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Comment: European Citizens for Climate Protection

The European Union experienced the first climate election in history on Sunday. Not because politicians had put the topic at the centre of their election campaigns, but because of citizens aware of their power at the ballot paper.

Image: Fridays for Future DeutschlandImage: Fridays for Future Deutschland

Never before has a European election been so much the focus of media coverage as in 2019. There was much speculation about a shift to the right in various countries in the run-up to the elections. Then there was the never-ending Brexit story in the UK and a sudden government crisis in Austria causing turmoil in the last minutes of the campaign. But when the results of the European elections came in on Sunday evening, something completely different became clear. Led by the citizens of Germany who voted for their Green Party in surprisingly high numbers, climate protection became the focus of attention.

For a long time, politicians mentioned the topic mostly in connection with the 'Fridays for Future' demonstrations, but mocked it as a kind of 'children's nonsense'. But over the last few months more and more people took the side of the protesting youth all around the world with an increasing number of demonstrators. Both scientists and industrial companies took a positive stance on the issue, all the while politicians could not or did not want to deal with the topic at all. And so they continued to console and talk down, even though some branches of industry were increasingly making credible efforts to meet the requirements of climate protection.

Germany's wind industry, badly battered in recent months, e.g. repeatedly made urgent demands to the 'grand coalition' reigning in Berlin to improve the German tender system. Undersigned tenders and lengthy approval procedures led to a dramatic slump in installations at the beginning of this year. An abolition of the offshore wind cap was on the list of the industry's demands,too, most recently formulated in the 'Bremen Declaration for Wind Energy' only two weeks ago.

But the German government tried to avoid the topic or push it back. Germany recently decided to abolish coal, but only in the distant future of 2038. Nevertheless, the countries emissions rose steadily calling for urgent climate action, but the government only shrugged. Perhaps next year...

Meanwhile, it was obviously bubbling under the surface - and on Sunday it found expression in a slap in the face for the coalition parties of CDU (Christ Democratic Union) and SPD (Social Democratic Party). While Angela Merkel's CDU initially tried to talk their way out ("We're the election winners!"), actionism broke out in the SPD. After months of stagnation, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze sent the draft of the planned climate protection law to the other ministries on Monday on her own, thus initiating the government's internal vote without the approval of the Chancellor's Office. It is doubtful whether this will help her party - the biggest loser on Sunday - win back voters though.

What direct effects the election will have on German politics will become apparent in the coming weeks. After all, the Greens, finishing second on Sunday and nearly doubling their previous score, are currently only an opposition party in the German Bundestag. Although some federal state elections are due in the coming months, it is nearly impossible to actively intervene in politics at the moment.

But Germany is not the only country in Europe where voters were inceasingly drawn to the topic of climate protection: The green party in Finland finished second on Sunday while the Greens in Luxembourg and France finished third, showing: European citizens want their politicians to focus on climate protection! And this time they would do well to listen to what the citizens are demanding. It's about time!

Katrin Radtke
Europe, election, climate change, Green, European Union, politics, wind energy, Germany, tender

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