As reported by The Economist, some activists in Germany appear to be “running out of patience” with the German Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) over several issues – of which forest clearance for motorway-building across the country tops the list. Environmental activists have been particularly concerned about the extension of the A49 motorway through the Dannenröder, a forest and water reserve in the southern state of Hessen. The extension of the A49 motorway effectively threatens to erode the forest’s ecosystem and biodiversity through fragmentation, by breaking down and isolating habitats.
The German state of Hessen is particularly rich in forests. Approximately 895,000 hectares of Hessen’s terrain, or 42 percent of the state, is covered in forest, and 40 percent of these forests are state-owned. The extension of the A49 motorway has evidently attracted much environmental criticism, especially from Greenpeace Deutschland, as the project threatens the health and integrity of Dannenröder’s mixed forest, which is home to beech trees and oaks as old as 300 years.
The logging season officially started a few weeks ago in Germany – triggering numerous environmentalists and Green activists to occupy forests under threat, such as the Dannenröder, in order to protest against indiscriminate forest clearing, ecological loss, and the “unnecessary” extension of highways.
International environmental giant Greenpeace has been particularly vocal against the construction of new highways in Germany at the expense of the environment, especially in times of climate crisis and mass extinction. In its latest attempt to shine light on the alarming state of deforestation in the Dannenröder Forest, the environmental NGO called out the German government across numerous of its social media platforms for “evicting people from the forest, cutting down trees, jeopardizing a local water reserve and providing a playground for pollution and climate change”.
Though the German Greens have joined the calls for an immediate stop to further construction of the A49 and have also publicly demanded fundamental changes in transport policy, their calls for action have been scattered and largely ineffective. The Party has, expectedly, met growing partisan discontent as a result.
Indeed, tensions continue to grow between Green activists and the German Green Party owing largely to the fact that in 11 out of the country’s 16 states, the German Greens actually form part of ruling coalitions that appear to stay in power at the cost of green action. According to The Economist, many German Greens have recently “grown frustrated with a party they see as insufficiently committed to meeting Germany’s climate pledges”. Despite Party insiders attempting to minimize criticism by arguing that young activists misconceive the give-and-take of democracy and the need for compromise, discontent with the Bündnis 90 continues to pile up.
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen was founded in West Germany in 1990 with a strictly environmentalist and pacifist platform. Today, much has changed and although the German Green Party remains an opposition Party, it is said to have become increasingly conservative.
According to a post made last week on Deutsche Welle (DW), the German Greens have reportedly “softened their stance” on a number of issues in their latest manifesto, and have also watered down policies pertaining to one of the Party’s core issues: our planet’s climate. In specific, DW points to the German Greens’ newly expressed acquiescence to seeing Earth’s climate warm up by 2 degrees celsius instead of the more ambitious 1.5 demanded by the “Fridays for the Future” movement.
With the country’s upcoming general elections on the horizon, the German Greens are faced with several open fronts. The first one pertains to growing partisan discontent and environmental criticism over the Greens’ lack of action in government, particularly as forest clearance for motorway-building thrives unchecked. The second has to do with the task of committing to either Annalena Baerbock or Robert Habeck as Party leader ahead of the September 2021 general elections. Currently, both Baerbock and Habeck act as Party co-leaders, but ahead of the elections, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen will have to settle on one of the two. While Robert Habeck is, according to DW, better known and more popular within the Party, Annalena Baerbock has, according to the Guardian, become an “equally prolific politician”, and actually gathered more votes among the party base when the pair where re-elected as co-leaders for the Party in November.
About the Party Co-Leaders
Annalena Baerbock joined the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in 2005 and became its chairwoman in Brandenburg from 2009 to 2013. At the same time, she acted as spokesperson of the Party’s Working Group on European affairs and served as member of the board of the European Green Party from 2009 to 2012. At the end of 2012, she was elected member of the Green party council and in 2013 became a member of the German Bundestag.
As a member of Parliament in her second term (2017-2021), Baerbock has focused on child poverty, children day care centres and single parents as well as on energy and climate policies. She is deputy member of the Committee on Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as well as of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy.
Within the state of Brandenburg, where she lives, she fights for the state government to open its eyes to the catastrophic consequences of lignite mining. Describing herself as “a passionate European”, she also strives to contribute to closing the gap between rich and poor within Germany, Europe and the world at large. As chairwoman of the German Greens since January 2018, she strives to further strengthen green policies in Germany and the European Union.
As for Robert Habeck, known for his love of poetry, he was elected to the Schleswig-Holstein state Parliament via the party list and two years later was voted as the top candidate of his party for the 2012 Schleswig-Holstein election. A very popular figure within the German Green Party, also in 2012 Habeck served as a Green Party delegate to the Federal Convention for the purpose of electing the President of Germany.
In 2017 Habeck ran to become one of the two top candidates for the German Greens ahead of the 2017 German federal election, but lost by 75 votes to Cem Özdemir. Notwithstanding, under his influence the German Green Party became the third largest group in the Landtag (state Parliament) after the 2017 state elections.
Reluctant to describe himself as a centrist, he contends that the Greens should be “at the heart of society”, and strives to take the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen mainstream. For many, Robert Habeck has played a key role in broadening the appeal of the German Green Party for voters across the country, and could very well become Germany’s first Green Chancellor.
What the future holds for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen is uncertain, but one thing is clear: regardless of criticisms and rising tensions, the German Greens look forward to the upcoming general elections with high hopes.
Sources : https://www.economist.com/europe/2020/11/21/some-activists-are-running-out-of-patience-with-germanys-green-party; https://www.dw.com/en/german-green-party-goes-mainstream/a-55702152; https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-green-party-how-it-evolved/a-40586834; https://english.hessen.de/citizens/environment-nature/forest-nature-experience; https://social.digital-activist.org/p/dannibleibt?utm_medium=social&utm_source=linktree&utm_campaign=defend+the+dannenröder+forest; https://www.annalena-baerbock.de/welcome_english/; https://www.politico.eu/list/politico-28-class-of-2020-ranking/robert-habeck/