Climate Policy Outcomes in Germany: Environmental Performance and Environmental Damage in Eleven Policy Areas

in German Politics and Society
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Germany has reduced its emissions of greenhouse gases more than almost any other industrialized democracy and is exceeding its ambitious Kyoto commitment. Hence, it is commonly portrayed as a climate-policy success story, but the situation is actually much more complex. Generalizing Germany's per-capita emissions to all countries or its emissions reductions to all industrialized democracies would still very likely produce more than a two-degree rise in global temperature. Moreover, analyzing the German country-case into eleven subcases shows that it is a mixture of relative successes and failures. This analysis leads to three main conclusions. First, high relative performance and high environmental damage can coexist. Second, we should see national cases in a differentiated way and not only in terms of their aggregate performances. Third, researchers on climate policies should more often begin with outcomes, work backward to policies, and be prepared for some surprises. Ironically, the most effective government interventions may not be explicit climate policies, such as the economic transformation of eastern Germany. Moreover, the lack of policy-making in certain areas may undercut progress made elsewhere, including unregulated increases in car travel, road freight, and electricity consumption. Research on climate and environmental policies should focus on somewhat different areas of government intervention and ask different questions.