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WRI works with partners to track and analyze national climate policies in Germany. Learn more about our Open Climate Network project.

We’re now entering the final, significant stages of negotiations leading up to the major climate summit in Paris in December known as COP21, where countries will reach a new international climate agreement. There are now two week-long negotiating sessions remaining before Paris; the first takes place next week in Bonn, Germany. What issues will negotiators face and what needs to happen at the Bonn meeting?

Bonn, Germany (March 21, 2015)– Since 2011, countries participating in the Bonn Challenge have restored more than 60 million hectares of forests and landscapes and are on track to meet an ambitious global restoration goal of 150 million hectares by 2020. Environment ministers from around the world marked the significant progress at the second international Bonn Challenge conference in Germany on March 20 – 21.

After winning Germany’s federal elections on September 22nd, Chancellor Angela Merkel is in the middle of difficult coalition talks to form a new government. Because Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats, did not win an absolute majority in parliament, it must find a new coalition partner. The party has begun negotiations with Social Democrats to form a grand coalition.

Importantly, the decisions coming out of these negotiations could have significant implications for clean energy development. The "renewable energy club" recently initiated by the German government could provide a...

Germany’s energy transition (or “Energiewende”) is the most ambitious current effort to put a large industrial economy onto a sustainable energy path, recognizing the 21st century reality of a climate-constrained world. If the world’s fourth largest economy demonstrates that this shift is possible without undermining economic growth, it could be a major factor in enabling a global energy transition. And with climate change intensifying – 2012 was the 36th straight year of above-average global temperature, and 2011 and 2012 each produced more extreme weather events costing over one billion dollars each than any other year in recorded history – reducing greenhouse gas emissions is imperative for any future energy system. Thus, the Energiewende is critical to the ongoing fight against global warming.

Bringing together independent research institutes and civil society groups from key countries around the world to monitor national progress on climate change policy.

Much like recent extreme weather events in Europe and the United States, this month’s intersessional in Bonn, Germany could be described as volatile. But despite some “stormy” discussions, rays of light could still be seen in some areas.

The low point that seems to be generating the most attention is Russia preventing a key UNFCCC working body from making any progress. Russia, along with Ukraine and Belarus, blocked the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), which works on both substantive and administrative implementation issues, from moving forward on its agenda. Russia appeared to still be upset about the process during a last-minute decision at COP 18 in Doha, when the rules for the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol were quickly gaveled through over their objection. Refusing to let the body take up its work unless it included an agenda item on procedural issues for the climate talks as a whole, Russia rejected numerous attempts at compromise.

The blockage in the SBI discussions created noticeable ripples of nervousness throughout the negotiating hall. But in spite of the intermittent gloominess, there were also clear rays of light. What emerged most palpably was an insistence by nearly all the countries here that these kinds of tangles must be avoided, and that they are committed to moving forward on the key issues facing the UNFCCC negotiations and, not incidentally, the world.

This post originally appeared on the National Journal's Energy Experts blog.

As evidence of climate change mounts, President Obama has made it clear that tackling this issue will be a priority in his second term. Yet, as weeks go by, the administration has been slow to clarify its strategy. With each passing day, it becomes harder and more expensive to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, other global powers are moving forward--and many of them carry valuable lessons which American policymakers can look to. The most successful countries are showing national leadership, strong and consistent policies, and commitment to clean energy.

Where, then, are signs of progress on clean energy?

Germany’s Energiewende: Leading the Way

High on the list is Germany, whose ambitious energy transformation strategy--or “Energiewende”--aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 to 95 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. This will be achieved by enhancing energy efficiency, reducing primary energy consumption by 50 percent, and ramping up renewable energy to at least 80 percent of electricity consumption in the same time-frame.


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