Germany’s Greens propose new climate protection ministry with veto power

Germany's Green party said Tuesday that it would seek to introduce a new climate protection ministry with the power to veto government policies if it becomes part of the next coalition following September's general elections.

Germany's Greens propose new climate protection ministry with veto power
Green leader Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

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.

READ ALSO: More trains and energy grants: What a Green win could mean for 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.

German Greens’ co-leaders Robert Habeck and Annalene Baerbock. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

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.

READ ALSO: German Greens’ candidate defends herself against plagiarism claim

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.

SEE ALSO: German prosecutors consider manslaughter probe into deadly floods

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Can German Chancellor Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

The last time Germany hosted a G7 summit, then-chancellor Angela Merkel produced a series of viral images with Barack Obama, clinking giant mugs in a traditional Bavarian beer garden and communing against a verdant Alpine backdrop.

Can German Chancellor Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

Her successor Olaf Scholz, hobbled in domestic opinion polls and of modest global stature, may struggle to match that convivial atmosphere when leaders gather again from Sunday.

The centrist Scholz, 64, assumed the presidency of the Group of Seven rich countries in January, just a month after taking office in Berlin.

Since then his handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, soaring inflation and energy supply complications have put his government to the test while sending his approval ratings plunging.

READ ALSO: Opinion – Scholz is already out of step at Germany – it’s time for a change of course

Scholz told parliament on Wednesday he was ready to seize the three days of talks at the Elmau Castle mountain resort – the same remote, picturesque venue Merkel chose in 2015 – to burnish Germany’s global image and the standing of the West.

“In Europe’s biggest security crisis for decades, Germany as the economically strongest and most populous country in the EU is assuming special responsibility – and not just for its own security but also for the security of its allies,” he said.

A series of summits in the coming days must show “that G7, EU and NATO are as united as ever” and that the “democracies of the world are standing together in the fight against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s imperialism,” Scholz said.

READ ALSO: Germany tightens border controls ahead of G7 summit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on June 23rd.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on June 23rd 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Olivier Matthys

‘Merkel tradition’

Joachim Trebbe, a professor of political communication at Berlin’s Free University, said Scholz had a “huge opportunity” with the G7 to dispel any doubts about his leadership skills or resolve against the Russian president.

“At the start of his term and even when the war began, Scholz was quite reserved – perhaps a little bit in the tradition of Ms Merkel,” a
still-popular conservative the Social Democratic chancellor has sought to emulate, Trebbe said.

She also “tended to manage crises and didn’t pay much attention to informing the media at every step”.

Former US President Barack Obama and ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel sit during a concert visit in Elmau (Bavaria) in June 2015 as part of the G7 summit.

Former US President Barack Obama and ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a concert visit in Elmau (Bavaria) in June 2015 during the G7 summit. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

After accusations of foot-dragging, Scholz’s attempts at a reset were on display during a long-delayed visit to Kyiv last week, joined by the leaders of France, Italy and Romania.

A journalist from the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung travelling with the chancellor noted that he had a tendency to make gaffes under pressure – like “an old tap that either releases ice-cold or boiling water”.


His trouble finding the middle ground had led him to exercise too much caution when it came to sending weapons to Ukraine, or too little, as when on a visit to Lithuania this month he significantly overstated German arms deliveries.   

The chancellor, whose sometimes robotic style has earned him the nickname Scholzomat, has also found himself outflanked in his own unwieldy ruling coalition of his Social Democrats (SPD), ecologist Greens and liberal Free Democrats.

A poll this week showed that the Greens – with popular Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck, both credited with clearer messaging on Ukraine — were leading the SPD in voter intentions for the first time since July 2021.

Both parties, however, are currently trailing the conservative opposition, which has relentlessly criticised Scholz’s Ukraine and energy policies as too timid.

READ ALSO: Why has Germany been so slow to deliver weapons to Ukraine?

Trebbe said that initiatives at the G7 bearing Scholz’s imprint on issues including future political and economic support for Ukraine, climate
protection and strengthening democracies worldwide were crucial if he hoped to gain political tailwinds from the summit.

But he said the gathering was nearly as much about generating images, such as the instant meme of Merkel, arms outstretched, explaining her world view to a nonchalant Obama, draped in repose on a wooden bench.

“That’s where symbols of unity, common strategy and strong leadership are created,” Trebbe said.

“I’m pretty sure Scholz has a team of professionals ready to take full advantage of that aspect of the summit.”

By Deborah COLE