Never before has a German government coalition been under such pressure before even taking office. Ahead of the Climate Change Conference at the end of October, the United Nations demanded a seven-fold increase in climate protection efforts in order to achieve the 1.5-degree target its members have set. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took the occasion to make a dramatic appeal to the world community: “It’s a question of survival of mankind on this planet.” However, it was around the same time that Berlin got a rude awakening from Brussels. For the first time (and as the only major EU member), Germany is being forced to pay climate compensation for failing to save 22 million emission units in 2020. Raising the stakes a bit further, the Federation of German Industries (BDI) has hardly minced its words in the recent study “Climate Paths 2.0”, stating that “Germany must undertake the greatest transformation in its post-war history.”
None of this is hyperbole. As the BDI sees it, the climate crisis is offering politicians and business leaders the chance to work together to transform Germany into a more sustainable country. Indeed, achieving greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045 as enshrined in law “requires a fundamental restructuring of our energy system, international energy supply, building and vehicle stock, infrastructure, and large parts of industry,” as the BDI study states. Over 150 experts from 80 companies and industry associations contributed to the report, and they believe these efforts would involve some huge figures (see box on page 15).
However, soaring gas prices and heating costs, massive supply chain issues, raw material shortages, rising rents and noticeable inflation are fueling resistance to further tax burdens and prohibitions among a population exhausted by the coronavirus and divided by the fourth wave of the pandemic. The pressure to postpone, against all reason, Germany’s shift to a social-ecological market economy as negotiated by the SPD, the Greens and the FDP during their coalition talks could rise considerably this winter. And that wouldn’t take much: the weather just needs to get a bit colder, with a bit less sun and wind – about the same as it was in 2017 on January 16–25.