OPINION: PROS & CONS
BENNY PEISER: MUGGED BY REALITY, GERMANY’S CLIMATE CONSENSUS IS COLLAPSING
Date: 20/11/17 Benny Peiser — Director, Global Warming Policy Forum
Germany’s utopian dream of transforming itself into the world’s green powerhouse is collapsing as its political and media establishment is mugged by reality. The country’s climate obsession has turned into one of the country’s biggest political and economic handicaps, making Germany almost ungovernable.
Germany faces a political crisis after a month of four-party exploratory talks about forming a so-called Jamaica coalition collapsed late on Sunday night. For the first time since the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), German parties with a majority in parliament are unwilling to form a Government. Nobody knows what happens next or how this deepening crisis can be solved anytime soon.
The inability to agree on contentious climate and energy policy issues together with disagreement over migration triggered the end of the exploratory coalition talks yesterday evening.
Most remarkable: Germany’s failed and increasingly unpopular climate policies are at the core of the crisis. It also signals the collapse of Germany’s decade-old climate consensus.
While the Green Party demanded the immediate shut-down of 10-20 of Germany’s 180 coal power plants, the Liberal Party (FDP) stood by its manifesto promise of a radical reform of the Energiewende, advocating the end to subsidies for renewable energy.
Experts at the Federal Ministry of Economics had warned participants at the exploratory coalition talks that Germany will miss its legally binding 2020 climate targets by a mile and that trying to achieve its 2030 goals would risk the economic prosperity of the country.
The Ministry also warned that any attempt to force a radical reduction of CO2 emissions “by 2020 would only be possible by partial de-industrialisation of Germany.”
Climate business as usual is no longer an option for the Liberals. The party fears that a fast exit from coal-fired power generation, as demanded by the Greens, would result in severe social, economic and political problems. A continuation of radical climate policies would affect Germany’s main coal regions, not least in Eastern Germany where the right-wing protest party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) had gained significant support in the federal elections in September.
The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) won nearly 13% of the vote in the general election in September and forms, with over 90 MPs, the third-largest group in the Bundestag. The party’s success has changed Germany’s political landscape and has ushered in the end of the green consensus among mainstream parties. To ensure that the cost of energy remains low, the AfD advocates the continued use of nuclear and coal-generated electricity. It opposes the Energiewende, stating that “energy must remain affordable and should not be a luxury commodity.” Claiming that subsidies for renewable energy are only benefitting well-off families and green businesses, their manifesto promised the abolition of Germany’s renewable energy law (EEG) together with all green energy subsidies.
As a recent editorial of the Wall Street Journal concludes: “No wonder voters are in revolt. The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) won a surprising 13% vote share in part on a promise to end the Energiewende immediately. A new study from the RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research finds that 61% of Germans wouldn’t want to pay even one eurocent more per kilowatt-hour of electricity to fund more renewables.”
The dramatic success of the AfD means that for the first time a party is represented in the Bundestag that opposes Germany’s plans to cut CO2 emissions by moving to renewable energy. Its sceptical stance on climate and green energy issues has sent shock-waves through Germany’s political establishment who fear they can no longer afford to appease the Greens without losing further support among their traditional voter base.
Without the development of new pragmatic policies and a forceful defence of a cheap energy strategy in face of a rapidly fading (and ageing) green movement, Germany is unlikely to free itself from the green shackles that are hindering technological and economic progress, never mind political stability. Much of the green ballast that is holding Germany back will need to be thrown overboard if the country wants to regain political stability and economic pragmatism.
Just as East Germany’s socialist central planning failed miserably before it was overthrown and replaced by an open society based on liberty and free markets, Germany’s climate religion and green central planning will have to be discarded before it can return to energy realism and economic sanity.