10 Jan 2024, 13:19
Benjamin Wehrmann

NGOs and policymakers decry planned cuts to Germany’s natural climate protection scheme

Clean Energy Wire / dpa / MDR

A planned cut to Germany’s natural climate and ocean protection programme has alarmed environmental activists, who argue that the recent winter floods in the country are a stark reminder that more investments are needed to prepare the country for a warming climate. “Germany’s water crisis has two ugly faces: sometimes there’s not enough rain, sometimes there’s too much of it,” said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, head of NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH). Global warming has led to a “drastic change in precipitation patterns” in the country, which the floods around the turn of the new year demonstrated, Müller-Kraenner argued. However, reports last week by news agencies dpa and AFP said that the environment ministry plans to reduce funding for natural climate protection from 5 billion euros to 3.5 billion by 2027 – and reduce funding for ocean protection by a further 250 million euros. The programme was set up to better protect natural habitats and make them more resilient in order to contribute to national climate targets in the long term.

The cuts come on the heels of a recent ruling by the constitutional court which left the government short of 60 billion euros for climate and transformation projects.“This is irresponsible and a slap in the face to everyone affected by storm tides and flooding,” said Müller-Kraenner. He added that coastal zones, wetlands, and rivers have been developed and used intensively for years. This approach now had to be reconsidered, given the role these zones play in protecting people from natural disasters and in absorbing CO2. “The action programme for natural climate protection has to be implemented in full,” he argued.

Bernhard Stengele, environment minister of Thuringia and Green Party politician, echoed the DUH’s calls, arguing that the country must improve investments in flood protection. Thuringia is a central German state that was hit especially hard by the recent winter floods. “What we’ve seen here will happen more and more often in the future,” Stengele told news agency dpa in an article published by public broadcaster MDR. Making cuts to desperately needed administrative capacities for flood protection to account for the government’s budget crisis would mean taking a step in the wrong direction, Stengele added. While Thuringia had been able to fend off the worst effects of the recent continuous rains and river overflows, this had only been possible thanks to many volunteer workers, Stengele said.

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