Sunday, November 28

Angela Merkel: What remains of the “Climate Chancellor”

To analyse

Status: 01.11.2021 11:22 a.m.

As a scientist, Angela Merkel recognized the dimension of climate change early on, but as a politician, her climate policy balance sheet is sobering. What has the “Climate Chancellor” achieved?

An analysis by Julie Kurz, ARD capital city studio, currently Glasgow

It may be a coincidence, but its symbolism doesn’t miss it: Angela Merkel’s last big trip as Chancellor on the international stage will take place at the 26th World Climate Conference. It closes something like a circle of her political career: It was the first world climate conference that Merkel made known at international level. Merkel, then 40 years old, had just been appointed Minister of the Environment. A short time later – in the spring of 1995 – the first world climate conference took place in Berlin.

Julie Kurz
ARD capital studio

The conference showed great differences between the host countries. Merkel negotiated tirelessly, and in the end there was “the Berlin mandate”. It was the basis for the Kyoto Protocol, adopted two years later, the first climate treaty with greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

Since then, Merkel has not let go of the issue – or the Merkel issue. Ottmar Edenhofer from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research first met Merkel in 2006, and later advised Chancellor Merkel on climate issues. He remembers that Merkel has had a keen interest in climate policy since her time as environment minister: “At a time when neither her own party nor the majority of society took it seriously at all.”

Laborious persuasion

The scientist recognized early on – as one of the few top politicians at all – the dimensions of climate change for people and the earth. But as a politician, Merkel also knows that she can only act under the dictates of majorities, has to convince – and that is difficult when it comes to climate protection.

It will also be the crux of her reign. As early as 1997, Environment Minister Merkel described in the Ed-Talk show impressively how difficult it is to convince people of the urgency of climate protection: “People often say: ‘Oh, not today. We feel that a lot is wrong, but please don’t pay a price for it today ‘Don’t take the load on it yet’. ” A finding that is still valid today.

“Not enough”

At that time, however, Merkel was still full of conviction. At her last summer press conference in July of this year, the Chancellor had to admit that although she had always worked against climate change, it was “not enough”.

Merkel gave everything at the beginning of her chancellorship: in 2007 she went to Greenland with the then Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel to get an idea of ​​climate change. They are images that are burned into the collective memory. The Chancellor in a red “Search and Rescue” jacket in front of melting glaciers: A climate chancellor on a mission against the climate crisis.

One issue that Merkel’s entire career as a politician spans is climate change. In 2007 she traveled to Greenland with the then Environment Minister Gabriel to point out the extent of the ice melt.

Image: dpa

The pictures are both a blessing and a curse. Because she will not keep the promise of “climate chancellor”. The financial crisis followed shortly after the glacier excursion. From then on, one crisis follows the next. Instead of the climate chancellor, Merkel becomes the crisis chancellor, who loses sight of the big crisis – climate change.

But it is not the case that nothing happens in terms of climate protection under her chancellorship: the expansion of renewable energies (which has recently stalled), the planned phase-out of coal in 2038 (climate protectors complain that it comes too late) and the introduction the CO2 price (so far too low for climate researchers to have a steering effect).

Between climate protection and lobbying politics

Her greatest success, however, is likely to be that she repeatedly puts the topic on the agenda of the G7 and G20. Within the EU, too, it helps to fundamentally promote climate protection. At the same time, however, she also represents the interests of the domestic auto industry in Brussels, for example when it comes to relaxing emissions regulations for European car fleets. Lobbyists and hinderers in her own party are always behind her neck and prevail.

In the summer, the environmental organization Greenpeace portrayed the 31 worst climate brakes in the grand coalition: Almost all of them came from the Union. When the CO2 price was introduced, there was resistance from the possible future SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

For the climate researcher Edenhofer, the balance sheet of Merkel’s climate policy stands and falls with the actions of her successor: “If your successor succeeds in getting a climate policy off the ground with the 2-degree or 1.5-degree target If it is compatible, then Angela Merkel will be celebrated as the one who laid the foundation the art of making the necessary possible. “

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