The carbon controversy

The Fridays for Future movement is calling for a radical carbon tax, yet a prominent scientist does not believe this is the way forward. Who is right?

Fridays for Future demo in Magdeburg
Fridays for Future demo in Magdeburg dpa

The Fridays for Future movement has given a strong voice to climate protection. More and more people are joining their calls for comprehensive, quick and efficient measures to be taken to comply with the Paris Agreement. Policy-makers are rushing to draw up concrete proposals. And scientists are discussing how to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as there is still a lack of consensus on the right way forward.

What is the movement demanding?

Specifically, the Fridays for Future movement wants Germany to shut down a quarter of its coal-fired power stations by the end of 2019, bring forward the phase-out of coal to 2030 and levy taxes on greenhouse gases.

How do things currently stand?

The Coal Commission has recommended that the Federal Government phase out coal by 2038 at the latest. It suggests that a review be carried out in 2032 to determine whether the phase-out date could be brought forward to 2035. Additional measures are to follow. However, given that the phase-out of nuclear power has already been decided, the importance of securing supply also needs to be taken seriously.

Professor Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy
Professor Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy
dpa

If Germany goes it alone, we may find that emissions are simply relocated abroad.

Professor Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy

What is the expert calling for?

One prominent opponent of a national carbon tax is Professor Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the renowned Kiel Institute for the World Economy. “If Germany goes it alone, we may find that reductions in the country have little impact on global emissions because the emissions are simply relocated abroad. This is an issue whenever it is a question of the production of tradeable goods.” He is appealing for a model similar to value added tax whereby the carbon content of imported goods would have the domestic carbon price added to them upon import, and exports would be exempt from the tax. Otherwise, he believes that Germany will be neither climate-friendly nor competitive.

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