German companies urge next government to step up on climate

AP International

FILE – In this Oct. 1, 2021, file photo, a power plant fires coal from the nearby Garzweiler open-cast mine near Luetzerath, western Germany. Dozens of large German companies have urged the country’s next government to put in place ambitious policies to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

BERLIN (AP) — Dozens of large German companies have urged the country’s next government to put in place ambitious policies to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The 69 companies said in an open letter Monday that the next government needs to put Germany “on a clear and reliable path to climate neutrality” with a plan for doing so within its first 100 days in office.

The signatories included chemicals company Bayer, steelmaker ThyssenKrupp and sportswear firm Puma.

The center-left Social Democrats narrowly beat outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Union bloc in an election last month. The Social Democrats were meeting Monday with the environmentalist Greens party and the pro-business Free Democrats to discuss forming a coalition government.

“Climate protection was the decisive topic in the federal election and the parties must place it at the top of their agenda in building the new federal government,” said Michael Otto, board chairman of the mail order company Otto Group and president of the Foundation 2 Degrees, which organized the letter.

Keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) — by the end of the century is a key goal of the Paris accord.

Earlier this year, Merkel’s government adopted a plan to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2045, five years earlier than previously planned.

But official figures show that Germany is slipping behind on its ambitions for cutting greenhouse gases, with 2021 emissions forecast to rebound sharply after a pandemic-related economic slump.

The signatories, which have an annual turnover of about 1 trillion euros ($1.16 trillion) and employ more than 5 million people worldwide, want the next government to support the rollout of renewable energy and enact a climate-friendly tax reform that includes a strengthened carbon pricing system to prevent investments in power-hungry industries going abroad.

Pointing toward the upcoming U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, and Germany’s presidency of the Group of Seven major economies next year, the companies said the German government must also work to set international standards for the global financial system and climate-neutral products.

“As businesses, we are prepared to fulfill our central role in climate action. We call upon the new German government to make the transformation to climate neutrality the central economic project of the coming legislative period,” they said.

Campaigners questioned how serious some of the signatories are about combating climate change, however.

“They want climate ambition, just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their profits,” said Pascoe Sabido, a researcher at the Corporate Europe Observatory, which investigates business lobbying at the European Union level. “That’s often an impossible circle to square.”

The U.N. climate summit begins Oct. 31.

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Follow AP’s coverage of climate change at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-change

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