Why climate policy could become a problem for the Greens

To analyse

Status: 04.11.2021 3:14 p.m.

No other party is measured so much by climate policy as the Greens. What has come from the traffic light negotiators so far is rather poor. Ironically, their core issue is also a risk for the party.

An analysis by Kristin Joachim, ARD capital studio

The climate conference in Glasgow should come in handy for the Greens. Despite the hitherto poor prospect of pioneering decisions from there, it washes its core topic into the headlines from morning to evening. Reminders of an overheated earth, extreme weather, refugee movements – grist to the mill of the eco party, which has to fight hard battles in the coalition negotiations with the SPD and FDP on climate protection.

Kristin Joachim
ARD capital studio

Even if little gets outside, the mood doesn’t seem to be particularly good, at least in some of the climate-relevant working groups. The Greens know that in the coming government they will be measured primarily by the extent to which something is really going on in terms of climate protection. Party leader Annalena Baerbock stressed it again and again during the election campaign: This legislature is the last chance to turn things around again.

And when the election program was presented in June, co-party leader Robert Habeck even let himself be carried away by excluding the Greens from participating in a government that does not come along the 1.5 degree path. A clear message.

“Ideally” get out of the coal sooner

But so far the negotiation successes are manageable. It is true that the exploratory paper requires solar roofs for new commercial buildings, for private houses it should at least become “the rule”, two percent of the country’s area is to be used for wind power and the expansion of renewable energies is to be accelerated.

But even with the coal phase-out it is said that it should “ideally” take place by 2030, a softening in order to get the SPD on board, which insisted on 2038 during the election campaign.

In addition, many key points on climate protection have remained open. Climate protection organizations, environmental associations and the Green Youth are therefore drumming loudly to increase the pressure on the explorers at the halfway point of the traffic light negotiations. They are disappointed with the resolutions so far, which in their opinion have fallen short of expectations.

The green youth demand clear goals

Goals alone are not enough; they have to be backed up with concrete measures. If the coal phase-out, the path must be clearly defined, says Timon Dzienus, federal spokesman for the Green Youth. “So: What do we switch off and when one after the other? When will the first coal-fired power plants be shut down? What is the concrete expansion plan for renewable energies? We expect a timetable in the coalition agreement.”

An immediate climate protection program is also needed. This is also stated in the exploratory paper, but without becoming more specific. For Dzienus, this includes stopping the expansion of the motorway immediately. “We need the money for this for the expansion of local public transport. That would even be budget-neutral. It is a political decision that must now be made courageously.”

Lisa Göldner from Greenpeace not only has doubts about a binding exit date from coal in 2030, a sticking point for the achievement of the German climate targets. “I am also very concerned that the exploratory paper says that the traffic light will continue to expand the natural gas infrastructure as a replacement for coal.” That is a complete wrong path. “This would just move us from the coal dead end to the natural gas dead end instead of finally becoming independent of fossil fuels.”

Oliver Krischer, head of the Greens in the traffic light working group “Climate”, tries to appease. After the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court, the sector goals have been sharpened. As a result, only a small amount of CO2 should be emitted in the electricity sector in 2030. “And with this CO2 budget, there is no longer any room for coal-fired power plants, which can only be met with other technologies.” It doesn’t just have to be new gas-fired power plants, there are various options. “Basically, however, it is clear that gas consumption must not increase across the various areas taken together.”

A sentence with explosive power

A sentence in the exploratory paper apparently also causes heated discussions within the working groups, the scope of which is not apparent at first glance. But it is crucial for the effectiveness of one of the most important instruments for climate protection, the Climate Protection Act. The paper says: “We will check compliance with the climate targets on the basis of a cross-sectoral, multi-year overall calculation analogous to the Paris Climate Agreement.” According to the current climate protection law, the annual targets must be checked for each year and separately for each sector.

Environmental groups are now accusing the Greens of having negotiated a dilution of the climate protection law into the exploratory paper. The Greens are trying to appease. The sector goals continue to exist. But from negotiating circles one can hear that participants from other parties do not see this so clearly.

Members have to agree to the contract

For the Green Youth in any case, the traffic light has to improve considerably more so that its members agree to a government with the SPD and FDP. “We have clear expectations regarding the content of the negotiations: We will only agree to the coalition agreement if there are noticeable improvements both for the people and for the climate,” says Dzienus.

But it should also be clear to the green coalition negotiators that more is at stake for their party on this issue than for the other two potential traffic light partners. If the upcoming government also fails to meet the climate target, it would certainly have the greatest credibility problem. They set their expectations so high themselves. This is probably one of the reasons why they make it clear at every opportunity that they cannot be solely responsible for climate protection. Rather, it can only succeed as a “climate government”.


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