By Rosanna Weber
In Germany, more than one million school strikers have participated in Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future (FFF) climate protests. Greta Thunberg’s movement gained massive support and the result of her radical demands to become an eco-neutral society can be seen in many countries. Not only has the pressure from environmental activists, but also the growing support for the opposition Green party, led the German government under chancellor Angela Merkel to agree on a climate change policy.
However, for the FFF movement and other Green politicians, this agreement is not drastic enough. Many economists have serious concerns about how these demands are being prioritised, they fear that accomplishing these goals is being set above the economic prosperity of the nation.
Amongst other solutions are the policy talks about surcharges of domestic flights. In the first half of 2019, 11.6 million people participated in domestic flights. But only 3% of those domestic flights have been for a short distance of 248 miles or less. That makes a total of 250,000 people who purchased an actual short distance flight, out of 6 million passengers overall. The fact that domestic flights make up only 0.23% of all German CO2 emissions makes this strong prioritisation questionable.
The German rail transport, Deutsche Bahn AG, which has the monopoly on all train transport, doesn’t offer a solution to this problem. With ticket prices of more than twice the amount you would pay for a flight, there is no alternative if you want to arrive at your destination at a reasonable time and price.
It is very likely that because of this law, people who would have purchased a domestic flight will now book a flight to the next foreign airport and from there to their destination. All of that would be booked via Air France or Turkish Airlines rather than Lufthansa. The result? No domestic flights are being purchased and Germany’s CO2 balance appears clean, yet in actuality the same, if not more, CO2 is being emitted, the German economy is weakened and domestic jobs are being cut.
A major focuspoints has been the taxation of CO2. Flights will become more expensive and petrol prices will rise. How will families from a low-income background afford travel in the future? With FFF demanding the prohibition of the combustion engine, Germany’s number one export star would find its bitter end after over 100 years of success. From Volkswagen over Daimler to BMW, the German economy relies on the car industry. And with the production itself, there are more than 1.8 million jobs on the line, not to mention other sectors that profit from the car industry like the transport, logistics or the hospitality industry.
During a trip to Greenland in 2007, Angela Merkel was given the nickname “climate chancellor”. In 2011, Angela Merkel decided Germany’s nuclear phase-out and to be completely nuclear-free by 2020. It appealed to a lot of people at that time, especially after Fukushima had happened, but it has always been a highly controversial issue.
One reason why people disagree with the Fukushima justification the circumstances that allowed for the disaster to happen. A region known for its earthquakes can hardly be compared to central Europe. The closest we got to the Tōhoku earthquake, which had caused Fukushima, was an earthquake recorded to have taken place with a magnitude of 6.9 in Basel in 1356. The Tōhoku earthquake as a 9.1. The tsunamis, which caused the reactors to overheat, are also unlikely to happen over here.
Alternative energy forms like wind or solar power cannot always provide enough energy to supply everyone, so if there is high demand you would have to hope for the wind to blow and the sun to shine. Take December 20, 2017 as an example: during the winter months, Germany requires around 60 to 80 Gigawatt of energy. On this day, solar power produced no energy at all and wind contributed 1.3 GW. All renewable energy forms ended up at 9 GW and nuclear power plants and other traditional energy sources produced 55 GW in total. Where will these 55GW come from once we reach 2020 and all nuclear power plants will be deactivated?
It becomes obvious when looking at where we get most energy from nowadays: abroad. While Germany have successfully shut down almost all nuclear power plants, they now import nuclear energy from France, Czech Republic and other countries. Everything in Germany points towards a recession, which the government can either help to minimise, or make the consequences and effects even worse. Sadly, as far as I’m concerned, Germany is doing the latter.
Image credit: NiklasPntk