Climate neutral by 2030: Berlin campaign loses referendum

Climate neutral by 2030: Berlin campaign loses referendum

A referendum in Berlin has fallen short of the votes it needed to give the local government a legally-binding target of achieving climate neutrality by 2030.

Berlin climate referendum falls short at the polls

Years of rallying and 261.968 validated signatures later, Berlin’s Klimaneustart referendum has failed to secure the ‘yes’ votes it needed to set local government the legally-binding goal of making the German city climate neutral 15 years earlier than planned.

Though a majority of Berliners (50,9 percent) did vote in favour of the motion, the voter turnout was too low for the result to be enshrined in law. Less than 50 percent of Berlin’s 2,4 million eligible voters turned up to the polls, and as the referendum required at least 25 percent of the 2,4 million to vote in favour of the motion, it could not secure a mandate.

442.000 people who did cast their ballots voted to make the city climate neutral by 2030 and 423.000 voted against the motion, meaning the city will continue to follow Germany’s nationwide goal of climate neutrality by 2045. With a population of 3,6 million people, a large number of Berliners do not have a German passport and are not eligible to vote in the city’s referenda.

What was the climate neutrality campaign proposing?

Germany’s legally binding Klimaschutzgesetz (Climate Protection Law) says that the country will be climate neutral by 2045. But the Klimaneustart campaign pointed out that this aim is not in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement - to limit global overheating to 1,5 degrees in order to avoid life-threatening climate tipping points.

Currently, 80 percent of Berlin’s energy comes from fossil fuels. The campaign’s KlimaStadtplan Maßnahmen (Climate City Plan Measures) lays out which steps should be taken to reach climate neutrality by 2030 in Berlin. 

The measures include using energy from renewables to power public transport and heat housing in the city, reducing livestock and expanding organic farming to minimise CO2 emissions produced by the agriculture industry. Critics of the campaign called the plan unrealistic and unachievable, with city officials also encouraging Berliners to vote against it.

How did politicians and activists react to the referendum result?

Berlin’s local government, a fledgling CDU-SPD coalition, celebrated the result. “[This] shows that the majority of Berliners also see that the demands of the referendum could not have been implemented, not even if they were enshrined in law,” said SPD Mayor Franziska Giffey. Senior CDU politician Stefan Evers joined the critics’ chorus, “Berlin says yes to climate protection - but says no to false promises.” Klimaneustart activists were quick to point out that, though the referendum failed, more Berliners voted in favour of the motion than voted for the Berlin CDU, who won last month's local election re-run.

Campaign organisers were disappointed but not despondent. “It’s a shame for everyone in Berlin. But obviously, we will keep going, we will keep fighting,” said Klimaneustart representative and English expat Jessamine Davis.

Climate activist and campaigner Luisa Neubauer added to the air of optimism, “We won’t let the critics and complainers stop us,” said Neubauer. “Let’s not forget what we made possible here.”

“We also have to continue the fight for the people who voted 'no' today,” Neubauer added.

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Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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