IAlmost all experts agree on one point: If a country wants to become climate-neutral, it has to use less energy. Houses are better insulated, heat from industry is used for heating, goods are transported by trains instead of trucks. Consumption is falling, and that should then be covered solely by the power of wind and sun. This is the case in many studies on the energy transition. For this to work, however, something else has to be added, and many studies only hint at this. People have to adapt their behavior, they have to do without.
The German Institute for Economic Research, for example, assumes that Germany could be climate-neutral as early as 2040, also due to “behavioural adjustments”. A footnote explains what is meant by this. Individual traffic would have to be reduced by a third, otherwise the calculation would not add up. It would be a huge drop in cars on the roads hidden in the fine print.
What is written elsewhere in the appendix, some activists and politicians say frankly: there are only real climate protection restrictions, and they have to be drastic because the world is running out of time. Thought through to the end, that means saying goodbye to something that Germans have been used to for decades, such as free travel on the autobahn: a growing economy.
A shrinking cure for the whole country
The activists call this “degrowth”, a shrinking cure for the whole country. So you could say what they advocate isn’t all that radical, it’s just consistent. They demand the renunciation that others only assume and that is necessary to save the planet.
Joel Schmitt from the “Last Generation”, for example, tells the FAS that it is now a matter of “preventing climate collapse”, because if it occurs, the economy will collapse too. And if politicians now do everything necessary, “some sectors will have to shrink sharply or be stopped altogether”, for example the aviation industry, automotive groups and chemical giants. That will definitely have an effect on the gross domestic product, “it would be dishonest to keep quiet about it”. Carla Reemtsma from “Fridays for Future” sees it similarly. A growing economy is “fundamentally incompatible with climate protection”.
Germany will never have enough energy
Both have nothing against growth per se. They just don’t think it’s realistic for the government to get serious about climate protection. “Especially when we look at the next few decades,” says Reemtsma, “it won’t be possible to grow and at the same time reduce emissions in the way we have to.” It’s not just activists who think that way. Kathrin Henneberger, Green member of the Bundestag and Chairwoman of the Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development, describes “degrowth” as the “goal” of her policy. She belongs to the fundamentalist wing of the party and is convinced: “Our world would be better off if we got away from a purely capitalist economy and achieved something different. I would speak of a climate-friendly global community.”
In the world of Henneberger and Co., Germans have to do without a few things: a flight from Hamburg to Munich, for example. Domestic flights would be banned. On cars with more than 200 horsepower. On heated swimming pools and luxury villas. On cruises. But also many things that keep the country running in the background. On the fact that motorways are further expanded, for example, at least if Henneberger has his way. Because for that you would have to cut down trees, although you should plant some, that binds carbon dioxide.
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