Published on August 10th, 2017 | by The Beam0
Christiane Averbeck: “We work to put climate change on the political agenda”
August 10th, 2017 by The Beam
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Christiane Averbeck is the Executive Director of the Climate Alliance Germany, the broad civil society alliance for climate protection in Germany. Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, asked her about her experience, bringing so many actors together to fight climate change, and about the main challenges that her organization faces.
Hello Christiane, and thank you for taking some time to answer to The Beam today. What are the main missions of Climate Alliance Germany?
We work to put climate change on the political agenda, especially in Berlin. Our focus are the national policies of climate protection in Germany. That means that our main target groups are the government, ministries, and politicians of all parties. Our main political demands, just to name a few, are the implementation of a climate protection law that defines a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95% until 2050, a socially just coal phase-out as part of the Energiewende, a turnaround in transport and agriculture and a critical re-examination of the Climate Action Programme 2020. We need to make sure to adapt our measurements if we still want to reach the set goal of reducing our emissions by 40% until 2020.
Climate Alliance Germany works on behalf of its 113 member organisations such as MISEREOR, WWF, Bread for the World, and Friends of the Earth. We have environmental and development organizations, churches, a trade union, consumer organizations, and many more.
Why is it so important to include so many different actors in fighting climate change? What does this bring to your organization?
It all started ten years ago when the environmental organizations realized that it was not enough anymore that they tackle the issue of climate change; there was a need for a broad societal alliance and the activities of different stakeholders in order to fight climate change. We are happy that 10 years ago the churches, whose interest is the preservation of God’s creation, and for example our trade union, who acts more for the social aspects of climate change, felt that it was necessary to join forces and combat climate change together.
Do you work closely with the German government? How does the cooperation work?
“Working” together doesn’t really reflect our cooperation. The German Government invited us to a participatory process in order to work out the Climate Action Plan 2050 where we were allowed — and I say allowed because something like this never happened before — to share our ideas with other stakeholders and to come up with a participatory developed plan. That was an example of the German government and Climate Alliance Germany working together.
But most of the time, we develop our demands, what we expect the government to do to combat climate change, and then we discuss them in parliamentary breakfasts and during discussions like our “Berliner Klimagespräche” (Berlin climate talks), when we invite politicians and relevant stakeholders to discuss issues such as the coal phase out or the link between meat consumption and climate change.
The European countries have committed to reducing greenhouse gases in Europe by 20% by 2020. Do you think it’s a reasonable target? Is it enough and is it realistic?
We all know that more is possible and that this 20% goal is not ambitious at all. We are going to outdo ourselves here, we easily could have set a more ambitious reduction goal. By all means, in Germany we will do more than this. So I don’t think that this is enough, but unfortunately it seems absolutely realistic in the face of some European countries that are not willing to do more.
How important is the role of the civil society in Germany and abroad in terms of fighting climate change?
Our civil society is very vibrant and vocal. If we don’t want to allow the industry and companies to dominate our climate policies, because then they will never ever be as ambitious, there is no doubt, we need civil society action. I think that civil society focuses on the interest not only of the citizens of Germany but also abroad and worldwide. If you have a look at the Paris Agreement, I am sure that it became a success also because of the influence and mobilization of civil society activists. To us, this international cooperation is very important. We work together with many groups, not only in Germany. With the Climate Action Network (CAN), CAN Europe, and CAN International for example, we strategize together and try to influence politicians all over the world. Climate change is a worldwide challenge and therefore we have to work in a worldwide network to solve the problems.
What are the main challenges for organizations like yours today?
The members of Climate Alliance Germany have realized that climate change is the challenge we have to face, but there are still different approaches on how to deal with it. Sometimes, it is not that easy to find the right strategy on how to go about it or on how to approach politicians. There are different views and we always have to make sure that we find a common ground. That is the first challenge. But I have to say that there is a lot of positive energy towards the will to find a common solution.
The second challenge is with politicians. They are willing to listen to us, but the representatives of energy companies and of different industries are much more powerful with their political lobbying in Berlin. They have more resources, they have more man or woman power than we have. Of course, they are trying to influence politics, too, and they can use mass media campaigns to influence not only politicians but also the people. These are approaches we cannot afford, therefore we have to find other ways to gain the ear of a politician.
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