Environment Forum

Greens party soars to new heights in Germany

Germany’s Greens party are already the world’s most successful environmental party – having spent seven GERMANY GREENS/years in government of one of the world’s largest economies as junior coalition partners to the centre-left Social Democrats. The Greens wrote Germany’s renewable energy law that helped the country become a major player in wind and solar energy technology between 1998 and 2005 — and the party is chiefly responsible for raising the share of renewable energy to 16 percent of the country’s total electricity consumption.

Although in opposition since 2005, the Greens’ popularity has nevertheless soared to record levels over 20 percent in recent months and the party – which only recently celebrated its 30th anniversary – is doing so well in opinion polls that they could possibly end up heading coalitions in two state elections next year ahead of the SPD in Baden-Wuerttemberg and the city-state of Berlin. 

Pollsters say the Greens are benefitting from an increasing awareness in environmental issues, such as climate change and the public’s opposition to government plans to extend nuclear power in Germany beyond 2021. The Greens are also profiting from voter frustration over broken promises by the ruling parties.

So what’s their secret? Why is the unabashedly pro-environment party so successful in an industrial nation like Germany? We got the chance to chat with the co-chairman of the Greens, Cem Oezdemir, who explained why the Greens are doing so well –but also warned that good opinion polls do not always translate into good election results.

“We’re thrilled about the good run in opinion polls but there’s no danger of us getting arrogant about it like the other parties might,” Greens party co-chairman Cem Oezdemir said in an interview with Reuters at the Greens’ party headquarters in Berlin – under a roof with a photovoltaic system on top. “We’re not going to suddenly start changing our positions according to how the political winds are blowing. We’re sticking to our guns and concentrating on our core issues. We’re not going to squander our political capital and we’re not going to make promises before elections that we forget about after the elections.”

A speed limit for Germany?

In Germany, where many consider their cars sacred and most politicians on both the left and right refuse to consider tampering with the unlimited speed on the Autobahn for fear of hurting the car industry, the leader of the Greens party said it is high time for the country to join the rest of the civilised world and put an upper limit on Autobahn speeds — if for no other reason than to cut CO2 emissions

“The speed limit on German motorways will happen because it has to happen,” Cem Oezdemir, co-chair of the environmental Greens, said in an interview (click here for full story). “There will be an Autobahn speed limit as soon as the Greens are in power. We simply can’t afford it any longer to ignore any chance to reduce CO2 emissions. The interesting thing about a speed limit is that it would have an immediate impact on emissions. It would also save money, save lives and reduce the number of horrible injuries resulting from high-speed accidents. When you think about, it all the arguments speak in favour of a speed limit.”

Oezdemir, 43, said that aside from the powerful car lobby — which opposes a speed limit for fears it would damage the marketing mystique of carmakers like Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen — there are precious few reasons for letting cars continue drive at speeds of up to 200 kph and more: “The only argument against it is the pre-modern masculine dream of racing their cars at high speed.”