Questions and Answers
Climate neutrality means that in a balance of emissions and active removal of greenhouse gases (GHG), e.g. through afforestation, no additional GHG are added to the atmosphere in a region/city/country. Global climate neutrality means that the amount of GHG in the atmosphere would remain constant.
Greenhouse gases are primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). CO2 is by far the most important greenhouse gas, because it predominates in terms of quantity and remains in the atmosphere for a very long time.
The decisive factor for the extent of climate change is not the current emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), but the total amount of GHG emissions since the beginning of industrialisation. It follows that delaying climate action until a later date will lead to an even more intense climate change. Since there is an approximately linear relationship between the degree of global warming and this total amount of GHGs, it is possible to specify the amount of GHGs that may still be emitted in order to keep warming below a given level.
For Germany to reach the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Climate Agreement with a 50% probability, this results in a remaining "budget" of 4.2 Gt (billion tonnes) of CO2 from 2020 onwards, according to its share of the world's population (Report of the Expert Council of the Federal Environment Ministry of 2020, see here). If current emissions of about 0.7 Gt CO2 per year remain unchanged, this budget will be used up within 6 years, i.e. by the end of 2025. If emissions are reduced evenly to net zero by 2050 (current plan of the German government and also of the city of Göttingen), the budget would be exceeded by a factor of 2.5. Thus, also the 2-degree target would be definitely exceeded. On the other hand, if emissions were reduced evenly by 2031, the budget of 4.2 Gt CO2 would just be met.
Since Göttingen has little energy-intensive industry, the city must and can become climate-neutral more quickly, i.e. by 2030, in order to give more time for the conversion of energy-intensive industries, such as steel or cement production.
We founded our initiative "GöttingenZero" as a local group of GermanZero in June 2020. Our members are pupils, students, professionals and pensioners. We call on the city of Göttingen to become climate-neutral by 2030. GermanZero is an association that, together with scientists, has drawn up a climate plan to make Germany climate-neutral by 2035. An important part of GermanZero's strategy is to increase pressure from below through as many local climate decisions as possible. Local climate decisions consist of motions and referendums.
In order for a motion to come into effect, it mustit must designate a desired substantive decision, in our case climate neutrality by 2030, and contain a justification for it. In addition, at least ten per cent of the residents that entitled to vote in the municipality, must sign the petition.
If your main residency is registered with the city of Göttingen and has been for at least three months, are at least 16 years old and hold EU citizenship, you can sign.
In a referendum, residents entitled to vote can answer a pre-formulated question with "yes" or "no". Such a decision can be initiated either by citizens as a motion or by the elected municipal representatives by majority vote as a council initiative.
The procedure is similar to an election. The decision becomes binding if the majority of the valid votes cast is "yes" and this majority is at least 25 per cent of those eligible to vote. If this is the case, the referendum is equivalent to a decision by the representative body. If there is a tie, the motion is considered rejected. No referendum has yet been held in Göttingen.
A successful referendum is legally equivalent to a decision in the city council and thus contains a binding mandate to the administration to implement the included decisions.
The Climate City Plan corresponds to a roadmap for Göttingen towards climate neutrality. Climate neutrality means that in Göttingen in 2030 only as many greenhouse gases will be emitted as can be actively recaptured. Climate scientists, experts for municipal climate protection concepts and practitioners have clearly calculated how many greenhouse gas emissions can be saved with which measures, how much this will cost and also save, how many jobs will be created and how much staff will be needed for this. The Climate City Plan helps to become more concrete with regard to planning in the municipal budget and staffing plan, as well as practically implemented measures. However, it does not replace a detailed plan by a planning office, which must be prepared by the city in order to achieve climate neutrality by 2030.
This is estimated in our Climate City Plan: about € 300 million per year are required in Göttingen until 2030, of which about € 40 million per year by the city itself.
Since the municipality can only cover these investment needs from its revenues to a very limited extent, corresponding funding programmes at the state, federal and EU levels must be significantly expanded. The course must be set for this at the latest after the coming federal elections.
It is also very important that the EU is currently preparing a programme "100 Climate-neutral Cities by 2030", for which cities can apply that have already reached a certain level of preparation, e.g. also through adequate climate plans. That is why it is all the more important that the city of Göttingen sets itself the goal of climate neutrality by 2030.
The 300 million € investment per year in Göttingen corresponds to about 180 billion € per year in Germany, according to the population. An adequate CO2 levy of 180€/t at the current emission level of 0.77 Gt/year would generate revenues of 135 billion €/year in Germany. Together with saved import costs for oil, gas and coal of about 67 billion €/year, this is even more than the 180 billion €/year to be invested.
The city's main function is to act as a role model, to provide advice and motivation. Many property owners, for example, think about investing in the renovation of their buildings, but find it too complicated, even though they basically want to do something "for the environment". The city must lower the hurdles for such projects and create incentives. If the citizens also see that the city itself is leading the way and helping in word and deed, many will follow suit. The city must carry out renovation measures in its own properties, motivate the citizens through an advisory initiative and invest massively in public transport in order to create an offer that largely dispenses with motorised individual transport.
Without a doubt, these countries need to do a lot. But in absolute terms, Germany is currently the sixth largest emitter of GHG worldwide and per capita emissions are higher here than in China or India. Our contribution to global warming is therefore far higher than our share of the world population.
This is a very important aspect. It is precisely here that state subsidies should be used sensibly and no false incentives should be set. For example, the CO2 levy should not be used to subsidise heat generation from fossil energy or to increase the commuter allowance. Instead, it should be used to promote the conversion of heating systems and energy-efficient renovation, without this being at the expense of tenants.
Instead of lavish subsidies for electric cars, money should be put into the expansion of local public transport, which is of great benefit to lower-income groups in particular.
But what will happen if we do not act decisively enough now? It will be the poorest who will be hit hardest by climate change. In developing countries in particular, survival will obviously be at stake. But also here, rising food prices, heat waves without air-conditioning in heated cities, unemployment due to global economic crises and the disintegration of social and societal structures will primarily affect people with low income. In contrast to richer people, they are less able to protect themselves from health and economic damage.
We call for the expansion of cycling infrastructure and more attractive spaces for pedestrians. In addition, a dense public transport network should be operated, which reduces the need for cars. Cars can still be used in the future, but they should be able to run on electric power and be less necessary due to the new infrastructures. Overall, this will lead to a quieter, cleaner and more people-friendly city that will improve the quality of life.
You can sign the motion and collect signatures from your friends and family. You can also contact the city council's parliamentary groups to show them that climate neutrality by 2030 is an important issue for citizens in Göttingen. Of course, we are always happy to hear from new supporters - just contact us by email at email@example.com.
The opposite, companies and industry will be future-proofed. Germany has the opportunity to become a global pioneer in the fields of renewable energies, smart electricity grid, sustainable heat supply, energy storage, pyrolysis processes, Power2Gas, etc.
In the coronavirus crisis we have seen that a lot of money was made available in the short term to reduce the threat to people (rightly!).
However, it is not comprehensible that almost 1.5 trillion € of public funds are spent in Germany in 2020/21 to deal with the coronavirus crisis, but that there is no money left for the protection of our future and that of our children and grandchildren.
Climate neutrality refers to the neutral balance between emissions and active removals of all greenhouse gases in a region/city/country. Carbon neutrality, on the other hand, refers only to carbon dioxide (CO2). Other greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20), are left out. However, since these also have an impact on the atmosphere and thus on the climate, we set ourselves the goal of climate neutrality.
Our initiative does not want to take sides politically, as we want to talk and work with all democratic parties.
Every country, every region, every municipality and ultimately every individual can and must contribute to limiting global warming so that it does not lead to catastrophic consequences.
We in Germany are responsible for our own contribution to this - otherwise we cannot credibly demand it from others. GermanZero is therefore pursuing both a regional and a nationwide approach. There are similar initiatives in many cities and quite a few of them have already embarked on the path to climate neutrality by 2030 (Erlangen, Kassel, Marburg, Münster, Soest, Tübingen) or at least 2035 (Munich, Gießen). Cities in other European countries are also pursuing such goals, by the way, e.g. Copenhagen, Helsinki, Lahti, Turku, Oslo, Trondheim and Glasgow.
In addition, the EU is currently preparing a programme called "100 Climate-neutral Cities by 2030" to provide financial support to cities with this goal.
The federal elections in autumn will be decisive: after that, the course must be set nationwide, and we will work for this.
Good question, because here we need a training initiative in the trade sector. Especially in the area of energy-efficient building refurbishment, the pace of refurbishment needs to be increased from 1% of buildings per year to about 4%.