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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German far-right AfD thwarted in mayoral race near former Nazi camp

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Sunday lost a tight mayoral race where the party had been tipped to secure the office of city mayor for the first time.

German far-right AfD thwarted in mayoral race near former Nazi camp

The AfD’s candidate Jörg Prophet was defeated by independent incumbent Kai Buchmann in a run-off vote that put the spotlight on the city of Nordhausen in the former East German state of Thuringia.

The prospect of a win for the far-right party was described as a “catastrophe” by the keepers of a nearby concentration camp memorial ahead of the ballot.

Around 60,000 prisoners were held in the Mittelbau-Dora slave labour camp — a sub-camp of the notorious Buchenwald — only six kilometres from central Nordhausen.

They were forced to make V-2 rockets in brutal underground conditions, with around one in three worked to death.

An AfD mayor would not have been welcome at commemorative events at the site’s memorial, Jens-Christian Wagner, director of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation, told AFP.

READ ALSO: Why are the far-right AfD doing so well in German polls?

‘Weight lifted’

“The AfD is an extreme right-wing party whose ideology is congruent or at least very similar in many areas to the ideology of the National Socialists,” he said.

Prophet looked confident ahead of the vote, flashing a brilliant white grin to passers-by at his campaign stand in the small but prosperous city.

The 61-year-old argued he represented a fresh start for Nordhausen after six-year incumbent Buchmann had fallen out of favour with many residents after repeatedly clashing with the city council.

Like many members of the far-right party, Prophet has been accused of extremism and historical revisionism.

In a blog post in 2020, he claimed the Allied forces that liberated the Mittelbau-Dora camp were only interested in snooping on the site’s rocket and missile technology.

He also called for an end to Germany’s Schuldkult, or “guilt cult”, a reference to the country’s efforts to remember and learn from the Holocaust.

But in the end, Prophet failed to gather the support needed to become city mayor, collecting 45.1 percent of the vote.

The result guaranteed a “normal life for Nordhausen”, Buchmann said after the outcome became clear.

With the result “a huge weight has been lifted”, Wagner told news channel NTV.

It made clear that “you cannot win elections with historical revisionism, with an attitude that downplays the suffering of concentration camp prisoners”, he said.

Regional tests

Nonetheless, right-wing extremist attitudes are becoming increasingly widespread in Germany, according to a survey published this week by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Eight percent of Germans can now be classified as having clear right-wing extremist views, compared with two to three percent in previous years, the foundation said.

READ ALSO: Number of right-wing extremists in Germany ‘triples’

The AfD, created in 2013 as an anti-euro outfit before seizing on anger over mass migration to Germany, has had a string of successes of late.

The party secured its first district administrator position in June, also in Thuringia, and its first town mayor in July in neighbouring Saxony-Anhalt.

At the national level, recent opinion polls have put the party on 22 percent, above Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD and only a few points behind the main opposition conservative party.

The AfD’s support is especially strong in Thuringia, where it is polling  around 34 percent, according to a recent survey by regional broadcaster MDR.

Thuringia will hold a vote for its regional parliament in September 2024, along with two other former East German states, Brandenburg and Saxony.