By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
Several days ago (24.04.21) the German “Federal Constitutional Court” which consists of eight judges under the chairman Stephan Harbarth made a ground breaking decision in respect to the German “Climate Protection Act.” What the Court defined as guidelines for the German legislators, is in essence a “dictate” with far reaching implications for the “basic rights” of the German citizens, as economic journalist Peter Rásonyi in the Swiss Daily “Neue Züricher Zeitung” (NZZ 29.04.21) correctly commented. The new court ruling obliges the German legislator to clarify by 2022 – contrary to what had been planned for 2025- in what time frame Germany is going to reduce the annual emission of green gases after 2030. The court ruling was jubilantly applauded by the “Friday’s for future” movement – which was one of the main plaintiffs.
Even if the judges refer to the legislature’s scope for action, “they essentially establish an absolute, legally enforceable constitutional duty of the German state to implement measures deemed appropriate to protect the global climate,” comments Rásonyi. “The court explicitly states a constitutional mandate of the state to implement the goal formulated in the Paris Climate Treaty of 2015 to keep the long-term warming of the global climate well below 2 degrees.”
NZZ calls court decision on German climate protection a “dictate”
“In doing so, the court accepts that the measures adopted for this purpose can be so drastic that ‘practically any freedom protected by fundamental rights is thereby endangered.’ According to the judges, the NZZ commentator reports, it is the state’s “duty” to impose such extreme measures for the reduction of emissions which beginning with the next decade will be so low according to scientific calculations that the judges refer to, that almost all area of human life (…) will be threatened by drastic measures.” The judges define the state’s duty on the basis of a paragraph, which in 1994 under then Chancellor Kohl was adopted in the German Constitution under Art. 20 a, whereby the State is responsible to “protect the Natural Basis of Life.” Till now this article 20a was seen as a “dead letter” .Yet as of now it becomes a sharp sword for the fight of the climate protectors.
According to the NZZ commentary, the judgment shows a questionable “presumption of knowledge” on the side of the judges, who interfere into the administrative rights of future parliamentarians and governments along three points:
1. It is true that climate protection is a long- term business. “But to fix the annual emissions and measures and actions in advance, is arrogant and inefficient. Too much could change in that period on the economic, financial, political, technological and global level.”(…) “It is incomprehensible,” the commentator states, “that legislators have to decide latest by 2022 concerning decisions that should be taken after 2030.”
2. The Court overlooks that the measures and actions that were defined by the German climate protection law (2019) is not able to guarantee the “Protection of the Basis of Life” (Schutz der Lebensgrundlagen Art 20a). “Climate warming is a global phenomenon and Germany has a 2% part in the world- wide CO2 emission. Whether Germany can really fulfill the Paris climate aims and will be climate neutral from 2050 on, has little influence on the climate.” Since China, the US and India have in comparison with Germany much higher emissions, it would be more important if Germany exerted pressure as trading partner, leading EU state and important investor on those nations.
3. What astonishes is how the judges assume in advance extreme interventions into the “freedom rights of citizens” in order to protect the climate in the next decades. Such decisions in a democracy should be made by the citizens and the parliamentarians, whom they elect, and not by some judges of the Constitutional Court, that by that time may not even be any more in office.”
In Mid-May the German cabinet, in reaction to all this, will decide on a new version of the German climate law that in general foresees a 60% reduction of CO2 emissions. Germany announced that they had agreed on an even stronger CO2 reduction until 2022 and on pricing of CO2 Emissions. This has already provoked strong reactions from the side of the German Industrial Association (BDI), which warned that this would set a “spiral” into motion and make industry less competitive as well as lead to a loss of jobs. Some years ago Germany decided to completely get out of nuclear energy – in contrast to the US, Russia, China, India, France, GB et al.. As the Director of the OECD Nuclear Energy Department William Magwood stated in a FAZ interview two weeks ago, with its nuclear exit decision Germany has taken a step, which in the long run will be very damaging for the German – and global – scientific and engineering sector: “A deplorable loss of scientific capabilities!”
Who welcomes the Greenies in Germany?
On this background it is worth to look at the significant rise of the German Greenies who two weeks ago chose as Chancellor Candidate 40-year-old Annalena Baerbock. Together with Robert Habeck she is chairing since 2018 the Greenie party (Bündnis 90/ die Grünen). A huge wave of media hype accompanied the election, peddling the line that a future female greenie chancellor with hardly any experience in government politics, is getting the best poll among the other party candidates. It is a fact that the Greenies by now are part of different coalitions in 10 Federal German states and rule in the Federal State of Baden- Württemberg with a Greenie Prime Minister Kretschmann. It is also a fact that significant parts of German industry as well as various layers of the CDU/ CSU as well as SPD and Liberal Party hail the Greenies as a promising model for Germany. Of course “big finance” has also its say, as the example of a recent press conference of the Chairwoman of the ECB, Christine Lagarde, illustrated. Contrary to the style in which such press conferences are held, Lagarde in answering a question, gave enthusiastic support to Greenie Chancellor Candidate Baerbock: “One does not have to be grey- or white-haired in order to go into politics and draw attention to one’s talents”.( …) Baerbock’s candidacy shows that Chancellor Merkel has encouraged young ladies to go into politics. That is the value of role models,” Lagarde stated. She characterized Baerbock as “a young woman, who is strongly engaged for subjects like climate change and environmental protection,” aims which are also important for Lagarde.
An Orwellian nightmare becoming true?
If one thinks through what it means for Germany, to be for example ruled by a Greenie chancellor Baerbock, or as vice chancellor after the General Elections in September 2021, this would mean: a radical transformation of German industry, without thinking about the consequences this will have on the social situation and the world economy; this will be accompanied by a dramatic interference into the “basic rights of the citizens and consumers.” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave new World” will be mild- if we think about the control mechanisms and prohibitions that will have to be introduced; essentially this implies a series of control measures and financial sacrifices that would have to be imposed on individual citizens and it will make the poor poorer. Annalena Baerbock has publically announced the “Imperative”: It is the Protection of the Climate which is the center of political actions with implications for all other areas. Germany, according to this Greenie philosophy- will have to live through astronomical price hikes –in the field of energy based on CO2 taxes. In terms of the main strategic geopolitical orientation, Baerbock in her recent declarations has essentially followed the script of US / British foreign policy: Calling for a crusade against China as well as against Russia – in particular efforts to stop the German -Russian Nord Stream 2 Gas pipeline project, as well as putting main emphasis on human right campaign on a world scale. Totally loyal as transatlantic partners, they speak the language of former Greenie Foreign Minister (Joschka Fischer) who under former Chancellor Schröder was an adamant defender of aggression war on the Balkan and who was the darling of US Foreign State Secretary Madeleine Albright.
The Greenie ideology
In his recent book “From now on everything will be different” (Von hier an anders, 2021, Kiepenheuer & Witsch), Robert Habeck (who from 2012 to 2018 served as Deputy Prime Minister of the North German Federal State Schleswig Holstein and as Minister for Energy, Agriculture, Environment and Digitalization) outlines some of the key aspects of the “Greenie World View”.
The book is written in such a way that it often reminds a careful observer of a characteristic school situation, which is typical for German culture: The “Stuhlkreis” attitude (originally designed for the morning opening discussion with pupils) which one can often see among teachers and didactic experts, those people that are sitting around in a circle, endlessly debating about how to save some “threatened species”. Habeck uses many times words like that he feels “affected” or “indignant” by things he experienced during his tour throughout the country.
The central focus of his book is dedicated to the fight for a more “diverse society”, which – as he documents, is primarily a question of a new “life style”. The debate about “life style” starts when one “stops eating meat, or is confronted with grand- children that want to eat vegan food and no more barbecue meat.” How one works, where one lives, what one buys, where one travels during holidays, all this according to Habeck becomes more and more part of a public judgement.
What personally influenced Habeck were Al Gore’s election campaign and his film 2006 “An uncomfortable truth”. He was attracted by the idea that “The Climate crisis can only be solved if people change their behavior, the way of economy and consumption.” Whereas Corona is a challenge, the virus can be eradicated. But in terms of climate- “time is running out… We are standing in front of a decade, which demands actions in terms of the ecological crisis…” or as Baerbock put it “The climate crisis is the all- encompassing issue that determines all other areas of society and its labor.”
Habeck defines what the Greenies stand for in his book
“The Greenies unlike any other party – stand for an “open” society, for the desire to have change and transformation, for climate protection, for gender justice and for the fight for human rights, for a strong Europe, that step by step shall take over the competencies of the nation- state. I am full heartedly convinced that if we want to solve social and ecological problem, we need changes… Hence the Greenies fight for freedom, peace and progress of society in a liberal democracy.”
A new cultural paradigm and revolution
Habeck in his book analyses those structural changes which in the last 15 years have contributed to the strengthening of the Greenies in Germany: This includes cultural questions that have become more central for society and are “normative.” It also includes the shift which has taken place in the sector of education. Today almost 55% begin after school a university study in comparison to 10% in the year 1970. In order to avoid what he calls the “paternoster elevator paradox”- whereby this social rise puts others on a lower social level, he demands that more should be invested into learning, i.e. the future will be decided by robots and digital computers, which in turn will free job places and dynamize our work. There will be more electronic dossiers, more Video conferences and more home office. Habeck rejects the Humboldt system and demands instead an expansion of the system of “Ganztagsschule” (full day schools) which also includes more parents’ participation.
Habeck emphasizes that digitalization will change the structure of jobs and make some superfluous. Artificial intelligence, computers could replace our cognitive thinking. Given the enormous profits of giants like Google and Amazon we can see that “in the future it will be more difficult to draw a border between man and machine.” It is remarkable to see Habeck’s naïve admiration of the US Silicon Valley giants that – as he presumes – will determine the new technology age among others with robots acting like moral beings and other machines that make society manipulable. What even more astonishes is that in the whole book there is very little mention of the poor segments of our society and the burning social questions concerning the consequence of Greenie economy, nor is there a considering of the widening world-wide gap between rich and poor. One looks in vain for a deeper philosophical or religious understanding concerning man and nature, or man and creation.
Other structural changes include the “strong migration” which occurred from Eastern to Western Europe as well as within Germany after 1989. While in Romania today 1 Million less people live in the country compared to 18 years ago, the same can be observed in East Germany whose population shrank between 1990 and 2012 by 12 % (2 Mio). It will by 2030 shrink by another 14% that will leave in order to find better work.
In the agricultural sector Habeck reports that today only 600.000 work in 260,000 farm entities, but unlike 1960 they produce much more intensively for a low price. He refers to the ecological problems caused by “intensive farming” and points to the fact that 1 million different species are today threatened by extinction, if we take woods and insect biomass. The intensive agricultural production according to Habeck has led to a loss of 9% of species. He suggests that farmers should get incentives for more ecological farming from the EU and this implies that we must renounce to the use of pesticides, and introduce sustainable farming as an integral part of the economic system.
Habeck pleads for a massive expansion of climate protection along the line of ecological restructuration and conversion of our economy. Ecological damaging practices must be prohibited by ‘Regulatory laws.’ For example, prohibiting the use of plastics must be part of such “regulation”. There must be regulation of CO2 emissions; regulation for those who keep animal husbandry; there must be a charge on the use of pesticides, as well as customs tariffs to be imposed for those products that are not ecologically produced. Climate friendly behavior must be “promoted” and climate destructive behavior “minimized.”
Self-realization as a cultural paradigm and the role of the feminist movement
According to Habeck a major role in the Greenie movement is played by the “feminist” movement which has become a “mainstream movement” and has changed the language into “gender language.” With it goes that “life style” has become more central.
In the post war period, he underlines, there was a “Consensus” Bonn Republic, based on Christian democratic values, but since 1968 a major cultural liberalization began: “The new phenomenon of those years was that people wanted to have their “life style” recognized and not any more that which they did or contributed to society. (!) “This cultural movement was directed against societal norms, regulation of life, against a patriarchal woman image and against materialist thinking,” Habeck writes. The protest in those years became the basis for many greenies that many years later became a party. It was “founded as an emancipatory movement and as an alternative to the traditional social and Christian Democracy, against the “formed Society.” They protested in favor of more self- determination and self- realization—these ideas slowly developed into a “new cultural paradigm.”
“During the last decades the dominant cultural paradigm was shifted away from a conservative, materialist value basis -that defends a fossil fuel economy, into a rather postmaterialist, pro -European, liberal oriented mobility and diversity of life style,” Habeck states.
The paradigm of cultural self -realization is corresponding to a new life style
“The LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) movement, #me too, #Me Two, #blacklives matter, #Fridays for future demonstrations – all these movements, according to Habeck demonstrate, that “something is articulated which goes far beyond economic interests, the desire for more social recognition and for a moral status, for recognition of a specific problem, that before got played down or negated.” He also points to the renaming of street names that carry names of generals that were active colonialists.
People are fighting for their identity: Women’s rights, diversity rights, space for cultural diversity. In terms of the “gender star” (f.i.Unternehmer*innen) Habeck defends this since “with symbols people defend their world view” (!) “The growing nervousness and split of society cannot be reduced to social economic injustice”, he writes, but is based in emotions of cultural injustice, in a competition for ‘dignity’ (!). “Hence the question for social and cultural recognition becomes a public political affair. (…) More and more political fights are centered today on the questions how open and cultural our society or a party is: …Questions of sexual, social, cultural, religious, ethnical identity have become central. It concentrates around the question of respect and recognition for the individual, for one’s own life style”. And since the life style debate is very much connected with ecological questions, the pendulum in the last years more and more has swung in direction of a “cultural liberal discourse.”
In short: “The mainstream corresponds to the increased value given to the ‘personal life style’. Self-realization as cultural paradigm and the phenomenon to look for recognition is a phenomenon of our modern time.”
By Elisabeth Hellenbroich