Annalena Baerbock’s Impact

Annalena Baerbock
Annalena Baerbock MdB.Bundestagsfraktion Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen

The impact of Annalena Baerbock’s policies have been transitional to Germany’s political outlook, both domestic and foreign, regarding designating climate action as a wider category that encompasses the future policies and initiatives. 

Analysing Baerbock’s policies, implemented and planned, enables the profile to assess the impact of the solutions and the effects they had on a broader scale as well as to pattern the possible reaction they might receive. This section examines how Baerbock’s solutions are affecting Germany’s international and domestic politics, as well as climate action. The impact assessment will focus on the solutions, domestic and regional, to the employment of fossil fuels and the repercussions of Russia’s war in Ukraine regarding the employment of fossil fuels. It is important to note that Baerbock’s ascent to foreign ministry is rather contemporary. Therefore, most of the initiatives and implementations, proposed or planned during the period, cannot be fully assessed at the point of writing this report.

The Impact of Baerbock’s Policy Outlook Domestically

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, simultaneous exit from coal and nuclear was supported by the German government and the plans were in place accordingly. The sudden lack of energy supply caused by Russia weaponizing the European dependency on gas to aid its war against Ukraine caused controversy regarding Germany’s exit from both of the energy sources concurrently. 

Coal is currently Germany’s most important fossil power source and exit from nuclear power had already had its opposition both within and outside of Germany. The exit from coal is certain for Germany’s future agenda as Vice-Chancellor and minister for economy and energy indicated dependence on coal is still a dependence on the most polluting of fossil fuel and comes with its own security risks. However, Germany has, now seems, made peace with the fact that coal power plants running longer than planned is a short-termed solution to fight with the lack of energy supply and a price to pay for the repercussions of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The officials of Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) plan to create a national coal reserve for the German power plants in addition to higher gas reserves. 

It must be noted that Baerbock’s current status as foreign minister limits her ability to influence and determine the course of domestic policies less than her time in the federal parliament. However, Baerbock compromising her anti-coal stance to manoeuvre the energy supply shortage indicates how determined and serious she is regarding anti-nuclear policy, even though nuclear is currently the cleanest form of energy available. From a climate perspective, this indicates a rare moment Baerbock puts her values and perspective before climate action since enabling the nuclear power plants to run longer would neutralise the need for coal and could even replace the coal power plants. 

Whether it is to cope with the gap in the energy security of the country or for the future of EU climate-friendly action, Germany does not reposition itself and its foreign policy regarding a no-nuclear stance.  This is a result of the Greens Party and Baerbock’s policy outlook regarding anti-nuclear policies and their future agenda. Robert Habeck, the former co-leader of the Greens and now Vice-Chancellor, stated that he was not  “ideologically opposed” to extending the use of the country’s last reactors, but safety was a concern.

Habeck was not the only person concerned with the lack of safety of the plants and showcased it as a reason for the dismissal of nuclear power being a possibility. The Minister-President of Baden-Wüttemberg rejected CDU’s demand for the same security concerns. Together with the Environment Minister, Steffi Lemke, they dismissed suggestions that a new generation of nuclear power plants might prompt Germany to change course yet again by addressing nuclear power plants as high-risk facilities. 

This results in polarisation. Baerbock and the Greens’ anti-nuclear stance is encountering ever-growing opposition domestically and regionally from political parties, the EU, and intellectuals. 

With nuclear power out of the picture, presently, Germany is in the search for external imports of natural gas, LNG, from Israel and Qatar to bridge the gap in supply and demand. Importing external resources of natural gas is currently the country’s bridging solution during the transition until renewable and green energy become dependable sources of energy, as she expects to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035, 15 years earlier than originally planned. Imported LNG is currently accepted as the short/medium termed solution. For the long term solution, hydrogen gas is gaining popularity. In Germany’s energy transition, green hydrogen is expected to be pivotal. According to the German government, hydrogen technology holds the key to the nation’s future in sustainable energy. It is putting billions of euros into this industry. Germany wants to lead the world in clean hydrogen energy technologies, and the government has committed €9 billion to the effort. The country will be able to achieve its climate protection objectives with a carbon-neutral energy supply. On her trip to Kyiv on January 17, 2022, Baerbock stated the German Federal government’s future agenda of opening an “office for hydrogen diplomacy in Kyiv.” Baerbock added that “the office will assist in getting concrete projects on track as fast as possible.” 

One significant impact Baerbock’s policy outlook has had over the years is showcasing the need and potential of renewable energies and the importance of phasing out fossil fuels. That is why importing natural gas has become a debated issue as well. As a result of Baerbock and the Greens’, recent policy outlook, a significant acceleration from fossil fuels was in place to replace them with green energy through increasing the employment of renewables. However, the recent supply shock caused by Russia’s war of aggression has caused polarization in regard to the value and security gas can supply. Meanwhile the Greens view importing natural gas as a short/medium term solution, other major parties such as SPD and CDU prospects it to become a solution. 

Overall, switching back to coal power instead of utilising nuclear power is both harmful from a climate perspective and it creates a further dependency on a detrimental energy source. This demonstrates how challenging and difficult many of the past ideas were with regard to the population’s willingness to pay for them. 

Regional and International Impacts of Baerbock’s Policy Outlook

Jennifer Morgan’s appointment as Baerbock’s climate envoy has been labelled as ‘a bold choice’ riling opposition politicians. However, Baerbock defended her choice as she said Morgan’s designation was ‘a dream appointment’ for Baerbock and she was glad that Germany was “getting a face” to its climate policy. According to Baerbock, Morgan’s appointment was only the beginning. In the future, Germany is expected to not have a single climate ambassador. Instead, all of the 226 German diplomatic missions abroad will be made into climate embassies in all of the countries of the world.

As the Federal Foreign Office’s special envoy for international climate action, Morgan declared, she “will do everything to resolutely implement the Paris Climate Agreement.” Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees being her priority, Morgan advocated for radical cooperation and deep climate collaboration, especially now.

To achieve this, Morgan will oversee Germany’s participation in international climate cooperation at all levels and through an all-government approach. This will involve discussions at COP climate conferences and, more importantly, the actual implementation of policies from the Paris Climate Agreement. As the special envoy, Morgan has been to Indonesia to talk with the government about aiming to expand renewable energy quicker, and decommission coal power plants sooner to accelerate the pace of climate action. On the other end, Morgen visited the Sahel Region and Bangladesh to support those who have already been affected harshly by the climate crisis.

Recently, Morgan attended the G7 Summit on June 26–28, 2022. During the summit, Morgan stated that the German hosts were committed to continuing advancing climate action despite the “horrific” war in Ukraine. In the summit talks, Morgan emphasised the importance of strengthening the response to world hunger and the announced emission reduction targets at the COP26 climate summit. 

According to Morgan, Germany’s interest in taking considerable action is not only limited to the need for climate survival but also includes getting a real competitive advantage in getting ahead of the emerging green economy by their companies. 

At the 2022 summit, the G7 countries were criticised for their failure to provide $100 billion a year in climate aid, as it is their legal obligation under the Paris Agreement. Morgan emphasised the G7 and all the developed countries’ commitment and determination to meet the goal. However, even if it seems like climate finance has grown over time, in reality, during the past eight years, less of it has been perceived as “new and additional.” According to Care Analytics’ inspection utilising data reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the calculated figure is lower at 14 billion dollars. 

The majority of the pledged climate aid has failed to materialise. The findings from CARE reveal that failure is far more egregious than originally recognised: not only are nations failing to pay the money they pledged in Copenhagen, but the money provided has instead been diverted from other crucial support. It is now more crucial than ever for the G7 nations to give a concrete plan for how they intend to raise and allocate the $100 billion in climate aid. 

Lastly, through employing the Baltic Sea Council Presidency, Germany initiated a new wind hub to offset Russian gas with Denmark in late August 2022. A project that is to be connected to the German grid is expected to supply electricity to 4.5 million homes in Europe in 2030. It will consist of an undersea cable through the Baltic Sea that will run from the Danish Island, Bornholm, to northern Germany. According to Baerbock, the project is expected to produce “more than twice the installed capacity of all German coal-fired power stations.” This demonstrates a clear example of how renewable energy sources, with the instalment of the right infrastructure and strong collaboration, can come to the point where they can offset fossil fuel energy. 

Despite the fact that the Russian invasion significantly hampered Baerbock’s ideal process and political agenda, after almost a year in office, Baerbock is utilising the Russian invasion to advance her cause of more international cooperation and to highlight why a radical change in climate action is necessary now more than ever in the face of significant challenges. 

Advantages and Limitations of Baerbock’s Solutions

The strength of Baerbock’s solution of transitioning to green and renewable energy to meet the demand is that it aims for European energy independence rather than shifting the dependency from Russia to another country or region. Secondly, it is in lieu of the European Green Deal and the carbon neutrality goals.

The immediacy of the situation, however, creates the drawback of the solution. To replace coal and fossil fuels completely with renewable energy is a long-term plan since renewables cannot generate the same amount of energy as coal and gas can yet. As sustainable and climate friendly renewable energy is, it is unable to meet the energy demand and needs of both Germany and the EU when Russian gas is out of the picture in the short term. 

The immediacy and the gap created in energy security are the main points that drive the veto-players against Baerbock’s solution. Conservative politicians in the south-western German state of Baden-Württemberg have called for keeping natural gas plants as a backup while the country phases out coal.. Germany exiting two of its technologies along with the lack of supply created supply security concerns. Due to the high demand and renewable energy’s current insufficiency to meet it, natural gas is advocated to  be the bridging technology, meanwhile.

Among other things, CDU and CSU are pushing for longer operating times for nuclear power plants in Germany,. According to the French EU commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, “It’s very important that the three German nuclear plants that are still in operation keep operating for a longer time, as such a move would be “in the common European interest” to decrease European fossil fuel dependence on Russia. 

Baerbock as a climate policy centred politician, and green policy supporters are opposed to employment of fossil fuels as the long-term solution. However, the external pressure from both within and outside of Germany and the immediacy of the demand enables fossil fuels, both gas and coal, to be a short-term solution, which Baerbock also admits, as the extended use of coal is “the price that we all have to pay for this war.” However going back to coal would be a considerable step backwards. 

This solution, however, leads to a breaking point with the German Greens’ stake and values. As a green policy first party, and climate action as the central policy politician, both the Greens and Baerbock put their value of no-nuclear before climate action. Nuclear energy as the CDU and the European Union pressed would be an alternative to coal and gas to gap the security matters as well as to meet with the demand. As a a zero-emission energy source, nuclear energy would be the front-runner alternative of a climate action focused policy maker. However, from numerous members of the Green Party along with Baerbock there was a lack of mention and acceptance of gaining nuclear energy back. Baerbock and the Green Party’s leadership continue to oppose bringing nuclear power back to Germany. Without significant pushback from the EU and within Germany, they will not compromise from their anti-nuclear position.

Even though Baerbock compromised her stance on coal in the short-term for the greater good, her solutions still continued to be in lieu with her political ideology and previous outlook, both for Germany and the EU to phase out fossil fuels to decrease the dependency on fossil fuels, including natural gas, and replenish energy security without turning back to nuclear. With  winter approaching, the immediacy of increasing energy supply is ever-growing. The no-nuclear stance divides the support of existing fossil fuels. As Germany phases out both coal and nuclear power, importing natural gas and investing in new gas power plants will become a considerable part of the solution. 

From a climate perspective, from Baerbock’s political ideology to solutions, the impact of her leadership and policies make her a climate leader since Baerbock’s part in accelerating Germany’s exit from coal and gathering social, economic policies under a climate umbrella would be undeniable. Baerbock’s policies, implemented and planned, have been in lieu of advocating green energy and climate action as well as showcasing how multifaceted climate action must be for it to work. In that perspective, campaigning for the re-opening of nuclear power plants would’ve been the public choice for an international climate policy focused politician and climate leader. However, Baerbock’s reaction to the energy shortage with accepting coal power plants’ running longer and no-compromise on nuclear power showcases a point in which her values and perception of nuclear power overweight climate action.  This creates an image of Baerbock as a politician and the Greens as a political party that advocates their way of being green over the greater good/general consensus. 

The no-nuclear stance influences her image as a climate leader and international climate action in two ways. First, the lack of an equally powerful alternative source of energy made coal energy accepted as one of the temporary solutions and played in favour of the employment of natural gas and the necessity of new gas power plants. Second, considering that nuclear power is the cleanest energy available at the moment and the employment of it is being promoted by not only German intellectuals but the EU.