Never before has the issue of climate change garnered so much attention as in this campaign for the European Parliament elections. If the polls are to be believed, climate change is the electorate's biggest concern.
A few days before the European elections, practically all the parties have addressed the issue, trying to convince the last undecided. After all, 48 percent of Germans say that protecting the environment and the climate will be decisive for their decision at the polls. That represents a 28 percent increase over previous European elections.
Scandals and omissions
This is due, in part, to the pressure on the political sphere exerted by the movement Fridays for future, promoted by the Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. But it is also due to the many scandals that have destroyed the prestige of German environmental policy. According to data from the Fraunhofer Institute, in Germany, meanwhile, about 40 percent of electricity is obtained from renewable sources. But the country is still dependent on coal and has neglected building the infrastructure that renewable energy requires. At the same time, emissions from the automotive sector have barely declined since 1990, which is made even more noticeable by the diesel scandal involving the German auto industry. Other sectors also require profound reforms.
From the looks of it, Germany will not meet the targets it promised to achieve until 2020 at the UN conference on climate change, held in Paris in 2015. In addition, the Berlin government faces a dozen demands from the European Union due to environmental policy.
Polls indicate that 81 percent of Germans demand more measures to protect the environment and combat climate change. The Green Party, which has presented a 30-page program on environmental policy, is stable in polls, at 17 percent.
The other parties also perceive the trend and speak out on the issue. The liberals of the FDP, for example, are committed to technological innovation and the trading of greenhouse emissions certificates. The left, for its part, calls for public and cooperative models for the energy industry. The Social Democratic Party, which is part of the current government coalition in Berlin, supports ambitious environmental goals, and also the abandonment of coal, but as long as the miners in the sector, who have traditionally been its constituents, are protected.
Even the right-wing populists from Alternative for Germany (AfD) have entered the debate. His spokesman for environmental policy in the Bundestag, Karsten Hilse, told DW that human influence on climate change is dramatized and that his party advocates continuing to use fossil fuels in the country.
The population demands that politicians act.
Environmentalists remain skeptical
It is remarkable that the majority of political parties suddenly intervene in the discussion about reducing polluting emissions and protecting the environment. However, Olaf Tschimpke, head of the environmental group NABU, warns of a disturbing indecision as to the right way forward. "Some of the conservatives are not convinced," he tells DW, referring to Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and her sister Bavarian party (CSU). According to Tschimpke, "If we don't keep up the pressure, not much will happen."
Political leaders say they respect the efforts of young people to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but note that the corresponding policies are not as easy to apply as protesters in the streets demand. CDU's environmental policy spokesperson, Marie-Luise Dött, says: “In all restructurings, we must consider how they will be financed, what they mean for investors and jobs, and what social consequences they may have. That cannot be done overnight. "
For environmental activists, those are excuses that no longer convince the electorate.