What the German Election Results Mean for Climate Change

Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

In the German campaign to elect Chancellor Angel Merkel’s successor, the Green Party led in the polls earlier this spring. Their candidate Annalena Baerbock looked like she could become the party’s first chancellor. Although the Greens didn’t win in Sunday’s election, they received just shy of 15% of the vote, the most significant jump in any party. That means they’re likely to be part of the forming coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who won 25.7% and 24.1% of the vote, respectively. 


Why This Matters: On the international stage, Angela Merkel was known for being a climate advocate, but her record at home in Germany wasn’t as strong. The election could change that dynamic. Discussions about forming the new government are getting underway, but the stronger Green Party could center climate in national policy — especially after the past eight years of conservative-driven government. One key demand to watch for: Forming a climate ministry, which could potentially stop policies that exacerbate climate change. 


What Comes Next

German elections work a bit differently than American ones: the center-left SPD eked out the largest percentage of votes, but will still need to form a coalition with other parties. The coalition needs at least 368 seats to be a majority in Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag. The Greens are now one of two smaller “kingmaker” parties central to meeting the required seats, meaning they are one of two most likely coalition partners. Now, they’ll enter a phase of talks with other political leaders to determine the shape of the new German government. 


The two main parties (SPD and CDU) who have been leading the country for years don’t have a firm plan to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “It’s very disappointing that all the parties say they are committed to Paris, but there is a glaring gap,” Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Inside Climate News. “Two of these parties have been in government for many years. They pay lip service to it, but they don’t live up to it. This credibility gap hasn’t been forcefully addressed by the media.”

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