“It's a bit hippie, but I come from a hippie party”: At the handover on Wednesday afternoon, the new Economic and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) slipped a bracelet made of recycled fishing net plastic on his predecessor Peter Altmaier (CDU).

The two met in 2012 during a visit to the Watt in Friedrichskoog.

At that time Altmaier had just become Federal Environment Minister, Habeck Environment Minister Schleswig-Holstein.

Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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Julia Löhr

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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Now Habeck is Federal Minister - and Altmaier is a privateer. In his virtual inaugural speech in front of the ministry's employees, Habeck encouraged the various departments of the house to join forces. With the restructuring of the economy towards climate neutrality, one can "write history together". The social should become an ecological-social market economy. For this he wanted to use the “creativity of the markets”, said Habeck in the Ludwig-Erhard-Saal. He does not consider the question, which has been discussed again and again, whether more or less the state is needed in the economy, to be expedient. Instead of dogmatics, an “idealistic pragmatism” is needed. The motto must be: "Plan faster, build faster."

Habeck explained how he wants to rebuild the management level of the ministry for this purpose.

As a permanent state secretary, Udo Philipp is responsible for foreign trade, industrial and digital policy, Sven Giegold for European, medium-sized and economic policy, and Patrick Graichen for energy and climate policy.

Department L (management and planning) is to be converted into a transformation department, which is to form the hinge between economic and climate policy issues.

80 percent renewable electricity by 2030

The expectations of Habeck as super minister are also high because climate protection played a major role in the election campaign, not least because of the flood disaster in the summer. A burden for the Greens lies in the fact that, although people are paying more and more for the energy transition and climate protection, the positive effects are still a long time coming. Even before taking office, Habeck dampened expectations and spoke of a "long-distance run". The Ampel-Coalition has set itself the goal of meeting at least 80 percent of Germany's electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030. The old government had planned 65 percent.

In order to achieve the higher goal, Habeck wants to triple to quadruple the rate of expansion of photovoltaic and wind power plants. Already designated areas should be able to be used for the production of green electricity in the short term, even if there have been concerns about animal or water protection so far. Habeck's accelerated approach indicates a conflict with nature and animal rights activists, an important part of the green base. Ultimately, according to the coalition agreement, 2 percent of the German land area should be used for renewable energies.

The new minister and vice chancellor would also like to accelerate the expansion of the grid, because so far most of the wind power has been generated in the north, but the demand is mainly in the south and west. A new beacon of hope is hydrogen, the electrolysis capacity for this is to increase to 10 gigawatts by 2030. The Greens want to bring forward the phase-out of coal from 2038 to 2030 by ensuring a high CO2 price of at least 60 euros per ton, which means that electricity from coal no longer pays off.

Even if Habeck's focus will be more on climate protection than Altmaier's - he will hardly be able to ignore the other topics of the ministry. This applies above all to economic policy. The corona crisis is dragging on much longer than expected. At the end of the year, the German economy could slide back into recession in view of the growing restrictions on trade, catering and the event industry. The growth forecast for 2022 - 4.6 percent predicted the economic wise men in mid-November - is increasingly questionable in view of the Omikron variant.

It is clear that with Habeck a new style is moving into the ministry.

He cultivates the image of the approachable politician who likes to be listened to while thinking.

Altmaier, on the other hand, was able to give presidential-sounding lectures on almost any topic - and was happy to do so.

In his farewell speech, he expressly thanked his drivers for having endured his monologues “and always pretending to be interested”.

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