ANNALENA Baerbock of Germany’s Green Party, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Olaf Scholz ‘traffic light’ government, has stated that her government will support the Ukrainian war effort ‘for as long as they need us’. (Lucky Ukrainians.) ‘And,’ she continued, ‘no matter what my German voter thinks.’ (Not so lucky German voters.)
Baerbock reckons that if the public don’t like the direction the government takes, they can vote them out at the next election. Meanwhile: ‘Everyone wishes that from tomorrow the war stops, but in case it doesn’t stop, I will also be there in two years’ time.’
Green Party statements such as these leave me completely baffled on two fundamental issues. Firstly, does the Green Party, and not just in Germany, commit unconditionally to democratic government? Secondly, what is remotely ‘green’ about 21st century warfare?
Dr Gunnar Beck, MEP for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has picked up on this second issue. While the main focus among the political class in the West has been on Russian problems, he maintains that Ukraine’s losses in manpower and equipment are much greater. There has been huge loss of life, widespread destruction and an exodus of millions of Ukrainians.
‘The country will be ruined if the conflict continues,’ he says, insisting that negotiating for peace has to be the absolute priority. In this regard, he is a voice in the wilderness, supported only by former US President Trump and Hungarian PM Orban. Commitment to the war is already beginning to cause rifts between individual EU states.
How on earth does the Green Party reconcile all this environmental and human destruction with its core principles? For the German party, these were established at its Berlin conference in 2017, and laid down as a ten-point plan ‘for the Greens in government’.
Among its targets, the plan expressly included securing freedom and safeguarding citizens’ rights. This would require the strengthening of the principle of prevention as an integral part of security, and would entail, for example, tightening the law on firearms. It also commits to strengthening a united Europe, without which ‘there will be no peace and prosperity or security for any of us in a globalised world’. They intend to invest heavily in environmental modernisation, instead of pouring 2 per cent of economic output (EUR 30billion in Germany alone) into defence.
Within their determination to preserve the planet and its resources, they commit to 100 per cent renewable energy in the electrical sector by 2030, by ‘abandoning climate-polluting coal. We will switch off the 20 dirtiest coal-fired power plants immediately’.
To escape the deadlock and procrastination of the Grand Coalition, they will talk with all parties, except the AfD, to implement their intentions. ‘This strategy is in line with our understanding of democracy and accountability. We want a modern and ecological, a diverse and just society, all within the framework of Europe and Democracy.’
To translate these objectives into supporting a war against Russia, on European soil, seems perverse, not to say completely hypocritical. Whichever side emerges from the conflict politically triumphant, the human and environmental costs will be devastating, and increasingly so the longer the war drags on.
This devastation aside, the alignment of Germany with Ukraine has led to the prospect of significant de-industrialisation and fuel poverty for the entire nation. Electricity prices have risen by 1,000 per cent over the last year, while an inflationary spiral has sent the cost of living soaring for average citizens. Even worse, in contrast to Baerbock’s alleged support for ‘social measures’ to ease Germans’ pain, the government has just rescinded a three-month fuel discount, raising pump prices by up to 48 per cent. Up to 60 per cent of the population are forecast soon to be living paycheque-to-paycheque or eating into their savings.
As for ditching the ‘dirty’ coal-fired power stations, the Scholz coalition has announced that Germany would be reopening five power plants which burn lignite, a particularly dirty low-rank coal. Furthermore, Germany will extend the lives of three of its nuclear power plants. This move was opposed by the Green Party, but their eventual agreement shows that even they recognise the inevitable need to keep reliable generation plants online to ensure the country has enough electricity this winter.
In the face of this massive energy crisis, and repeated warnings of possible blackouts in the coming months, the coalition maintains that everything is ‘under control’. But even if all the emergency measures put in place are achieved, energy consumption will still have to be cut by 20 per cent on last year – a measure which is likely to cause production cuts or even total shutdown.
Even more astonishing is the report that while ostensibly saving the planet with ‘green energy’, the coalition government has tabled a new law to cap the earnings of wind, solar and nuclear generators to ‘reclaim’ some of the profits going to electricity companies, and fund a consumer aid package. This is all in line with the Green Party’s vision of a united Europe: ‘Germany joins a growing number of European countries preparing to set their own national caps on renewable energy earnings that fall below the EU Commission’s suggested levy of €180/MWh.’ How’s that for a renewables incentive?
It now looks as if Green parties everywhere need to take a closer look at some real-world policies to replace their green energy delusions. At the same time, they need to think more clearly about their position in supporting active warfare, either through boots on the ground, or by the arguably less compromising methods of providing training, arms, hardware and funding. Can they honestly reconcile the wholesale devastation of national infrastructures, homes, agriculture and populations and committing exclusively to green energy sources?
Perhaps the Green Party, in Germany at least, needs to change its motto from ‘saving the planet’, to (with apologies to St Augustine) ‘Oh Lord, make me green, but not yet.’