German Greens pledge environment superministry with veto on all government policy if they win power

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANDREAS GORA/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12245436i) Annalena Baerbock, chairwoman and candidate for chancellor of The Greens (Gruene) political party, at the presentation of the immediate climate program, in Biesenthal am Hellsee, Germany, 03 August 2021. Germany: Presentation of the immediate climate program of the Green Party, Biesenthal Am Hellsee - 03 Aug 2021 - ANDREAS GORA/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANDREAS GORA/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12245436i) Annalena Baerbock, chairwoman and candidate for chancellor of The Greens (Gruene) political party, at the presentation of the immediate climate program, in Biesenthal am Hellsee, Germany, 03 August 2021. Germany: Presentation of the immediate climate program of the Green Party, Biesenthal Am Hellsee - 03 Aug 2021 - ANDREAS GORA/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

The German Green Party has pledged to create a superministry for the environment with a right of veto over all other departments if it wins power in next month’s general election.

The Greens hope renewed public concern over climate change following the devastating floods that swept western Germany three weeks ago will help them get back into the race.

They have already seen a small bounce of a couple of points in the polls since the floods, while their main rivals, the Christian Democrats (CDU) have seen their support fall after their candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, was caught on camera laughing during a visit to the scene of the disaster.

The pledge is part of a seven-page “immediate programme” for government unveiled by the Greens this week, which also includes what the party claims is “the largest climate protection package in history”.

But the dramatic proposals were dismissed by German political commentators as a bid by the party to rescue its ailing election campaign.

"The party is resorting to the oldest campaign tricks in the book and releasing an "immediate program" for a possible takeover of government," said Spiegel magazine.

The Greens are currently second in the polls with 20 per cent, but they have lost 8 points since April, when they briefly led the race.

The party has been hit by a series of scandals surrounding its candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, who has faced allegations of plagiarism and admitted exaggerating parts of her CV and failing to declare her income properly to parliament.

Annalena Baerbock, candidate for chancellor and federal leader of the Greens and Robert Habeck, federal leader of the Greens, visit moor protection measures during a hike through the Biesenthaler Becken nature reserve, Germany, Tuesday, Aug.3, 2021. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP - Kay Nietfeld/DPA
Annalena Baerbock, candidate for chancellor and federal leader of the Greens and Robert Habeck, federal leader of the Greens, visit moor protection measures during a hike through the Biesenthaler Becken nature reserve, Germany, Tuesday, Aug.3, 2021. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP - Kay Nietfeld/DPA

This week’s launch was an attempt to shift public attention away from her travails and refocus it on the Greens' core issue, the environment.

Describing climate change as “the task of the century”, the party promised to set up a climate taskforce if it is part of Germany’s next government.

It promised more solar and wind energy and more investment in public transport and cycling, and pledged to phase out coal-fired power stations by 2030, eight years ahead of the current schedule.

But it was the proposal to give a new environment superministry a veto over all government policy that was most eye-catching.

It suggested the Greens have all but given up hope of winning the chancellery and are naming their price for joining a coalition government as junior partner.

Outright majorities are rare in German politics and parties are used to driving a hard bargain to join a coalition.

But, as Roland Nelles warned in Spiegel magazine, the superministry idea could come back to haunt the Greens if they win in September - and even see them lose control of environmental policy.

“If Annalena Baerbock moved into the chancellery, things could get complicated. One of the smaller coalition partners could demand the ministry if the Greens still insist on it,” he wrote. "That could prove fun for everyone."

On current polling, a three-party coalition is likely. The Greens are currently trailing Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who lead the polls with 26 per cent. The centre-left Social Democrats are third on 16 per cent, while the far-Right Alternative for Germany trail in fifth place on just 10 per cent.

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