During a public hearing of a committee of the German parliament, Marc Bernhard of the right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) criticized the German strategy for climate protection. To his mind, reducing national CO2 emissions is not effective. In this fact check we show that Bernhard uses correct numbers but interprets them in a misleading way.
AfD politician Marc Bernhard, who, as a member of the German parliament (Bundestag), deals with the issues of climate change and driving bans, among others, expressed his criticism of German climate protection policy at a meeting of the Environment Committee in the Bundestag on 20 February 2019. There, he said: “In the Paris climate protection agreement, which the government signed, we committed ourselves to extensive reductions in CO2. However, the same agreement stipulates that emerging economies and developing countries that generate around 60% of the world’s CO2, such as China and India, may increase their CO2 emissions indefinitely by 2030. The German share of man-made CO2 is just 1.8%. How relevant is the German CO2 avoidance strategy actually?”
In his speech, Bernhard described that Germany had committed itself in the Paris climate protection agreement to extensive reductions of CO2. At the same time, however, this agreement regulates that emerging and developing countries (e.g. China), which generate 60% of the world’s CO2, may emit unlimited amounts of carbon dioxide by 2030. Furthermore, he criticizes that the German share of man-made CO2 is only 1.8%, thus questioning the necessity of the German CO2 avoidance strategy.
The main topic of the committee’s meeting was carbon dioxide emissions from heavy commercial vehicles. Climate change is also an explosive topic in this year’s European elections, and there are several positions on it. The measures for the German mitigation strategy in particular are the subject of intense debate among the individual parties in the Bundestag. But what measures has Germany really committed itself to and how do they relate to the regulations in developing countries?
First step of our research
On request to his sources used, a scientific assistant of the politician sent us three statements to the Bundestag by different professors and a request, related to the energy concept 2010 of his party (AfD). All statements sent to us doubt a climate change with harmful consequences for the earth: a statement by Prof. Nir Shaviv of the Hewbrew University of Jerusalem, a review by Prof. Horst Joachim Lüdecke, a retired professor of HTW Saar, and a statement by Dr. habil. Sebastian Lüning who works in the energy sector.
In the first part of his statement, Mr. Bernhard talks about Germany’s commitment to extensive reductions in CO2 emissions. Article 4 of the Paris Agreement stipulates that each Party “shall take national mitigation measures”. In addition, developed countries, including Germany, should “continue to take the lead by committing themselves to absolute macroeconomic emission reduction targets”. Thus the first part of Bernhard’s assertion is true.
In the following sentence he switches from Germany to developing countries such as China. They allegedly produce 60% of the world’s CO2 and, according to the Paris Agreement, may increase their emissions indefinitely until 2030. However, they will still have to invest in renewable energies and climate protection, which will then be reflected in falling emissions by 2030 at the latest. Article 4 of the Agreement also states that developing countries have a longer period of time to reach their peak. At the peak, emissions no longer rise but begin to fall. To achieve this goal, developing countries should be supported by developed countries.
One reason for this time span is, among other things, that developed countries increasingly produce their goods in developing countries, which leads to high production emissions in these countries. A report by the German news website “Spiegel” explains this. China’s 13th Five-Year Plan also stipulates that by 2020 the country should replace around 15% of its energy needs with renewable energy sources. Efforts are therefore being made not to allow emissions to rise unchecked. So, Bernhard’s basic statement is true but misleading in the context applied. The reasons for China’s permitted increase in emissions are ignored.
As a criticism of the German CO2 avoidance strategy, Bernhard recently emphasizes that the German share of man-made CO2 is only 1.8%. A statistic of the Federal Ministry for the Environment from 2015 confirms his statement with a GermanCO2 share of 1.9%. However, it is important to note in this context that the outsourcing of German companies generates production emissions abroad. If one also compares the population of China with Germany, it can quickly be seen that the former, at 1.386 billion (as of 2017), is many times larger than Germany, at 82.79 million (as of 2017). However, the annualCO2 emissions of a German citizen are around 9.6 tons. This is about twice the international average of 4.8 tons.
In conclusion, it can be said that Marc Bernhard’s statement is based on true facts, which, however, are put into a false context and are misleading for the reader. The figures Bernhard quotes are not related to the means or sizes of the individual countries. The selection of his sources is one-sided, as everyone expresses a sceptical basic attitude towards climate change and the other side is disregarded.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Magdalena Hönig and Louisa Huttenlocher, Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart, DE
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