Among the steady stream of bleak news of war, crisis and recession, news of positive developments almost got sidetracked this year. Here’s what Germany can look back at.
In Germany, too, this past year was marked by Russia’s war against Ukraine, concerns about gas storage facilities, ongoing COVID-19 infections and high inflation. But there was also some good news.
Help for Ukrainian refugees
Since the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, millions of people have fled Ukraine, many of them to Germany. The Central Register of Foreigners listed about 1 million Ukrainian refugees by the end of October.
People in Germany were immensely willing to help, not a few put up women and children from Ukraine in their living or guest rooms, often for weeks and months. Others collected donations including clothing and household items, and helped children with their homework and accompanied the refugees to doctor’s appointments.
The willingness to help has dropped off somewhat since the war started in February, but it was still at a high level months later, according to a study by the German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM). One out of two people was open to volunteering, more than half could imagine donating to refugees and almost one in five could imagine taking in refugees at home, DeZIM found.
Business is booming, record revenues for German firms
Germany’s major DAX companies are looking at a pretty good year despite high energy prices and high inflation. In the third quarter from July to the end of September, sales of the top 40 DAX companies increased by 23%, and profits by as much as 28%, according to EY management consultants. Mercedes, Volkswagen and Siemens were listed as the companies with the biggest profits.
Anyone who might have expected a slump in business was wrong, said Henrik Ahlers of EY. “Sales and profits are rising, and business is booming for the majority of DAX companies,” he added. The consulting firm expects 2022 to be an “overall record year.”
LNG terminals ready ahead of schedule
As a rule, major construction projects in Germany take much longer to complete than originally planned. The Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg, for instance, was supposed to be completed in 2010 — construction work was finished in 2016. But thanks to streamlined planning procedures, the first floating import terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) opened in Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany shortly before Christmas — after just shy of 10 months of planning and construction.
That is the new pace Germany plans to forge ahead with on infrastructure projects, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced at the inauguration ceremony. The floating terminal off the North Sea coast of Lower Saxony is intended to help close the gap in gas supplies in Germany caused by a lack of deliveries from Russia.
The business community hopes the example will set a precedent. Planning and approval procedures for all infrastructure projects need to be massively stepped up, according to Peter Adrian, President of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). That is too fast for environmental associations, who have criticized the terminal construction while urging similarly speedy implementation for non-fossil energy sources.
…Speaking of technology and the climate
A company from Germany’s Hunsrück region has developed technology that might be able to help solve the climate problem. Novocarbo’s P500 machine removes carbon from the atmosphere. In the machine’s pipes and reactors, wood waste is charred in the absence of air. Normally, the CO2 they contain would escape and damage the climate, but the P500 locks the CO2 into so-called plant carbon. Biomass like plant and wood waste can be utilized in the best possible way.
There are other positive effects of biochar production: It generates regenerative heat, which is currently in particularly high demand due to the gas shortage. As a soil additive in agriculture, it is also beneficial to plants. Production is still expensive but that could change as the supply increases.
From pandemic to endemic stage?
Christian Drosten, Germany’s preeminent virologist, said we have reached the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are experiencing the first endemic SARS-CoV-2 wave this winter, in my estimation that means the pandemic is over,” Drosten recently told a daily newspaper.
Immunity in the population will be so widespread and resilient after this winter that the virus will hardly be able to spread in the summer, the head of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital said, adding the only reservation he has concerns the emergence of new variants. “But I don’t expect that to happen at the moment, either.”
This article was originally published in German.