Now they have abandoned their own goals, despite the fact that they were easier - Germany and France had created the target date specifically to make it easy for those two countries to achieve. To reach a 1990 level, Germany could basically just scuttle all those World War II-era Soviet factories and add some more nuclear and be done. France also agreed to that date because it was before a new nuclear plant went online, meaning more green energy that was already in place.
Compare that to the US, which had capped off decades of on nuclear energy blockades by having a President, Bill Clinton, declare that all nuclear energy could be a weapon and famously scuttling it for good.
It was a cake walk for Germany and France and impossible for a US stuck with coal - exactly what they wanted in their economic competitor.
But it didn't work out that way. Natural gas hydraulic fracturing - fracking - took the energy world by storm in the mid-2000s and American energy emissions quickly plummeted back to early 1990s levels. Coal plummeted back to early 1980s emissions. And despite having a science degree, Angela Merkel ignored energy science. After a tsunami in Japan and a resulting earthquake damaged a nuclear plant in Japan, Germany made a political show of abandoning nuclear. Now they are having to abandon climate emissions targets along with it, because nuclear was 25 percent of their energy production in 2011 when that tsunami occurred half a world away.
Germany has adopted other forms of green energy, but they are volatile - and because they still need reliable backups, 40 percent of their energy is coal. The country is still a top ten producer of coal and the rest they get from America, which they criticize, and Russia, who they now can't criticize without risking brownouts. Because they can't look like they are committed to fossil fuels, they pay 400% and up on the spot market for instant-on electricity as a stop-gap. It's a billion-dollar profit center for fossil fuel companies now.
On the left, reality. In the middle, reality. On the right, a pipe dream they continue to pursue until it's too close not to admit it's unattainable. Credit: AG Energiebilanzen, EIA
By abandoning their targets, Germany is actually putting its people and the limits of existing technology ahead of politics. That's a good thing, except to environmentalists - though poor people and technological reality are never part of their equation - and Chancellor Merkel, who is suffering a great deal of political embarrassment after misunderstanding the science and technology shortfalls so badly.