Dialogue for the future
Even after the election of Donald Trump as the new US president, the Transatlantic Climate Bridge will be championing sustainable climate and energy policies.
There could admittedly be a better basis for transatlantic dialogue on climate issues. Indeed, in the person of Donald Trump a candidate was elected US president who has repeatedly sided with the climate-change sceptics. Doubts on climate change and the need for a transition to renewable energy sources have also been expressed by countless other members of the Republicans, who won majorities in both Congress and the Senate in the 8 November 2016 elections. Jens Acker has gone on the front foot to tackle the situation: “It is now all the more important that we persist with our tried-and-true activities,” comments Acker, who coordinates the work of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge in the German Embassy in Washington. Since its foundation, the project initiative has been supporting joint undertakings and the exchange of knowledge relating to innovative climate and energy policies.
The Transatlantic Climate Bridge was initiated in 2008 by Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his first term in office as German Federal Foreign Minister and by Sigmar Gabriel, at the time Federal Minister of the Environment and today Deputy Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy. The Climate Bridge organizes various dialogue formats, lectures and delegation trips, and seeks also to bring project partners together. The target group ranges from representatives of business to political decision-makers and scientists.
New York, Minnesota, Georgia
In 2016, the Climate Bridge organized lectures, for example, where representatives of the Bundesnetzagentur met managers from the New York power utility; the focus was on grid feed-in issues and the storage of renewable energies. In Minnesota’s capital of Saint Paul representatives of the German Environment Agency spoke with Senators and Congressmen from the state. Jens Acker recently held a lecture at a youth congress arranged by the Environmental Protection Agency EPA in Georgia. “We will in future be expanding our work more strongly at the state level,” the Climate Bridge coordinator reports. “Many of the states stand out for their progressive energy policies.”
“More movement at the state level,” reads the recommendation of the study “Emissionsreduzierung weltweit” commissioned by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung which, among other things, examined the situation in the USA in greater detail. “Trailblazers” such as California or New York also influenced the standards adopted in other federal states. “Emission reductions are being targeted in the USA primarily in terms of short and medium-term economic criteria,” is another central finding of the study, which polled the opinions of climate and environmental experts from business, government, science and think tanks/NGOs.
An interviewee in government confirmed the view that Germany “is state of the art in technological terms” and has “a pretty good feel for the guidelines that enable these technologies to be effectively marketed”. An industrial executive emphasized that “Germany must demonstrate that the way it relies on renewable energies is economically viable and competitive.” In his daily work for the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Jens Acker also often gets asked whether the Energy Transition is economically viable. “We mustn’t duck the questions but must elucidate for our American partners that the switch to renewable energies can also create jobs.” Other important issues are the costs and that an industrialized nation can remain competitive. The fact that Germany as a highly developed industrialized nation has dared embark on the Energy Transition, Acker continues, sets an example for others to follow, and people in the USA see this, too. However, the issues that are controversial in Germany, too, should not be glossed over if the campaign is to remain credible, he concludes.
At the same time, Acker points to the positive developments and opportunities in the USA. The International Energy Agency identifies the country as the second-largest growth market for renewable energies in coming years, suggesting that only China will surpass it worldwide. The prospects in the field of wind energy are especially good, Acker asserts: “The sheer scale of land in the USA means that the conditions for running wind parks as a business is far greater than in Germany.”