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24 Feb 2020, 13:59
Rachel Waldholz

Greens surge into second place in Hamburg, climate a key issue for voters

Euractiv / Tagesschau / Watson

The Green Party surged into second place in the Hamburg regional elections this weekend, doubling its share of the vote after a campaign in which citizens cited climate change as a key issue. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) took first place, while Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) fell to 11.2 percent, their worst showing ever in a Hamburg election, Euractiv reports. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) lost some support and preliminary results showed it hovering just above five percent, the threshold for parties to enter the regional parliament. Exit polls showed that climate change was a top issue for voters: 21 percent said it was the most important factor in their decision, more than any other issue, including infrastructure, education, rent and immigration.

The results mean that the current government, a coalition between the SPD and Greens, will likely continue, though potentially with more Green representation. Just a few weeks ago, the Greens had hoped they might be able to beat the SPD altogether and elect Hamburg’s first Green mayor, the TV news program Tagesschau reports, but in the end they fell well short of that goal. While preliminary results show the SPD down more than six percent from the last election, they still held onto a significant lead, winning 39 percent of the vote.

Hamburg is home to Europe’s third largest container port and is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. The outgoing government passed a climate action law earlier this month pledging to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and cut CO₂ emissions 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Those targets could be difficult to reach because the city currently gets the bulk of its electricity from coal. But climate activists have said the plan doesn’t go far enough. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg joined a demonstration of thousands of people in Hamburg the Friday before the election, calling for even more action on climate change, Deutsche Welle reported.  “We want the plan to be revised," Jesko Hennig, a spokesperson for Fridays for Future Hamburg, told the news outlet Watson after the vote on Sunday. "Given the high relevance of climate protection in the election, this must be a central task of the new government."

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