Germany’s Greens promise to strengthen climate plan after protests

FILE PHOTO: Students take part in the Global Climate Strike of the Fridays for Future movement in Berlin, Germany, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Mang/File Photo

Germany’s Greens said on Sunday they planned to use their strength in the upper house of parliament to sharpen a government climate protection package that disappointed many activists.

The party’s Winfried Kretschmann – the popular premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg, one of Germany’s richest and most industrialised states – said the package had been dominated by piecemeal measures and failed to take the key step: introducing an “honest and ambitious carbon price”.

The climate package, unveiled on Friday after extensive haggling between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and her Social Democrat coalition partners, set an initial carbon price of about 10 euros per tonne, well short of the 40 euros many activists were hoping for.

The Federal Council, Germany’s upper house, represents the governments of the 16 states of the federation, in nine of which the Greens are a governing party, meaning they have an influence over an absolute majority of seats in the chamber.

Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ co-leader, said the government had “wasted a historic opportunity”.

“We will use every means to get more done to protect the climate,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

The Federal Council can veto or amend laws that affect states’ finances and refer back all other laws to the lower house for reconsideration.

The 50 billion euro package, setting out a roadmap for the greening of Europe’s largest economy over coming decades, included incentives to buy electric cars, surcharges for domestic flights and extra money for the national railway.

But the carbon price, rising from 10 euros to 35 euros by 2025, was received with widespread disappointment.

“The proposals are completely inadequate,” climate economist Volker Quaschning told RTL. “The government is acting as if we had 200 years. If we did, then the measures would be fine, but not when we only have 15.”

With environmental concerns surging up the list of voters’ priorities after two unprecedentedly warm summers, a spate of forest fires and the chord struck by Great Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, the Greens are soaring in polls, and are now vying with the conservatives for the top slot nationally.

The party looks set to enter its 10th state government within coming weeks after elections led to talks in Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin, on forming a coalition of the SPD, conservatives and Greens.