Germany’s ruling parties rank just above far-right on climate protection

From the left: top candidate of the EPP, Manfred Weber (Christian Socialist Union, CSU), Christian Democratic Union leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and CSU-leader Markus Soder [Clemens Bilan/ epa] [Clemens Bilan/ epa]

The European People’s Party (EPP) has scored very poorly in an analysis of how MEPs voted on climate policies, ranking even lower than the European Parliament’s far-right contingent. In Germany, it is a similar story. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Germany’s ruling parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Socialists (CSU), also received a poor rating from Climate Action Network Europe. To establish the ranking, 21 votes related to climate policy from the current legislative period were analysed.

“We were surprised by the range of results – and how unambitious the CDU and CSU’s climate policy really is,” said the German Alliance for Nature Conservation’s Elena Hofmann to EURACTIV.

The CDU placed behind the Free Democratic Party (FDP) with 13% and its sister party, the CSU, lies right beneath it. The AfD is not far behind with 10% and is as a result Germany’s most climate-unfriendly party in the EU Parliament.

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Compared to other parties in EU member states, the CDU and CSU are below the average set by other political forces grouped within the EPP.

The CDU are doing worse than their party colleagues from the Netherlands, Ireland, France and Spain.

The track record of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) is different as it scored better than social democratic parties from other EU member states.

Despite many poor results, there are some positive ones:  the German Greens scored 88% on environmental protection issues, followed by the SPD with 62% and the Left with almost 59%.

Manfred Weber: climate pretender?

As the EU election campaign ramps up, most parties are trying to be particularly climate-friendly. However, these results do not portray the commitment of some politicians in a very flattering light: the EPP’s top candidate for EU Commission president, Manfred Weber, only scored 17% of climate-friendly votes.

According to the study’s author, this contradicts Weber’s statements on the issue, who described climate change as the greatest challenge of his political generation.

It was only on Tuesday that Weber spoke with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg during her appearance before the EU Parliament’s environment committee, which he found “very impressive”.

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Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, made an impassioned plea for the planet at the European Parliament on Tuesday (16 April), urging MEPs to “start panicking about climate change” rather than “waste time arguing about Brexit”.

The day before that, Weber explained why his party family did not always prioritise climate protection during a radio interview, citing the social impact.

He also insisted that the industry should be given time to develop technical solutions and that he did not want to see hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost.

“That is what the EPP is all about – it can be a bit boring sometimes, but we are the party of balance,” Weber said. The party wants to have an ambitious climate protection agenda, “but it also needs to function at a social level, also for jobs. Only then will society go along with these changes.”

Climate protection, the great unifier

The German Alliance for Nature Conservation’s president, Kai Niebert, said that “who sits in the EU Parliament will make a huge difference in terms of climate protection”, adding that the results of the study will prove to be impactful.

Environmental protection is also playing an increasingly central role at a national level. “It is now an issue widely accepted by the population. Particularly a people’s party should prioritise this issue,” said Elena Hofmann.

According to a study by the University of Hamburg published in December, over two thirds of people regard climate change to be a very important issue for them on a personal level, and these figures have doubled since 2015.

In recent months, civil society campaigns for environmental protection have regularly taken place in Germany. In February, a petition for a referendum on the protection of bees attracted over 18% of all voters, the most successful of its kind in the history of Bavaria.

Also, tens of thousands demonstrate every week for a more climate-friendly policy of the German government as part of the youth movement “Fridays for Future”.

The Greens, in particular, are benefiting from the ongoing climate debate, gaining almost nine percentage points in the last state elections in Bavaria and Hesse.

Meanwhile, the German government continues to disagree on climate policy. The climate cabinet set up by Chancellor Merkel to decide on the draft climate protection regulation presented by Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) should now help. But so far, parts of the draft bill have been rejected by the CDU/CSU.

In March, in an article published in the German paper Die Zeit, CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer made it clear that she wanted to get rid of her party’s image on climate.

“The old battle formation – some in favour and others against climate protection – can no longer be adopted,” she said. In the future, the CDU should become more active in terms of climate protection.

Interested citizens can also judge whether this applies at an EU level as they can measure the voting behaviour of their MEPs. Depending on the topic, this can be viewed on the VoteWatch Europe website. EURACTIV’s media partner Abgeordnetenwatch also allows for people to ask questions directly to German MEPs and view their answers.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

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