“The fight is shifting to the states”

Parallel to the US Midterm elections, referendums on climate policy were also voted on in some US states. The results show that for the foreseeable future, the US will fall out as a partner for global climate protection, said the political scientist Arne Jungjohann in DLF.

Susanne Kuhlmann: Election without a winner, or everyone is a winner – the Democrats secure the majority in the House of Representatives, the Republicans keep theirs in the Senate. As far as the outcome of the congressional elections in the US. From January, when the newly elected Democrats move into the House of Representatives, they could, for example, launch investigations against the President. Perhaps also in the context of its climate policy? On the phone in Stuttgart I welcome the political scientist Arne Jungjohann. He is a member of the Green Academy at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, for which he served from 2007 to 2013 in Washington D.C. was. Hello, Mr. Jungjohann.

Arne Jungjohann: Hello, Mrs Kuhlmann.

What role did climate protection play in the US election campaign?

President Trump makes every effort to dismantle Obama’s climate protection requirements. That’s why all eyes now turn to the states, because in some of them progressive governors push hard to step in where the federal level fails. They also want to signal to the rest of the world that we should not write off the US. But in all honesty, last night everything had to run perfectly to compensate for Trump’s total climate failure. And because all know that the climate agenda stalls in Congress, the fight is shifting to the states. Any referendum on what is there to vote, that is a small substitute battle for the major conflict between the two parties.

How is the current record of the President in terms of climate policy? 

Trump is more shirt-sleeved than strategic. Nevertheless, his administration is consistently working to dismantle the existing climate standards. But America is also known as the land of checks and balances. That is, the US political system is showing a surprising resilience to these ideological attacks. The good news is that Trump will not be able to completely reverse the climate heritage of his predecessor. But the bad news is that this is not enough to meet the challenges of climate change, because the US would not only have to consistently enforce existing climate rules, but would have to expand and accelerate them.

In the midterm elections, voters were also able to vote on a number of referendums on climate policy. For example, the development of renewable energy was a topic, as was fracking. What are the results?

Not really good. Take these three examples. In the state of Washington, there was a carbon tax on the ballot. The vote was lost. In Arizona, there was an initiaitve on the ballot, that would have required utilities to generate half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The vote was lost. And in Colorado, a referendum sought to ensure that new fracking drilling was largely banned. There are already 50,000 fracking wells and the industry wants more. This vote was also lost. You can see a pattern. As a matter of fact, for every dollar environmental groups spend in these campaigns, the industry spent $ 40 against. 40: 1 is the ratio we’re talking about here between green groups and polluters. That’s highly problematic. It says that the one who puts the most on the table gets the laws he needs. Under these conditions, democracy is becoming a sell-out.

How will this election affect international climate policy?

The US federal government will continue to be an obstacle for global climate protection for the foreseeable future. Other states might hide behind the Americans, and lastly we will also lack money on climate finance because the US is reluctant to do its part. At the end of the day we also have to be self-critical about ourselves. In Paris, the international community and also the German government decided it would do everything in its power to limit the rise in global temperatures rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, to date only 16 countries have made concrete plans for it, and Germany is not one of them. This is an embarrassment for our government and the Grand Coalition. In my view, the US election should be a wake-up call for Germany to finally get serious about climate protection. That includes a quick coal exit. It includes a national climate law and it includes the end of the internal combustion engine.


Published on November 7, 2018. The original interview in German including an audio file can be found here.

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