Polar Bear, Climate Change Boost German Minister Sigmar Gabriel  

BERLIN - March 29, 2007 - Germany's environment minister is riding a wave of enthusiasm for climate protection measures that have propelled him from relative obscurity to the forefront of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government. 

In the year and a half since Merkel forged an alliance between her conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD), SPD minister Sigmar Gabriel has raised his profile and some commentators say he could be a future SPD chancellor candidate.
As environment minister, the down-to-earth native of industrial Lower Saxony has stood up to Merkel, clashed with her Christian Democrat (CDU) Economy Minister Michael Glos and adopted an orphaned baby polar bear as an environmental mascot.

In doing so, he has carved out a niche in Merkel's left-right coalition and strengthened the profile of the SPD as it struggles to redefine itself after losing the 2005 election.

"The SPD has a personnel problem," said Frank Decker, a professor of politics at Bonn University.

"There are few skilled politicians in the party who are good at appealing to the media and Gabriel is one of them. He also has the good fortune that environmental policies are back on the agenda and that means that he's back in the public eye."

Gabriel may seem an unlikely champion for environmental issues, having held a role in the previous government as minister for popular culture and been state premier of Lower Saxony, home to the car-building giant Volkswagen.

But Gabriel has been quick to see the appeal of climate change to voters. He wants to focus on pro-business environmental policies likely to appeal to those employed by Germany's export-oriented manufacturing industry.

"Climate policies must be successful without being a burden on economic growth and the living standards of voters," said Decker. "This is Gabriel's theory and it's a theory that is designed to win maximum voter support."

A former ally of SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the 47-year-old Gabriel has clearly acquired some of the older man's skills, including a populist style and media talent.

The German-language version of Vanity Fair published a five-page profile of the minister in its first edition.

Most significantly, analysts say, he has acquired a key Schroeder adviser, Matthias Machnig, who ran Schroeder's 2002 election campaign in which he came from behind to regain power.

In a similar fashion, and in a manner still unusual for straight-laced German politicians, the environment minister last week cashed in on the media furore surrounding an orphaned polar bear at a Berlin zoo by adopting the animal.  By Tom Armitage


 

German Companies World Leaders in Renewable Energies

ICEANEWS Cleveland Ohio February 26, 2007 -German companies are the world leaders in renewable energies, according to a German newspaper. Germany's renewable energy sector exported installations worth 6 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in 2006, as opposed to exports of only 500 million euros in 2000, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) Sunday weekly newspaper wrote, quoting figures from the German Renewable Energy Federation .
The sector intends to grow by 10 percent each year and to reach turnover of around 120 billion euros by 2010. Currently turnover stands at around 16.4 billion euros. The sector also aims to increase the number of workers in the field - now around 170,000 - to 500,000 by 2010, the paper wrote.
Companies in "Hamburg, Husum, Thalheim and Freiburg are the stars in the production of solar cells, windmills and biofuel plants," according to the FAS.
One-third of the hydroelectric installations worldwide come from the German company Voith from Heidesheim, and nearly every other windmill and every third solar cell were made in Germany, the paper wrote. Thirty-four percent of the cells were exported.
The paper credited Germany's previous government of Social Democrats and Greens with fostering renewable energies, but said the breakthrough in the field was a result of the worldwide debate about climate change and concerns about Russia supplying energy to Europe. (Source: Federal Foreign Office) 
Links:
Federal Environment Ministry on Renewable Energy
EU Energy Plan Heralds 'Industrial Revolution'
Year in Review: Business & Technology


 Germany Amongst Leaders in Terms of Technology and Innovation

 

ICEANEWS Cleveland Ohio February 22, 2007 -- The European Innovation Scoreboard (an annual comparative study) published today by the European Commission confirms Germany´s strong position amongst the European and international technology nations.

Michael Glos, Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, states: "The high level of innovation in Germany is a key element for our lasting economic success. Only if our businesses keep succeeding in gaining fresh technological advantages will we be able to uphold our high social and environmental standards in the long term. However, the good marks we are scoring on innovation must not allow us to sit back and relax," continued the minister. "Rather, we need permanent and increasing efforts in the field of innovation and research, since our rivals on the world market are also aiming to innovate. As technology minister, therefore, I am a firm advocate of the goal we have jointly agreed in the EU: to invest at least 3 % of our gross domestic product (GDP) in research and innovation by 2010. But it is also important for the innovation in research and education to be efficient, i.e. for it to be transformed into competitive, innovative goods and services. And a stable supply of venture capital for young firms, an outstanding education and training system, and an innovation-friendly climate are equally of importance in this regard."

According to the report published today by the European Commission, Germany´s innovative performance ranks sixth behind Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark and Japan, followed closely by the USA and other leading industrial nations. This good result is not least due to the high number of patents registered by German firms and research establishments and by the high level of integration of German companies in the production chains of medium and high technology. In terms of cutting-edge technology, however, Germany´s performance is only moderate, and is having to cope with increasingly strong international competition.

According to the study, problems are posed in particular by the clearly below-average supply of venture capital, the inadequate number of graduates in the natural sciences and engineering, deficiencies in further training and in the training of young people, and a below-average provision of broadband internet.

Federal Minister Glos: "The reform of support for innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which I have launched is a central element of our policies to keep Germany fit for the future. The existing support programmes are being merged to form one powerful programme. SMEs will then only have to deal with one contact point for their research and innovation projects and will have less bureaucracy to handle. In addition to this, the innovative companies can look forward to substantially improved financing conditions.

Innovative SMEs must not lose touch with new technologies now. Especially in times of dynamic economic growth, the state and the private sector must not forget to undertake fresh investment in order to keep playing an active role in the system of innovation."
Link:  European Innovation Scoreboard


International Group Sets Plan To Curb Global Warming

USA: February 21, 2007

WASHINGTON - More than 100 corporate heads, international organizations and experts set out a plan on Tuesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions, calling on governments to act urgently against global warming.

"Failing to act now would lead to far higher economic and environmental costs and greater risk of irreversible impacts," the Global Roundtable on Climate Change warned in a statement, announcing their first major agreement since they began talks in 2004.

The group, which includes executives from a range of industries including air transport, energy, and technology, called on governments to set targets for greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The agreement urged governments to place a price on the carbon emissions released by power plants, factories and other sectors to discourage emissions.

"Of course, addressing climate change involves risks and costs. But much greater is the risk of failing to act," said Alain Belda, chairman and CEO of the world's top aluminium producer Alcoa, who signed the pact.

The group includes General Electric, Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America, investment bank Goldman Sachs, and Wal-Mart among its major corporations.

President George W. Bush's administration has rejected mandatory caps on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases in the United States that contribute to a documented rise in world temperatures -- which is linked to more severe storms, worse droughts, rising seas and other ills.

But the White House has recently been on the defensive, especially since the Feb. 2 release of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called global warming "unequivocal" and said with 90 percent probability that human activities help cause it.


CO2 EMISSIONS RISING

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is about 30 percent higher than in 1900 and nearly half of this increase has occurred since 1980.

Given fast-rising emissions from developing nations, the group estimated that a "business-as-usual" path could put the planet at three times the carbon dioxide levels seen before 1900.

The largest carbon-emitting sector is power generation, responsible for more than 40 percent of global energy-related emissions.

Industry accounts for more than 18 percent of emissions, transport contributes another 20 percent, and the residential and services sector roughly 13 percent.

The group estimates that technology to head off mounting carbon dioxide concentrations would cost about 1 percent of global gross domestic product. Costs would fall as technologies become more established, it predicted.

"If we delay too long in beginning the changeover to increasingly de-carbonised energy systems, the eventual costs will only rise and the impact of climate change will only become more severe," the group wrote in its agreement, warning that poorer nations would see the worst impact from climate change.


Story by By Joanne Morrison


German Output May Plummet as World Warms - Study

GERMANY: February 20, 2007

BERLIN - German productivity could fall by 12 percent by 2100 as temperatures soar because of climate change while thousands more people will suffer heat-related deaths, a new study said on Monday.

The study, conducted by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), forecast that the number of German "hot days" -- when temperatures rise above 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) -- will climb substantially by the end of the century with "tragic" consequences.  It said heat-related deaths could rise by 5,000 to 15,000 annually, while people admitted to hospital for symptoms caused by heat strain could increase sixfold to 150,000 annually, resulting in surging hospital costs of up to 700 million euros (US$920.1 million).

"The greatest costs, however, will be caused by the diminished ability of workers to be as productive as usual on extremely hot days," the Kiel Institute and WWF said in a joint statement. "Decreases in productivity of up to 12 percent could cause losses to the economy of up to 10 billion euros."

Germany, which holds the rotating presidencies of the European Union and Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations, has vowed to put climate change at the top of its agenda.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she wants to make progress on a framework agreement to reduce greenhouse gases after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Her coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD), however, is divided on energy policy and initially resisted EU demands that it further reduce a cap on carbon emissions.


Ryanair claims to be 'greenest airline in Europe'

Berlin January 29, 2007: Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has hit back at claims that his airline is irresponsible and un-environmentally friendly.

Last week, climate change minister Ian Pearson attacked the budget airline saying it represented the "irresponsible face of capitalism."

However, multi-millionaire Mr. O'Leary retaliated, claiming that Ryanair was the "greenest airline in Europe" and that Mr. Pearson "hadn't a clue what he was talking about."

Mr. O'Leary expressed his anger that airlines were receiving so much negative press when they accounted for just two percent of emissions.

"What [Mr. Pearson] should be attacking is the power generation stations and the road transport who between them account for over 50 percent of emissions," he said.

In his recent pre-Budget report Chancellor Gordon Brown made several pledges to counteract the environmental damage caused by air transport.

Air passenger duty was doubled form £5 to £10 on short haul flights, and levies on long haul destinations could see passengers paying up to £80 more.

However, green campaigners say these measures do not go far enough, and have called for an end to airport expansion plans and tax breaks for airlines.
Source: Environmental Transport Association


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