In a special address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reaffirmed his country’s goal of attaining climate neutrality, or net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, by 2045.
While the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine since February 2022 initially appeared to throw a spanner into German and European ambitions for the transition to renewables, Scholz sees Moscow’s aggression as only having accelerated that shift.
“Our transformation toward a climate-neutral economy – the fundamental task of our century – is currently taking on an entirely new dynamic,” said Scholz, “not in spite of, but because of, the Russian war”.
“Whether you are a business leader or a climate activist, as a security policy specialist or an investor, it is now crystal clear to each and every one of us that the future belongs solely to renewables for cost reasons, for environmental reasons, for security reasons, and because in the long run, renewables promise the best returns.”
Within a few months of the war’s onset, Scholz said Germany had made itself completely independent from Russian gas, Russian oil and Russian coal. Initial fears of energy shortfalls, especially with the approach of winter, proved unfounded.
“We concluded new partnerships with Asia, Africa and America, thus lessening our dependence. So I can say that our energy supply for this winter is secure,” he said.
With new laws mandating the expansion of renewables including wind, solar and hydrogen, Scholz said that the German government will eliminate red tape, enabling connection to the grid an average of two years faster than was previously possible.
“We intend to step up the pace even more,” he added. “You can also rely on our targets: the obstacles have been swept aside.
The Chancellor said for 2023, the country had more than doubled the volume of calls for tender for onshore wind farms alone.
“By 2030, 80 per cent of our electricity production will come from renewable sources, double what it is at present,” he said.
“At the same time, our electricity requirements are increasing from 600 terawatt hours today to 750 by the end of the decade, and we are expecting them to double yet again in the 2030s.”
Despite the suffering of the Ukrainian people since the invasion, Scholz pointed to the post-war recovery as an opportunity for businesses.
“In Berlin at the end of October 2022, we worked with international experts to draw up a Marshall Plan for the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine,” he said.
“Private sector capital will play a key role here. I know that many companies in Germany and beyond are very aware of the opportunities that the Ukrainian economic miracle could offer them, particularly as the country moves toward the European Union after the end of the war.”
Bucking the trend of population decline in many developed countries and pessimistic predictions of a shrinking German population, Scholz noted that his country now boasts more residents and employed individuals than at any other time in its history.
“Before the year is out, our country will finally benefit from modern immigration legislation. After all, if we want to remain competitive as a leading industrial nation, we need experienced practitioners, qualified engineers, tradesmen and mechanics,” he said.
“Those who want to roll up their sleeves are welcome in Germany. That is our message.