The current challenges, above all the consequences of the Russian attack on Ukraine, but also the desired climate neutrality, are getting down to business, even in a rich industrial country like Germany. As such, Germany is dependent on stable framework conditions, first and foremost on a reliable supply of raw materials.
In her job as Federal Environment Minister, Steffi Lemke would have to ensure that Germany protects its nature and becomes more sustainable – while remaining economically strong and socially stable. But unfortunately she doesn’t give any impetus for it. On the contrary: instead of pragmatically setting new priorities, it acts unimaginatively and dogmatically.
Example nuclear power: Energy is scarce and expensive. Steffi Lemke could make an important contribution to security of supply and affordability by leaving the three nuclear power plants still in operation connected to the grid longer. The coalition partner FDP also considers a clearly limited term extension to be the order of the day.
Instead, the Environment Minister put on the ideological blinders. She does not want to disturb the green basis and even accepts that coal will be increasingly used to generate electricity.
Take biofuels as an example: the Greens used to advocate biofuels because they have a significantly better CO₂ balance than fossil fuels. Today, the fuels are much better from a climate point of view because they are largely free of greenhouse gases – but for the Greens obviously the number one enemy. True to the motto: It doesn’t matter what is used in the combustion engine and what the CO₂ balance is – this one Technology needs to be done away with.
By almost reflexively preaching the radical exit from the use of cultivated biomass in biofuels, Minister Lemke is not only cutting the ground out for a future-oriented industry. Their one-sided commitment to electromobility contradicts the idea of openness to technology and prevents value creation in their own country.
Example of planning acceleration: The environment minister could do a great service to a country that is facing a fundamental transformation for the benefit of the climate and that is concerned about its security of supply. It does so by comprehensively accelerating the planning, approval and construction of infrastructure, but also of industrial plants. How else, for example, should a hydrogen economy be set up in record time?
Instead, she confines herself to the green concern of wind energy and the LNG terminals. Acceleration is also needed at European level. It would be Minister Lemke’s job to fight for this in Brussels: The EU Green Deal must be accompanied by fewer European legal requirements for planning and approval.
Take the circular economy as an example: It is indispensable for protecting the climate, using resources efficiently and reducing dependency on imports of raw materials. Minister Lemke thus holds the key to a sustainable economy in her hand. It is therefore about much more than the question of what happens to our waste. It’s about phasing out fossil raw materials, cost-efficient production and closed product cycles. Unfortunately, the Federal Environment Ministry does not answer the question of where and how, even under green management
Reuse of plastic in particular can be improved. Instead of conjuring up a green “plastic turnaround”, which is garnished with bans and ever higher collection rates, she would have to conduct a close dialogue with the manufacturing companies. However, that does not take place.
My conclusion: Federal Environment Minister Lemke sits at a central lever. It bears the highest responsibility for the environment, but also for the future of our economy. But so far it hasn’t delivered. So it’s high time to get into crisis mode!
Steffen Bilger is deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag.