Berlin referendum fails to bring forward Net Zero emissions target, but pressure endures

Today – March 26 – a majority vote in Berlin was not enough to pass the “Berlin 2030 climate-neutral” bill initiated by “Klimaneustart [Climate Reset] Berlin”

This leaves the Berlin government’s plan to create a special climate fund as the only hope for short-term progress.

The proposal was to change the Berlin Climate Protection and Energy Transition Act that the Senate passed in September 2021, to bring forward the deadline for Berlin to be climate-neutral from 2045 to 2030.

The initiative proposed specific targets to be included in the law, such as reducing carbon emissions by 70% by 2025 and 95% by 2030.

The motion was also to strengthen sanctions for those who do not comply with the proposed climate targets. It also emphasised that sanctions should not be borne by renters alone. Rather, it aims to ensure that landlords and property owners who do not comply with the proposed climate targets bear the costs of any sanctions, rather than passing them on to tenants.

The proposed measures aimed to shift the focus away from fossil fuels focus on expanding solar power capacity, geothermal and biomass and stimulate jobs and innovation in the renewable energy sector. The initiative also encourages adoption of low-carbon modes of transportation, such as cycling, walking, and public transport, which would benefit all Berlin residents, including renters.

However, the Senate recommended voting no, as it believes the goals are practically impossible to implement, and reducing carbon emissions by at least 95% compared to 1990 will only be achievable in the 2040s. Prominent political leaders, such as the chairmen of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and SPD, Wegner and Giffey, also warned the initiative’s demands were unfeasible.

The Senate also disagreed with proposed costs estimated to implement the law. To achieve climate neutrality by 2030, macroeconomic investment must be at least in the high double-digit billions.

The referendum received support from various groups, including the environmental movement “Fridays for Future” and the youth organizations of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party.

The citizens’ initiative collected over 260,000 signatures, making the referendum possible. The Berlin Greens are officially helping to mobilize the referendum, and the Jusos, Volt, ÖDP, animal protection party, pirate party, and the climate list are also supporting the referendum.

The referendum saw a high turnout, with 26% of the approximately 2.4 million eligible voters casting their votes up to two hours before the polling stations closed. Another 18.8% had applied for voting slips in advance. The preliminary results are expected to be announced later this evening.

The CDU and SPD, who are currently negotiating the formation of a coalition, are two of the main political parties in Germany. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) is a center-left party, while the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is a center-right party.

See also: German climate minister predicts falling short of next two years’ carbon emission targets (Dec ’21) and New German Government’s Green Vision (Nov ’21) and Europe Enhances its Greenhouse Gas Goals


Volksentscheid gescheitert: Der künftige Senat kann aufatmen, schade eigentlich [Referendum failed: The future Senate can breathe easy, what a pity], Berliner Zeitung, 2023-03-26
Volksentscheid über Klima-Initiative in Berlin [Referendum on climate initiative in Berlin], Deutschlandfunk, 2023-03-26
„Berlin 2030 Klimaneutral“: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten zum Volksentscheid [“Berlin 2030 climate-neutral”: The most important questions and answers on the referendum], Tagesspiegel, 2023-03-24
Volksentscheid Berlin klimaneutral 2023: Alles Infos [Berlin 2030 Climate Neutral Referendum: All the info], Berliner Morgenpost, 2023-03-23

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