The Berlin referendum on more ambitious climate goals threatens to fail. After counting around 90 percent of the urn and postal polling stations on Sunday evening, the supporters had a narrow majority. However, there were some indications that the initiators of the vote would not meet the second requirement: in order to adopt stricter climate targets, at least 25 percent of those eligible to vote would have to vote in favor. Around 608,000 yes votes are therefore required.
After counting about two-thirds of the urn and postal polling stations, around 219,000 yes votes had previously opposed around 204,000 no votes. A “climate restart” alliance wants to ensure that Berlin commits to becoming climate neutral by 2030 and not by 2045 as previously planned. The country's energy transition law is to be changed for this purpose.
By noon, a rather low turnout had already become apparent. At around 12 noon, only eleven percent of the 2.4 million people entitled to vote in Berlin had cast their vote. At 4 p.m. it was 26.4 percent.
The day before, the supporters of "Berlin 2030 climate-neutral" had once again drummed up the publicity for the success of the referendum. According to the organizers, 7,000 to 8,000 people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate on Saturday for a rally and a concert with well-known musicians. The police spoke of 1200 participants. The initiators had expected around 35,000 participants in advance.
The initiative deliberately leaves the answer to the question of how exactly climate neutrality is to be achieved in Berlin by 2030 to politicians. The most important parameters are well known: energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings, fossil-free energy and heat generation, expansion of public transport and zero-emission cars, especially with electric drives. In Berlin alone, this would require investments in the tens or hundreds of billions – regardless of the annual goal of climate neutrality.
For comparison: Germany wants to become climate-neutral by 2045. The EU wants to be there by 2050. Accordingly, there is a lot of skepticism when it comes to the question of whether Berlin can already achieve this by 2030. The initiators of the referendum and their supporters in environmental organizations, the tenants' association, initiatives and in the cultural scene, but recently also in the Greens and Left affirm that.
In a statement, the red-green-red Berlin Senate, which was still in office after the repeat election, classified this as unrealistic. Berlin already has one of the most ambitious climate protection laws in Germany and is one of the “climate policy pioneers” with the phasing out of lignite in 2017. However, Berlin cannot decouple itself from the federal and EU targets for climate protection to such an extent that it becomes climate-neutral 15 or 20 years earlier.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is skeptical about the goals. "I am firmly convinced that what the federal government has set itself is exactly the right way, namely to ensure that we modernize our country technologically," said Scholz in Potsdam. "Fictitious dates that you can't keep to are of no help."
The vote takes place just six weeks after the repeat of the Berlin House of Representatives elections - and falls in the middle of the coalition negotiations between the CDU and SPD. Both parties want to form a black-red state government and have already announced that they intend to spend at least five billion euros on more climate protection in the city in the coming years.