14 July 2008

The German miracle

What country is the world's leading exporter? China, you say? Wrong -- China is number two. Then it must be the United States? Wrong again -- the U.S. is number three. Actually, it's Germany. This may have surprised you, it certainly surprised me. For a country with only 82 million people, compared to China's 1,325 million and the United States' 301 million, it is impressive indeed.

Yet something else is even more impressive. As Germany has become the world's leading exporter, it has also become a world leader in decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1990 and 2006, Germany reduced its emissions by 18 per cent, highest among the G8 nations except for Russia. Russia, however, doesn't really count as its reduction came about largely from the collapse of its manufacturing. Britain was close to Germany with a reduction of 15 per cent. The United states on the other hand, the world's champion polluter, led in the increase of emissions -- up 32 per cent, followed by Canada at 22 per cent.

Germany's performance puts the lie to the argument that environmental responsibility may place the economy at risk, an argument trotted out ad nauseam in North America. Germany has recognized the challenge of global warming and answered it with innovation and conviction. We North Americans, it seems, are lacking in both.

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