Energy transition: Leopoldina calls for more ambition in climate protection

Status: 03/06/2023 12:42 p.m

Scientists are urging the traffic light coalition to make more efforts for an energy transition. They recommend technology-neutral strategies and call for more speed in implementation in the interests of climate protection.

The National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has come up with a discussion paper addressed to the federal government. In it, the scientists urge rapid action in the restructuring of the energy supply.

The paper entitled “Don’t miss the critical point in time” states that there is hardly any time left to achieve the Paris climate targets. Researchers such as the climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer and Veronika Grimm, who is one of the five economic wise men, recommend above all technology-neutral strategies for the future in order to create incentives for investments.

The paper’s publication was originally for a Research summit at the end of the month planned. It was brought forward in order to reach those responsible in the federal government in good time at their retreat at Schloss Meseberg.

A future with hydrogen

“The need for action is great and urgent,” says the paper, in which the central ideas for the international, European and national climate change are outlined. According to the experts, a future energy system based on renewable energies will be based to a large extent on electricity.

One challenge is that the energy yield from the sun, wind and water fluctuates constantly. However, electrical energy cannot simply be stored in the required quantities, even though the efficiency of battery storage is constantly improving.

Therefore, material energy carriers will play a central role in the future, above all hydrogen. Until the technology is ready, you have to fall back on fossil fuels such as natural gas.

The task now is to significantly intensify and expand efforts and to create the conditions for a successful transformation through consistent decisions at national and European level.

Two phases of climate policy

From the perspective of the researchers, the goal of climate neutrality marks the beginning of a new phase in global climate policy. The first phase, which is not yet complete, involves drastically reducing emissions from national energy systems through the use of abatement techniques, such as pushing coal out of the power sector.

The second phase, which must now be pushed forward, describes the process of emissions removal. The aim is to remove emissions from the atmosphere that are difficult or impossible to avoid. Without such carbon removal, neither the goal of net-zero emissions by mid-century nor the sustainable production of synthetic fuels (e-fuels) will be possible, they say.

Create incentives for private investment

In the opinion of the authors, the necessary transformation strategies should be kept as open to technology as possible. This would increase the attractiveness of private investments in the transformation. The clarification of framework conditions for such investments is particularly important. Their reliability must also be guaranteed.

It is also recommended that, in addition to the technical sciences, all other scientific disciplines be included in the process. Economic, social, behavioral and political sciences are increasingly needed for the energy transition to succeed. In these fields, the scientists complain that there are large research gaps in the identification of concrete political measures and interactions.

Furthermore, one should move away from protectionist climate protection measures at the European level. It is much more important to deepen cooperation within the EU and with third countries. The researchers identify European emissions trading as an important tool for this, which should be expanded into a “uniform, transparent, long-term sustainable control framework that encompasses all emissions”.

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