The German climate group is challenging green “establishments”


Doris Vollmer is clearly new to politics. She points out her strengths, and cancels out the name of a fellow candidate. But the German physicist also captures the attention of his audience as he places a balanced glass of water on the podium. Imagine, she says, that this is rising global temperature.

“She’s coming!” It’s raining, “he shouted. Water splashed on the stage as the glass fell.” You can’t put water back in the glass. You can’t pour a tipping point… Politicians want to follow the old strategy: negotiate. , negotiate. But you can’t negotiate with nature. “

It was an unusual speech to stump from one of Germany’s newest national parties – the Klimaliste, or “climate list”. The Vollmer party chair and its peers, scientists and activists wearing jeans and Birkenstocks, may seem easy to write off.

But they represent the double-edged sword that Germany’s growing climate activism could turn into for the rising green party in the September federal elections.

Klimaliste, under party presidency Doris Vollmer, is concerned that the Greens are compromising too much to come to power © Klimaliste

Even when the leader of the Green party, Annalena Baerbock, makes a credible attempt to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, the party once mocked as a chaotic cohort of hippies and idealists is attacked from the opposite side: to be too established.

“It has to be a new kind of party. A party that listens to science. That involves people. This recognizes the global challenge,” says Alicia Sophia Hinon, Berlin’s candidate for the Klimalist.

It’s not a criticism usually lobbied at the Greens. But under the leadership of Baerbock and his co-leader, Robert Habeck, a long-running party between his left-wing “fundis” and centrist “reals” has become a simplified political force, determined to attract the center. prudent conservator of Germany.

Most of the basics were followed, with pleasure. But some have rebelled, worried that the Greens have softened their climate goals and, if they form the next coalition government – most likely with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) – they could compromise further.

“The Greens think in terms of power politics,” says Alexander Grevel, a Klimalist militant in Stuttgart. “We’re here to put pressure on the Greens to do more for the climate again.”

Klimalist’s goals are less a divergence from green policies than an intensification. While the Greens are looking for carbon neutrality in 20 years, the Klimalists want it “as soon as possible,” maximum in 10 years. The Greens want a coal tax of 60 euros per tonne; the Klimaliste says it should be 195 euros.

Political analysts such as Andrea Römmele, of the Hertie School in Berlin, say the Green party is still in the process of entering government, but warn that the fact of too many compromises would strengthen Klimaliste and other militants, creating a political challenge to long go to the party.

“If they give in a lot, especially to business,” he said, “then there’s more room on the left side of the party’s spectrum.”

The voters that Klimaliste claims to represent may not be a major electoral force, but they are influential. Friday’s student-led protests for the Rebellion of the Future and Extinction have brought climate policy to the forefront of the national agenda, forcing politicians to react.

They helped increase Germany’s Greens to their best results in the 2019 European Parliament as well won a recent case to enforce climate law in the constitutional court. In March, Klimaliste’s candidates in the regional elections in Baden-Württemberg, the only state run by the Greens, pushed the party to start limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Both parties agree that such pressure is useful.

“I’m happy to have people who keep us strong,” says Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the European Parliament for the Greens of Germany. “It helps highlight big problems.”

Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock, co-leaders of the German Greens
Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock, co-leaders of the German Greens, helped reshape the party’s image © Getty Images

The Klimaliste, which has only been around for a year, will present only 70 candidates through Germany’s direct voting list. If they win at least three seats, they can create a parliamentary group to join the inquiries and legislative committees.

The Baden-Württemberg elections, however, suggest even a small presence may politically hurt the green causes. The Greens were a long way from ending a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats and paving the way for stronger climate policies, but they had to form a government with the CDU. Some Greens have accused the Klimaliste.

“Some of us are crying,” a green politician admitted in private. “In three counts, we lost votes for them… Strategically, it’s really stupid [of them] to do this now. “

Grevel is not sorry. Since the Greens won this regional direction a decade ago, he argued, they have not only slightly changed their renewable energy targets, but are lagging behind some CDU-led regions.

The Greens argue that Baden-Württemberg, the core of the German car industry, was a bigger challenge and a more conservative state to reform.

A program that never approaches the government can be as radical as you want it to be, but it doesn’t get you anywhere, ”Bütikofer said.

None of that worried the Greens a few months ago as they climbed to the top of the polls after Baerbock’s nomination. Now they have fallen 10 points behind the CDU – plagued by reports of mistakes in his CV, accusations of book plagiarism, and mudslinging campaigns.

In a protest by Berlin Fridays for Future – a weekly event until the election – few openly support the Greens. “We’re not here as a support vehicle for the Greens,” shouts a college student, wrapped in a ground flag at a “Dance Demo,” where socially distant dancers meet in techno rhythms. “We are of climate justice.”

Hinon wants to use this momentum to shake up all German leaders, green or not: “We want to put the road in parliament.”

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