Sociology student Julia Kaiser from Jena is engaged at "Students for Future".

Brazen, cynical, ineffective

A commentary on the climate policy of the Federal Government
Sociology student Julia Kaiser from Jena is engaged at "Students for Future".
Image: Anne Günther (University of Jena)

A climate package was approved by the Federal Cabinet in October. The climate protection programme describes how Germany intends to meet its climate goals by 2030, and the Climate Change Bill specifies how measures are to be taken and monitored to combat global warming. Sociology student and »Students for Future« activist Julia Kaiser has studied the bill and believes the climate package will not protect the climate, but rather the profits of major corporations.

It has become common knowledge that radical changes are required in our global production practices and lifestyles if we want to stop climate change. With this in mind, I can only describe the climate package adopted by the German government as audacious and perhaps even cynical. But it does not surprise me in the slightest.

None of the sixty-plus measures contained in the climate protection programme will reduce CO2 emissions, because they fail to rein in the actual culprits: major corporations. Instead, the climate package aims to bring about changes in individual consumption habits, such as with CO2 pricing, putting the costs and responsibility for climate protection on the shoulders of the working population. But climate protection is not an individual concern; it is a political issue.

In Germany, coal-fired power plants alone produce 229.2 million tons of CO2, equating to a quarter of the country’s total CO2 emissions. However, the German government has not even decided to shut down the 20 most polluting power stations. The automotive, agricultural and chemical industries can also stick with their climatedamaging production methods. This is simply disastrous because according to the German business newspaper, »Handelsblatt«, the 30 largest DAX companies are single-handedly responsible for almost 40% of the country’s CO2 emissions. Any effective measures would have to hurt the business interests of these international corporations.

Do we have any reason to hope that our policymakers will one fine day oppose such profit interests? Like Greta Thunberg, I think it would be disastrous to expect such a thing. I believe they will continue to ignore us—just like they have spent decades ignoring thousands of scientific studies, insights, and proposals on climate change. The reason for their failure is not that they do not understand the global situation or because they do not care about future generations; they are simply playing »climate politics« without restricting major corporations through actual regulations. That is not the way to ensure effective climate protection!

If we want the 20 most polluting coal-fired power plants to be shut down as quickly as possible, if we want the public transport system to be massively expanded and made more affordable, and if we want to stop subsidizing air travel, we will have to fight for regulations that combat the pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the planet. We have to fight for a world in which this concept is no longer the structuring principle of society.

The protests held by schoolchildren and university students are an important start if we are to develop a strong movement against the prevailing politics, but activists will only succeed if they are joined by other parts of society to extend the reach of the climate movement. This is the only way to create a form of protest that could cause real economic damage—strike action. Global solutions to the climate crisis will only stand a chance if trade unions, environmental activists, and researchers work together. At »Students for Future«, we are doing our part to build this alliance.

By Julia Kaiser