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Top German MP Warns Of ‘Dictatorship of Climate Law’


Legally binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions for individual German ministries are a danger to democracy, says the Christian Democrat MP Andreas Lämmel. He is warning of a “dictatorship of climate law”.

Christian Democrat MP Andreas Lämmel is the CDU chairman of the Economics Committee in the German Bundestag

Sarah Zerback (Deutschlandfunk): The Environment Minister is responsible for climate protection, but not for traffic, industry, power plants and buildings that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And so it is already clear why the planned Climate Protection Act is currently causing a spat in the coalition government. That’s because with her law Svenja Schulze, the environment minister, wants to call her ministerial colleagues to account, with strict guidelines. Strong criticism comes primarily from the Christian Democratic Party. We can now talk about it with Andreas Lämmel. He is the CDU chairman of the parliamentary Economics Committee. Are the climate protection plans of your party too ambitious?

Andreas Lämmel: The climate goals that we have set ourselves together with our coalition partners can be reached. The only question is how to get there.

Zerback: Yes, the Federal Environment Minister has now published the draft of a Climate Change Act.

Lämmel: Yes, she has come up with a bill that, in my view, is completely unsuitable for solving this problem. You know we have overcome the dictatorship of the proletariat here in East Germany, and now we are facing a dictatorship of the climate law. I do not consider this law to be compatible with a market economy.

Zerback: What exactly of Schulze’s bill reminds you of the former [socialist] Germany Democratic Republic?

Lämmel: If I just look at the fixed allocation of targets for the six sectors. The bill includes a plan and fixed annual numbers of what every sector has to deliver every year. I remember the current discussion about diesel cars. This problem we now have was caused five years ago because of certain targets that were set and written into law but which no one can actually explain. Likewise, no one can explain how to achieve these sector targets or where those annual numbers come from.

Zerback: As I understand the minister it’s not that she allocates any specific targets, but that each department will have to set its own targets. What speaks against the idea of holding ministers to account?

Lämmel: First of all, there’s nothing wrong with that, because the ministers are in any case already responsible for achieving their climate goals. But now we are slowly entering a Republic of Committees and Councils. A new council would be set up to monitor practically the entire economy. Secondly, I ask myself what basic democratic understanding Frau Schulze actually has. After all, if the annual targets are not reached, an emergency programme would be launched, so to speak, without the participation of Parliament, which should then be implemented by the respective ministries on their own accord. And the Federal Council would be completely excluded by law. So I really wonder what basic understanding the environment minister demonstrates here.

Zerback: But if the individual departments do not deliver, then what speaks against forcing them, it is clearly their responsibility, climate protection is expensive and is getting more expensive, if the agreed targets are not achieved?

Lämmel: If the goals are not achieved there must be reasons why they are not achieved. And to lead a discussion by simply writing prescriptions into a law that may not be achievable on a year-by-year basis, that’s a complete political nonsense from the outset, I have to say.

Zerback: But why are you optimistic that it is possible without legally binding targets? Because history shows that the agreed climate targets will be missed for example for the year 2020, and by clear margin.

Lämmel: Yes, well, for 2020, this was not an absolute goal – but for us 2030 is the next threshold. And all political activities are geared towards achieving the 2030 goals. Why then a rigid annual target? Somebody has to explain that to me. Imagine that you are preparing a major policy that will come into force next year that really should contribute. But you are suddenly missing last year’s annual target. That’s when this whole legal mechanism starts to kick in with immediate emergency programmes and all sorts of actionism. That is not political responsible.

Zerback: Mr. Lämmel, if I may interrupt you there again. Maybe that’s why it’s so good to have these rigid annual targets, so that if we speak again say in the year 2029 and you tell me, sorry, but it’s not possible by 2030?

Lämmel: This discussion is already underway. I have been a member of the Coal Commission. This commission has already been set up to meet this 2030 climate target.

Zerback: Yet the results of the coal commission are already been questioned by your own party, the Christian Democrats.

Lämmel: Yes, of course, because you can not outsource such decisions from the political process. Commissions and councils, as envisaged by the climate law, can make recommendations, as the coal commission has done. But they cannot make political decisions.

Zerback: But as I am now asking your professional …

Lämmel: Otherwise we would have to fundamentally change our political system if that’s what we want.

Zerback: Excuse me, Herr Lämmel, I did not want to interrupt you too soon. But as I understand your job title, you are a politician, and you have been in the coal commission. So, where do you see …

Lämmel: Unfortunately, politicians were not entitled to vote in the coal commission. We attended, that’s right, we were also allowed to contribute to the discussion, which I have also done. But ultimately, the decisions were made by others.

Zerback: Yet the federal government agreed it its coalition agreement that there should be a climate protection law, as the environment minister has now submitted. Why are you fundamentally questioning this now?

Lämmel: I do not fundamentally question the project itself. After all, it was agreed in the coalition agreement. But I question how this draft law was published, and secondly, the mechanism of the law. Unfortunately, in the past [in socialist Eastern Germany], I had to work on five-year plans and I do not feel like doing it again.

Zerback: So you just want to talk about details, but not about the big picture?

Lämmel: No, that’s not the point. But it cannot be that one sets specific targets into law that cannot be justified in principle by anyone, but there is an overall number, that is the achievement of the overall climate goals. 

Full interview (in German)