The proposed new ministry would be able to veto proposals of any nature from other ministries which were “incompatible” with the aims of the Paris climate accord of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, said Annalena Baerbock, the party’s candidate running for Angela Merkel’s post.
“This is about finally taking on the huge, century-defining task of becoming climate neutral,” said Baerbock as she presented the Greens’ climate protection programme at an event in a nature reserve in Biesenthal, just outside Berlin.
“The climate crisis is not an abstract idea, it is happening right here among us,” she added, pointing to recent deadly floods which claimed nearly 200 lives in western Germany.
If they were voted into government, the ecologists said they would set up a climate task force to speed up policy-making in the first 100 days of the new coalition, to be overseen by the new climate ministry.
The ministry would also be able to shoot down suggestions from other ministries if they were “incompatible with Paris”, said Baerbock.
“The pressure to act is high,” said the environmental party’s co-leader Robert Habeck, adding that climate protection affected all other political issues.
The party also announced its intention to set up a “climate budget” of around 15 billion euros, introduce higher carbon prices and bring forward Germany’s planned coal exit by eight years to 2030.
The Greens are currently polling second behind Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance as Baerbock and CDU leader Armin Laschet vie to succeed the departing veteran chancellor in September.
Having briefly led the polls in the spring, the Greens have long since slipped behind the conservatives after a series of blunders derailed Baerbock’s campaign.
A recent survey by pollsters Forsa put them five points behind the CDU/CSU on 21 percent, while Yougov have them 12 points behind on 16 percent.
The plans announced on Tuesday were slammed as a “bureaucratic muddle of bans” by the leader of the liberal FDP party Christian Lindner.
Yet they met with a less critical response from Laschet and social-democrat candidate and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who were both visiting flood-hit area on Tuesday.
“We must do everything we can to stop man-made climate change,” said Scholz.
Germany’s current right-left coalition passed a new climate change law in 2019, which included a new target to become climate neutral by the middle of the century.
Yet they were forced to improve on that target in May after Germany’s highest court ruled they were not ambitious enough to protect the rights of younger generations.