The German Hydrogen Import Strategy: Sustainability Targets, Criteria and Policy Instruments for their Implementation

  • Project no.153309
  • Duration 12/2023 - 02/2024

Importing green hydrogen is an important step towards climate neutrality – not only for Germany, but for many industrialised countries worldwide. Building a global hydrogen economy is an opportunity to align this sector with existing global sustainability goals, such as the Paris Climate Agreement or the 2030 Agenda. On the one hand, it is important to ensure that green hydrogen is "green" in the sense of being carbon neutral. At the same time, other sustainability criteria, like social, economic and environmental cirteria, need to be met in the production and transport of hydrogen.

This study aims to contribute to the sustainability of the international hydrogen market and its development in cooperation with the Global South. Therefore, this study analyzes existing policy instruments for their potential to incorporate sustainability targets and criteria for hydrogen imports into Germany. Ten policy instruments, such as H2Global or development cooperation, are evaluated. These are contrasted with eleven goals and criteria for sustainable hydrogen, including avoiding local land and resource use conflicts or promoting economic integration to support local development and value creation. The focus is on sustainability criteria that go beyond the climate relevance of green hydrogen.

The results show that many sustainability goals can already be anchored in political instruments with stringent criteria. However, one instrument alone will not suffice to adequately address all goals. Rather, the various sustainability goals must be addressed in a strategic interplay of political instruments. In order for investors and producers of hydrogen to be able to prepare for these requirements, it is necessary that the sustainability goals (beyond CO2 neutrality) are communicated as early as possible – for example in the German hydrogen import strategy. One next step would be to implement sustainability criteria in specific funding instruments for hydrogen imports.

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