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In Bali, Germany takes dramatic step on climate change

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One of the most ambitious elements of the program involves raising the share of power from renewable sources to 25 to 30 percent of the total mix, largely by increasing financial incentives for wind and geothermal power.

Right now, only 5.8 percent of Germany's energy supply comes from renewable sources, while more than 60 percent comes from fossil fuels.

Other provisions of the plan include:

•raising taxes on gas-guzzling cars

•requiring new buildings, including homes, to be 30 percent more energy efficient

•creating cleaner power stations

•and expanding the nation's biofuel market.

What's more, the climate package is expected to save industry and consumers more than $7 billion by 2020, largely by weaning them from costly fossil fuels, according to a government-commissioned study. Germany hopes this will influence the debate in Bali, since in past treaty negotiations, a key sticking point has been fears that setting binding targets for greenhouse gases could hamper economic growth, particularly in developing countries.

But the Ministry of Economics, which has close links to industry, found earlier this year that the draft plan would cost $98 billion, nearly double the official $50 billion tally.

These initiatives have been hailed by Sigmar Gabriel, federal minister for the environment, as a "quantum leap" forward. But while goals of the program enjoy wide support among the German public, the contents have gotten mixed reviews from experts.

Mixed reviews from experts, industry

Environmental groups and climate scientists say there are crucial gaps, particularly when it comes to coal-fired power plants. The plan makes no effort to address Germany's growing dependency on them, though they're a major source of heat-trapping gases.

At the moment, at least 20 coal-fired plants are in the works here.

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