Initial coalition negotiations in Germany between the Christian Democrats, the economic liberals (FDP), and the Green Party indicate that the Green Party has decided to abandon specific target dates for the phasing out of combustion engines and coal mining
GREGORY WILPERT: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Gregory Wilpert joining you from Baltimore this time. Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she was an important step further in forming a new government following the elections that were held last September 24th in Germany. It looks like the Green Party is abandoning key environmental positions in order to join a coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. In last September’s election, the number of parties represented in the Bundestag, as Germany’s parliament is known, increased from four to six. This means that the largest party, the Christian Democrats, now have to form a coalition with two parties this time, the economic liberals or Free Democratic Party and the Greens. If coalition negotiations are successful, this would be the first conservative/liberal/Green coalition in German history. Joining me from Bonn, Germany to analyze what these coalition negotiations mean for Germany and Europe is Dorothee Haussermann. She’s a freelance climate activist, author, and educator who works with the Alter-Globalization Network Attack and the Anti-Coal Campaign, Ende Gelände. Thanks for joining us today, Dorothee. DOROTHREE HAUSSERMANN: Hello, thank you for your invitation. GREGORY WILPERT: So, first of all, tell us about what it is that the Green Party is giving up in this negotiations to join this coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party? DOROTHREE HAUSSERMANN: Well, the Green Party, they demanded a coal phase-out until 2030 and also the end of the combustion engine until 2030, and it seems that they are going to abandon these key targets in order to make the coalition possible. GREGORY WILPERT: And so what does this mean, I mean, how are people in the Green Party reacting to this considering that these were such important goals for the Green Party? Is this being accepted or are people are questioning the position that the leadership has taken? DOROTHREE HAUSSERMANN: Yeah, of course, this has been debated and, yeah, and especially I think the basis is quite frustrated or also people who vote for the Greens because of their environmental policy can’t really understand what, yeah, cannot understand this decision. GREGORY WILPERT: So, what do you think this means that the party would give up such key positions in the sense that, I mean, after all the party is an environmentalist party and it’s abandoning some key environmental positions in order to join? Does this mean that such a focus on a particular issue is viable for a coalition negotiation or does this mean that perhaps a party such as the Greens needs to pursue a broader focus in terms of negotiation? I mean, what else is it that they could possibly still achieve if they’re going to give up such important positions? DOROTHREE HAUSSERMANN: Well, and the way they explained this by saying, okay, it doesn’t really matter to end the coal phaseout 2030 or ’32, doesn’t, you know, we won’t get hang up for precise date and it’s important that we keep to our initial targets, which are reducing emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2020. So they say we don’t have to, yeah, there are other ways in a way to achieve these goals and that’s the main, important things to achieve these emission targets or these mitigation targets and, yeah, I think, and this is reflects the whole absurdity or hypocrisy of the German climate policy in general because the German, also for the German government, the Greens are not in government, but the government so far has actually tried to make climate policy without leaving fossil fuels on the ground, which doesn’t really work. There’s a lot of talk about energy efficiency, about new technologies, and so on, which is all good but it’s not enough and you have to leave fossil fuels in the ground, that’s the first thing to do if you want to tackle the climate crisis. So this is really, yeah, it’s like they’re ignoring the elephant in the room and now the Green, if they want to be part of the government, follow in this path, which the basis, as a grassroots activist, I cannot approve of, of course, because it’s really the first thing and very urgent to leave coal in the ground. GREGORY WILPERT: Let me just switch, sorry, let me just switch gears a little bit. The climate change, or the organization Oil Change International just came out with a new report recently saying that Germany must phase out all coal mining in 10 years if it is to adhere by the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Now it seems that the Greens had this as one of their negotiation goals but now, as you’re saying, they’re abandoning this demand. How is this report, is that having any impact on the negotiations or on Germany that this is really something that’s necessary in order to achieve the climate agreement? Does this mean that Germany is going to abandon basically its goals for the Paris Climate Agreement? DOROTHREE HAUSSERMANN: No, well, I hope, the first part of the question, I really hope that the report helps to make people understand in Germany that we need a rapid coal phase-out, but on the other hand it’s not a very new insight. I mean, it’s good to bring it up again and again, but, for example, two years ago, nearly two years ago after the Paris Agreement was agreed on, there was a report also by the New Climate Institute saying what does it really mean to put the Paris Agreement into practice and stick to the 1.5 degree target without negative emissions, and for Germany that would have meant, they came to the conclusion that it means a coal phaseout by 2025 even. So they were even more pessimistic in a way, gave us less time, and this report has kind of disappeared from the media, from the political practice, and I just hope that the Oil Change International report will bring up the topic again and demonstrate the urgency of it. GREGORY WILPERT: That same report actually also says that, despite Merkel’s rhetoric on Germany’s emissions, the emissions in Germany have not dropped since 2009. How do you see Merkel’s reputation and rhetoric on environmental issues and how it compares with German reality under her leadership? DOROTHREE HAUSSERMANN: Yeah, it’s a problem, and I think more people are starting more and more realizing. For example, we had a lot of international delegations and activists from all over the world that are here in Bonn now for the COP 23, and there was a huge mass action of civil disobedience in an open cast coal mine very close to Bonn. There were international visitors there and also media, and I heard these reactions were, “What? I didn’t know that Germany still had coal mines.” I think that the global public learns more, realize more and more that Merkel is not the climate chancellor, and Germany has merits for a rich expansion of renewable energies, which is good, but it’s only one part of the story. You have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and this is not being put into practice. Germany’s electricity mix still is based, 42% of that is based on coal, on lignite and on hard coal. That’s a lot. This is a bit of schizophrenic way of doing your climate policy, because it’s not working with only making machinery or industrial processes more efficient. Yeah, you have to leave the coal in the ground, and this is not happening. I think these huge open cast coal mines here close to Bonn, they are scheduled, the plan is to exploit them further until 2045. This is of course much longer than we are allowed to exploit coal. The city also, the conservative party, Merkel’s party, they don’t give a clear date for a coal phase-out, and neither do the FDP, the liberal, neither do the Social Democrats. So the Green Party had at least a coal phase, they set a date for a coal phase-out but from a grassroots perspective and also from a science perspective even this date was much too late. If you look at what’s happening right now in the world, yeah, you see the huge forest fires in California and also in Europe was hit by a massive hurricanes last, in the last season. This is now, this is 2017, and if I look what, around what climate change is already doing, then I would say that any coal, each ton of coal that we exploit is really too much. The Green Party really abandoned this goal for a coal phaseout shows one more really what we have been or Ende Gelande and Attack have been saying in the last years that we really have to take justice and the coal phaseout into our own hands, that we cannot really rely on politicians. Right now we don’t really have a party that we can vote that represents the environmentalists who takes things seriously, and I think that’s also an inspiration, well, yeah, you can say a negative inspiration for actions like Ende Gelande who, when thousands of people shut down coal mines by themselves, to put their body on the line, because they realize it’s up to them, it’s up to the people to take, yeah, to be serious about climate justice. GREGORY WILPERT: Okay, well, we’re going to continue to follow the developments in Germany’s coalition agreement or coalition negotiations, I should say, and also its record in terms of its environmental policies. We were joined today by Dorothee Haussermann, an activist, author, and educator, who also works with the organization Attack International. Thanks so much, Dorothee, for having joined us today. DOROTHREE HAUSSERMANN: Yes, thank you as well. GREGORY WILPERT: Thank you for watching The Real News Network.