Germany, China and the low-carbon transition

Just before the start of COP23, Brigitte Knopf discusses in “Science” how China and Germany together can lead the global energy transition to success.

Germany, China, climate, cooperation, energy transition, low-carbon

Photo: MCC


After the United States announced their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, it is up to Germany to work together more closely with China at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Bonn. According to Brigitte Knopf, Secretary General of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons an Climate Change (MCC), both countries have a common ground for collaboration in several areas, such as renewable energy, a sustainable transport system and effective policies. Her editorial “Germany and China take the lead”, co-authored with Jiang Kejun from the Chinese Development and Reform Commission, has now been published in the journal “Science”.

Only a decade ago, Germany was among the leaders in the development of renewable energy such as wind and photovoltaics. Today, as China is massively promoting the development of these technologies, Germany is in danger of being left behind, say Knopf and Jiang. In the transport sector, Germany is under pressure al well—especially with regard to the development of electric cars. China has already introduced a quota for electric vehicles and is also considering a ban on combustion engine cars. The German manufacturers need to change in order to survive on China’s future automotive market. 

Policy instruments such as carbon pricing and renewable energy support schemes would steer investments in the right direction and trigger a change in consumer behavior. In this area, both countries could learn from each other. In Europe, there is already an emissions trading system in place, which still has some major weaknesses. Here, the Chinese, who also want to introduce a nationwide emissions trading system, could learn from the experiences of the Europeans. For international climate policy, a stronger Sino-German cooperation on climate would be an important signal.


Read the full editorial here.