growth and climate resilience. That is why the North Rhine-Westphalia government is proud to be the lead government in the Energy Transition Platform that is being launched today.

The Energy Transition Platform, which is run in partnership with The Climate Group States & Regions Alliance, will create a network connecting highly industrialized, carbon intensive state and regional governments with three principle ingredients to delivering a recipe for economic decarbonization: analyze energy transition experiences; enable peer-learning on policies and initiatives; and allow us to overcome barriers to energy transition challenges and adopt innovative models. The initiative will provide foundational and scalable solutions, identifying the incentives that will grow the clean energy revolution.

State leadership

As the first German state to have adopted our own Climate Change Bill in 2013, we have set a target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020, and 80% by 2050. Our progress is measured and reported through the Compact of States and Regions. We have done so despite our focal economic strength being heavy industry – such as steel, chemical and machine manufacturing – as well as a longstanding connection to coal, lignite production and consumption.

Given this heavy industry has been a cornerstone of the regional economy for several generations, we have also been very committed to creating a transition towards a clean energy economy that doesn’t leave our economy or community behind. However this responsibility also creates an opportunity, with great potential to create jobs and an overall healthier workforce.

This is one of the many reasons state and regional governments are already implementing forward-thinking climate and energy policies that are shaping our energy landscape. As Germany’s primary energy producer and consumer, covering a third of the national share, North Rhine-Westphalia has challenged the idea that we must choose between strong economic growth and cutting emissions. Decoupling one from the other is not a matter of whether or not we can have both, but rather, when and how we implement.

A reassuring note is that worldwide investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency rose 4% (to US$329 billion) last year and the cost of solar photovoltaics (PVs) dropped 75% over the last decade. In the same year, half of the world’s newly installed power plants were for renewable energy.

Energy transition

In Germany, we are at a point in our energy transition where renewable energy production has effectively moved from market launch to market penetration. North Rhine-Westphalia increased its share of wind energy to 421 megawatts and had the second highest growth rate in the country for wind energy.

We also saw a major turning point at the UN climate change conference in Paris last year with the adoption of the Paris Agreement by 195 countries to curb global temperature rise by “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. I joined government officials from around the world in the French capital for the States & Regions Alliance General Assembly and collectively agreed it is imperative we work together towards implementing rapid climate action.

This is why initiatives like the Energy Transition Platform are so important at this point for achieving global goals. Many of the largest potential emissions cuts can only be realized through policies developed and implemented by state and regional governments.

And it is vital that heavy industry-dominant, carbon intensive economies swiftly find feasible ways to transition to low carbon energy. There is a competitive advantage to be had in driving low carbon growth; and if a major industrial region in Germany and one of the strongest economic regions in Europe can do it, so can the rest of the world.

The Energy Transition Platform connects highly industrialized, carbon intensive states and regions to accelerate the energy transition through enabling in-depth global peer learning on energy transition policies and overcoming barriers for adopting innovative energy models.

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