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11 Jun 2021, 12:54
Sören Amelang

Green congress delegates push for more radical manifesto as party drops in polls

This weekend's Green Party congress will officially anoint party co-leader Annalena Baerbock as candidate for chancellor in September's election. Photo: Bündnis 90 Die Grünen Bundestagsfraktion.

Green delegates are pushing for more ambitious climate policies in the party's election manifesto to be finalised at a party congress over the weekend, as the party seeks to stem a recent slide in the polls. Against the backdrop of increasingly aggressive attacks from political opponents, the congress will also officially anoint party co-leader Annalena Baerbock as candidate for chancellor in September's election.

Green party delegates tabled over 3,280 amendments to the party's draft election manifesto, some of which will be discussed at a party congress and are likely to trigger fiery debates. These include a sharper rise in Germany's CO2 price for transport and heating (the draft manifesto says the price should rise to 60 euros per tonne in 2023) and a speed limit of 100 km/h on German motorways (the draft currently suggests 130 km/h). It remains far from certain that the amendments will find their way into the party programme, as the leadership aims to avoid a more radical course.

The congress will also officially anoint party co-leader Annalena Baerbock as candidate for chancellor in September's election following a disappointing result at last weekend's state elections in Saxony-Anhalt. The Conservative bloc of outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel has firmly taken back the lead from the Greens in recent surveys (see graph), reversing a lead following Bearbock's nomination.   

The slide in popularity follows a fierce public dispute over the effects of carbon pricing on the petrol price, which has been a highly sensitive topic in past German elections. Baerbock had spoken out in favour of a faster rise in the CO2 price than agreed by the current government of Conservatives and Social Democrats, a strategy also backed by many other politicians, industry representatives and other stakeholders. But opponents and parts of the media went on the attack, arguing that the Greens were neglecting the social consequences of climate policies. Baerbock's popularity has also taken a hit because she had to clarify her public curriculum vitae several times, and had failed to directly declare some payments from her party in her role as party leader.

The fight against climate change has become a key issue in Germany's election campaign. The issue continues to be a top concern for Germans even during the pandemic, and has fuelled the party's earlier ascent in the polls. Germany's climate movement, which includes student protest movement Fridays for Future, accuse the Greens of not doing enough to reach the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

The controversy over the CO2 price and the following drop in popularity leaves the Greens in a tight spot. The party leadership fears it could further shed support following increasingly ambitious climate policies pursued by the government, which pulled forward the target date for climate neutrality by five years to 2045 only last month.      

Attacks on the Greens have become increasingly aggressive as the election nears. The business-financed campaign organisation INSM, which has been highly critical of the energy transition in the past, ran prominent ads online and in some of the country's leading newspapers depicting Baerbock with stone tablets reminiscent of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. The picture was entitled "Annalena and the 10 bans: Why green bans won't lead us into the promised land." Mining and chemicals union IGBCE, another prominent critic of ambitious climate action, also stepped up its rhetoric against what it describes as exaggerated climate policies, and warned they could turn poorer households into a "new climate precariat."  

Screenshot of Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper homepage, with INSM advert in background..
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