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German President Warns Eco-Lobby Against Centrally Planned Energy Policy

German President Joachim Gauck gave one of the most rational speeches on energy and environmental policy. No apocalyptic scenarios, no eco-fiction and a call to deal rationally and objectively with environmental and climate issues. “There is no better fertile soil for new ideas and solutions than an open society with open markets and free competition.”

Journalists love to start their articles with a symbolic scene. I was given such a scene upon entering the park of Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the German President. For two days, the elite of the German environmental movement were meeting there. Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa and 197 other companies had set up their tents in the Presidents’ garden to show how they are saving the planet. When I went through security, I saw a fox. The small animal in its short summer fur is obviously annoyed by what is happening in the park. I cannot help but use this metaphor: the eco-industry comes, nature leaves.

The ceremony at the President’s residence to celebrate Environment Week has been worthwhile in spite of the carnival by the Green lobby and subsidy rip-offs: mainly because of the speech by President Gauck. It was one of the most rational speeches on this subject that I have heard from a politician. No apocalyptic scenarios, no eco-fiction, but a few sentences that got stuck in the throat of the audience. A call to deal rationally and objectively with environmental and climate issues.

Gauck called the green energy transition “An ambitious project, which Germany as a leading industrial nation decided to undertake.” He continued: “It will not succeed by means of planned economy regulations. Especially not with a plethora of subsidies … There is no better fertile soil for new ideas and solutions than an open society with open markets and free competition … Market-based, growth-friendly environment policy means to me that costs for environmental pollution and environmental risks will be charged to the polluters and not the taxpayers.”

The following sentence will also not have particularly appealed to many listeners: “Sustainability does not imply limitation or giving up, but responsibility and reason.” Gauck concluded his speech with a call for “sustainable progress”.

Also remarkable was that he put “scientists and engineers” on top of a list of those who are needed for a better environment. The issue of “climate” appeared at the end of the speech, with a surprisingly cautious statement: “Leading climate scientists warn that momentous global warming is virtually unstoppable.”

Presumably, this cautious note was added not only because the people in the park were freezing at 12 degree midday temperatures in June and were partially clothed in winter jackets.

Just a year ago, climate change speeches in Berlin were very different. Back then, speakers always emphasised that “the climate scientists” or even “the climate science” leave “no doubt” that the great warming is going to come. Now it is only the “leading climate researchers”, who “warn”. A diplomatic retreat from the all-party dogma.

It is also interesting that Hubert Weinzierl (German Federal Environmental Foundation) did not put climate at the centre of his speech either, as it was usual at such events not so long ago. He mentioned it only as part of a series of four major global problems. The others were resource efficiency, loss of nature and feeding the growing world population.

This smells like a farewell to climate change as the dominant ecological theme. You don’t have to be a comedian to consider the fact that Germany is currently increasing again the energy generation by fossil fuels because of the hasty nuclear phase-out leaves no other choice.

Incidentally, the meadow behind the English lawn on which the celebration took place, is very beautiful and rich in wild flowers. Tomorrow the fox will also dare to return there again. It might find some left-over of an eco-sausage.

Translation Philipp Mueller

Die Achse des Guten, 5 June 2012