There are always projects that seem sensible at first glance, but absurd at second glance. A current example is the upcoming referendum on climate neutrality in Berlin. On Sunday, a vote is to be taken on whether the capital will become climate-neutral as early as 2030 – or, as previously agreed, only in 2045.
One could first argue that politicians have so far attracted little attention with their ambitious climate policy and that public pressure will certainly help. But if you take a closer look at the content of the project, it becomes clear: This referendum is a farce that will do more harm than good if successful - for three reasons.
First: A majority for the referendum would not be a political signal, but a binding change in the law. If most voters and at least 25 percent of those eligible to vote agree, the climate protection goals will become mandatory and would have a massive impact on almost all areas of Berlin Senate politics by 2030. The Senate estimates the costs to be in the high double-digit billions. Instead of "Berlin - poor, but sexy" then threatens "Berlin - poor, but climate-neutral".
Secondly, the vast majority of experts agree that the goals of the referendum cannot be realistically implemented. For example, in the next seven years, all combustion cars would have to disappear from the streets, most of the electricity generation would have to be switched to renewable energies and all buildings in Berlin would have to be renovated in terms of energy efficiency. The goals are considered utopian, but would be enforceable in court once they come into force.
Third: For months, residents, activists and various organizations have been drumming for the project, putting up posters and organizing demonstrations. Commitment is part of a vibrant democracy and should be welcomed in principle. However, there is a great danger that the zeal will quickly turn into the opposite. Despite all efforts, the Berlin Senate will not be able to implement the agreed goals. In this way, citizens will get the impression that their declared wishes are being ignored – which is detrimental to democracy.
If you are now wondering how you can prevent this madness, you can sit back and relax. Whether or not the referendum is accepted in the end depends only on whether at least 613,000 “yes” votes are cast. It doesn't matter whether opponents of the project stay at home or vote against it.
Unless, in the end, they would account for more than half of all votes – which is virtually impossible in a city like Berlin.
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