Göttingen’s Climate History

Climate protection in Göttingen: not a success story

In the year 1991, the town of Göttingen joined the climate alliance „Klimabündnis/Alianza del Clima e.V.“ and committed to a plan of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 10% every five years. Had the authorities stuck to that plan, we would be seeing a reduction of emissions to no more than half the numbers from 1991 – in reality, the numbers were still above 70% in 2018.[1] The authorities have fallen short of the reduction target they committed to.

In 2010, an integrated climate protection paper for Göttingen and its neighbouring towns, called „Integriertes Klimaschutzkonzept für das Stadtgebiet Göttingen 2008 bis 2020“[2], was presented with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2020 compared with 1990. And again, the target was missed.

In 2014, the town administration presented a „Masterplan 100% Klimaschutz Göttingen”[3], containing the town‘s zero-emission target by 2050. Unfortunately, the realization was far from successful. In fact, the plan‘s evaluation [4] shows that, instead of declining, greenhouse gas emissions have increased from 2014 until 2018. The majority of the targeted (and frankly put, modest) aims for 2020 were critically missed, most notably the expansion of renewable energies (only 4% instead of the targeted 18% of the total consumption of energy, excluding traffic). Photovoltaics, for instance, were thought to cover a capacity of 136 MWp – only around 10% of that mark were accomplished.

The town did not even fulfill its role model task regarding properties. The town’s energy report („Energiebericht 2012 –2016“[5]) documents that greenhouse gas emissions in its municipal institutions have, in total, increased between 2010 and 2016. The only notable (albeit small) saving was identified in the department of street lighting. In the evaluation report to the Masterplan 2020[6] in figure 11, it becomes clear that the town’s administration did not expand photovoltaic on its properties between 2012 and 2018.

At the moment, the town administration is working on a continuation of its Masterplan („Klimaplan Göttingen 2030“), which is on the agenda to be introduced early 2021. On its website, the town comments: „The new climate plan Göttingen 2030 describes the municipal strategies for climate protection and appoints measures and projects for the coming decade on the path towards carbon neutrality.” [7] From that statement, we must assume that the target year for carbon neutrality is still supposed to be 2050. This is far too late, if we ever want to fulfill our obligations from the Paris climate accord, which is to contribute to limiting global warming to below 2 degrees (and, if possible, below 1,5 degrees). This contribution results from the remains of Germany’s greenhouse gas emission-budget, which will be used up only for a 50%-chance of not passing the 1,5 degrees mark before 2030, if we were to just go on as usual.[8] Consequently, it is high time for Göttingen’s residents to put pressure on local politicians to finally implement substantial measures in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and do so especially in the town’s spheres of influence. These are, above all else, transport, developing renewables, energy-focused building refurbishment, and new construction. All things considered, we need to thoroughly reroute at the federal level to allow the municipalities financial and legal funds means to finally implement an immensely necessary and effective climate protection.