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Baerbock calls for a 'climate protection government'

September 19, 2021

After an election campaign with many lows, the Greens have met for a small party conference in Berlin to lick their wounds and gain momentum for the last days before the election.

Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock singing on the stage at the party meeting
Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock rallied party members to give it their all on the final stretchImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

The Green Party's candidate for chancellor kept the photographers and cameramen waiting for over half an hour on Sunday morning. Then Annalena Baerbock made a grand entrance withparty co-chair Robert Habeck and other party colleagues to kick off a "small party conference" in Berlin, one week before the general election. The 100 delegates wanted to send a "strong signal for the final spurt" in the election campaign.

The Green Party and its 40-year-old candidate have had a difficult few weeks: They made headlines over false information in Baerbock's official CV and plagiarism allegations centering on her most recent book.

It was only late in the campaign that Baerbock managed to get back on track and talk about her central policy issue, climate protection. By then, however, the Greens had already slipped in the polls — from a spectacular 26% in May to currently 15 to 17% percent. In the last general election in 2017, they came in at only 8.9%.

Reporter - German election: Rejuvenating politics

Shattered dreams

That Baerbock will win the chancellorship now seems highly unlikely; the environmentalist party is in third place in the polls behind the center-left Social Democrat (SPD) and the center-right bloc made up of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

Right at the beginning of her speech on Sunday, Baerbock went on the offensive: "Yes, the last few weeks have been turbulent. But now we feel confidence again," she said. "One in three voters is still undecided, that's 20 million people, that's a lot," she continued, encouraging her audience to use the coming week to fight for every single vote.

The Greens are on edge and feel they have been targeted unfairly. National executive Michael Kellner made that clear in his speech when he said "75% of all the lies spread on the net" had been directed against the Greens during the election campaign.

Campaigning for climate protection

Now the Greens want to focus once again on the issue of climate protection — and they want to allay voters' fears that this might mean a loss of prosperity and too many restrictions in everyday life. In the six-page draft of the "Social Pact for Climate-Friendly Prosperity," which Sunday's party conference adopted, there is the promise to partly compensate people if gasoline prices continue to rise because of climate protection policies.

Baerbock called out to the delegates, "Now, at this moment, when a large part of the German economy says yes to protecting the climate, then this issue must become a matter for the boss."

Co-party leader Robert Habeck accused the "grand coalition" of CDU/CSU and SPD, which has been in power for the last eight years, of failing to provide answers on how to achieve the climate targets. Instead, he said, the conservatives had been conjuring up a "stupid contrast" between economic growth and climate protection as well as justice and climate protection in the election campaign, he said, whereas these issues were absolutely reconcilable.

The Greens also promise to focus on equality issues — should they be part of the next government, they stressed, one of their first acts would be to raise the minimum wage to twelve euros ($14). Another priority is to introduce a basic child benefit to overcome child poverty. Baerbock again called it unacceptable that Germany is one of the richest countries and yet every fifth child here lives in relative poverty.

Commitment to an alliance with the SPD

The mood among the delegates was defiantly optimistic. Claudia Roth, a Green Party veteran and vice president of the Bundestag, told DW on the sidelines of the meeting that one reason was that more than 2,000 people had attended an election event with Annalena Baerbock in Augsburg, Bavaria, while only about 400 people had attended the campaign event of CDU candidate for chancellor Armin Laschet.

Although the Green Party is in coalition governments with the CDU and the SPD in several German states, most speakers on Sunday spoke out in favor of joining forces with the SPD. Baerbock herself again indicated this preference in an interview with the "Handelsblatt" before the party conference where she said that the CDU/CSU stood for "standstill in our country."

An alliance with the SPD alone, however, would not have a majority according to current polls. The Greens and the SPD would need a third coalition partner. And for this, both the Free Democrats and the Left Party might be an option.

Only one thing seems clear: The parties will have a difficult time forming a coalition following the vote on September 26.

This article has been translated from German.

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Jens Thurau Jens Thurau is a senior political correspondent covering Germany's environment and climate policies.@JensThurau