23.07.2021 – 18:34
“Climate Chancellor” – this is how German Chancellor Angela Merkel is called from time to time, even these days after the almost apocalyptic rains. Is she really like that? And if so, since when?
On November 30, 2005, the newly elected Chancellor Angela Merkel made her first government statement to parliament. In domestic politics, the Christian Democrats’ politics focused on social and labor politics. In the field of foreign policy she dealt with threats from international terrorism and crime, as well as Europe. On the issue of climate change she dealt briefly in the 90 minutes of her speech. In climate protection, she was interested in the chances of technological knowledge and “Germany’s role as an export champion”.
While the police of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) has been in the 1990s, four years Minister of Environment. After four difficult years as Minister of Women and Youth, Chancellor Helmut Kohl suddenly appointed in 1994 the successor of Klaus Töpfer, in the environment sector.
Ralph Bollmanni, author of an 800-page biography published in mid-July entitled: “Angela Merkel. The Chancellor and her term “, she thinks that her appointment was not a step backwards. Merkel has not been a “bad successor to Töpfer”. “This was the image the media gave at the time,” he told Deutsche Wellen. To which is added her presentation as harmless, calling her “Kohl’s puppet”.
Host of the first climate conference in Berlin
In late March 1995, Merkel hosted the first climate conference held at the ICC Congress Center in Berlin, the first climate conference ever organized. Unlike later conferences, it was attended by several hundred delegates from all over the world, as well as many observers. There Merkel, who has studied the natural sciences, discovered that climate was her theme.
Bollmanni, editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung, thinks that those days of the ICC conference “were the decisive moment where Merkel turned into a climate politician.” Even in the media it turned into a warning of the dangers of climate change.
Two years later, the Third World Climate Conference in Kyoto set internationally binding targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in 2005, is seen as a milestone in climate protection. Today too. And this happened in the period when Merkel was Minister of Environment.
Warning of dangers on the international stage
All this is not at all noticeable in the first government statement made by Merkel in 2005. However, she soon became the “chancellor of the climate”. In the first half of 2007, Germany held the rotating presidency of the EU, and held the G-8 presidency throughout the year. Climate was the main topic for Merkel. At the EU summit in March in Berlin, and at the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm, important decisions were made to reduce greenhouse gases.
In August 2007, Merkel traveled to the Arctic with Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats. The scene was with powerful images that spoke of the changes that are expected to happen. A few days later, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, she returned to the Japanese city. At a congress of the international community, she warned of the dangers of global warming: “If we do nothing, then we have to wait for big climate changes to happen.”
Shortly afterwards, the German Prime Minister addressed the United Nations in New York and called for climate protection. This is “a global task that concerns everyone,” Merkel said. That statement had implications, and since August 2007, the media has increasingly called Merkel the “climate chancellor.”
Priority economic growth
But the oncoming economic crisis required the setting of other priorities. And mostly the big powers no longer wanted to cooperate on climate protection, since the 2009 World Climate Conference in Copenhagen, which the US under President Obama and China caused to fail with major clashes.
“Thus the conditions worsened a lot,” says Bollmann. “Many countries set as a priority to achieve economic growth at all costs.” For a long time nothing was achieved internationally in climate protection.
What about the country? “The balance is not so good,” says Bollmann. “The chancellor did not take any steps that could damage the power base or cause an economic shock.” During the Brussels debates on setting greenhouse gas emissions limits, Merkel always defended the German car industry: “Although she was outraged by the unwillingness of German managers to change, especially in car companies.”
Giving up atomic energy
So after many years of Merkel in the chancellery, the German government and the Union of Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists came under great pressure on the topic of environmental protection and climate. This could not be hidden even from the renunciation of the use of atomic energy in 2011, shortly after the nuclear catastrophe that occurred Fukushima Japan. Because this step was not followed by any great concept.
This became clearer than ever at the end of April 2021, when the German Constitutional Court assessed the climate protection law established two years ago as partly unconstitutional and forced parliament to its improvements. Argument given by the Supreme Judge: The law shifts the risks of climate change to the expense of the younger generations, with reference to 2030.
The law on climate protection is from 2019, ie the year in which the big demonstrations “Fridays for the future” – the movement for more climate protection – started. They were often organized passing by the chancellery office.
Criticism of the country’s climate policy
According to many critics, Germany is doing little to reduce greenhouse gases, does not rely heavily on solar and wind energy, and has set a very late deadline for not using coal, setting it at 2038. Otherwise from many other countries, in Germany there are no speed limits on austrada, which the Union of Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists strives hard for. Also, as before, more money continues to be spent on road construction than on public transport.
Greenpeace chief Jennifer Morgan took stock of the Merkel years in the spring. She said in Berlin: “After 16 years in office, Germany did not really succeed in defending the climate and made progress in establishing justice for the climate, which the planet really needs.” It is rare for Greenpeace and the Constitutional Court to be so close in view: There is no plan, to really achieve the targeted climate neutrality by 2050.
What about now? Merkel made perhaps the last government statement to parliament on June 24. Clearly, the Corona pandemic is the dominant theme. But in her 19-minute speech, Merkel suddenly talked a lot about climate change. She spoke of “green renewal” and digitalization. Only “with a green economy” Europe “is able to face the future and competition”.
She spoke in detail and clearly about climate protection: “We are dealing with neither less nor more, but the future of our planet.” Merkel spoke about German investment in the field and the country’s credibility. The next World Climate Conference to be held in November in Glasgow will show “how far we have come with our obligations”. The Christian Democratic-Christian Union faction celebrated its speech.
Is she too strong, or is he too weak?
Is Merkel, the climate chancellor too busy on the subject, or are the other politicians less engaged? Both together, says biographer Ralf Bollmann. In the current situation, the weaknesses of others “become very clear”. And Bollman talks about the Christian Democrats’ candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, who does not “make a good image” and reacts improperly on the topic of climate.
But Bollman sees another aspect. Merkel, who does not want to be re-elected and will not have to deal with the practical implementation of decisions, can currently become “even more rhetorical” on the topic of climate. / DW /