As of this week, the political landscape in Germany has gained a new force. After a long struggle, Sahra Wagenknecht has decided to leave the Left Party. Her new "Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht" (BSW) is soon to become a new party and will run in the next state and federal elections. In an interview with SPIEGEL this week, Gregor Gysi summed up the political content of BSW as follows: Wagenknecht wants to "make refugee policy like the AfD, make economic policy like Ludwig Erhard and social policy like the Left." Sounds like a pretty reactionary program, but what about climate policy?

If you look at the meager content that can be found on BSW's website so far, you don't want anything good. In any case, climate protection is not a priority, and there is not even a separate agenda item for the topic. Instead, you can find more details under "Economic Reason" and the FAQ.

Let's start with the good news: For Sahra Wagenknecht and her followers, too, "the change in the world's climate and the destruction of our natural foundations of life are serious challenges". But they now want to finally make a "serious" climate and environmental policy. They also want to take off the obligatory "ideological blinders".

If the words "ideological" and "blinders" appear somewhere, alarm bells should be ringing, because then disinformation and misleading arguments are usually not far away. This is also the case in this case.

Half-truths and old recipes

In just a few lines, the BSW settles accounts with the two central climate policy instruments: the German CO2 price and the EU emissions trading system. Both, by the way, took decades before they were even introduced and finally became effective. But for the former left-wing politician, both are part of "climate protection measures that make people poor and endanger Germany as a business location."

A populist claim with dangerous half-truths: There has been a carbon dioxide price for fossil fuels in Germany since 2021. This has an impact on the prices of refuelling or heating, for example, and is currently 30 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2). The money will flow into the Climate and Transformation Fund. So far, however, citizens have not become "poor" as a result, and the fluctuating prices on the energy market are much more important. In the longer term, the price is intended to prepare for the entry into a second EU emissions trading system for buildings and transport. The aim is to slowly get consumers used to the rising prices of fossil fuels. In the future, this is to be compensated for by a climate money that has yet to be decided. Sahra Wagenknecht also does not want the trading of CO2 certificates – which has so far only been available for energy suppliers and industries – because "increasingly expensive emission certificates, which would only drive important industries out of Europe" and would "do little to help the global climate". Unfortunately, this is also wrong.

Since emissions trading has been tightened, industries and energy suppliers have actually had to reduce CO₂ emissions much more strictly. That's why, after about twenty years, the market is finally moving. Economists believe it is likely that coal-fired power will be unprofitable by the end of the decade, and cement and steel manufacturers are now feverishly looking for solutions to reduce their carbon footprint.

As the head of Heidelberg Materials, Dominik von Achten, recently emphasized in an interview with SPIEGEL: "We want to be the first company in the world to produce CO₂-free cement." So the economic incentive provided by the "expensive certificates" works. In any case, most energy suppliers and industrial companies cannot simply "migrate" because they have their customers in the EU and can hardly produce electricity for Germany from China. For reasons, cement manufacturers also usually build their factories close to the lime quarries. In short, this fictitious threatening backdrop has been around for as long as people have been talking about the energy transition. Nevertheless, the much-vaunted deindustrialization has not yet taken place – on the contrary. New jobs were created in the energy sector, for example. According to the Federal Environment Agency, more than 2000,200 jobs have been added since 000. Despite the loss of work in the coal industry, for example, there is a net increase due to renewable energies.

In addition, the EU Commission wants to introduce a kind of CO2026 tariff from 2 to protect European companies. Imported goods that are not produced sustainably would then become more expensive. Incidentally, if the EU emissions trading system were to be rejected outright, Germany would have to leave the EU. So the criticism is not only wrong, but out of touch with reality.

The list of BSW resolutions so far is short, the offers are vague. For example, renewable energies are not considered to be the last word and would much rather import Russian gas. An energy supply recipe of the Merkel era, which has proven fatal for Germany. In addition, so-called "future technologies for a climate- and nature-friendly economy" are to be developed. What exactly is meant by this remains unclear.

"Maybe Wagenknecht should talk to the car industry"

Otherwise, there are such banal proposals as "punctual, inexpensive and attractive local and long-distance transport", which it feels like everyone in this country wants. This is one of the reasons why there has been a low-cost 49-euro ticket for everyone since this year. And even the BSW will not be able to solve the investment backlog at Deutsche Bahn overnight.

Other climate solutions are also to be expected. Being in favor of the expansion of photovoltaics on roofs is completely harmless and hardly anyone has anything against the reduction of plastic waste. But when it comes to the big chunks of climate policy, such as transport, it quickly becomes reactionary again: Wagenknecht calls in all seriousness for "lower-consumption combustion engines and intensive research into climate-friendly fuels, instead of destroying 2035 years of technological know-how and the basis of our most important industry with a ban on combustion engines from 150". This sentence takes the shoes off all traffic experts.

One of them is my colleague Arvid Haitsch. In our editorial office, he has been dealing with the transport turnaround for years, which is why I asked him to comment on the passage: "The concern about Germany's most important industry, on which millions of jobs depend, is justified. But the more you cling to the 'know-how of 150 years', the greater the danger of being irrelevant for the next 150 years," says Arvid. There is simply no realistic climate-friendly perspective with combustion engines. And he recommends: "Maybe Wagenknecht's people should talk to IG Metall and works councils in the automotive industry who want to see a transformation into an industry of the future." (A good summary of the debate about gasoline and e-fuels can be found in this post.)

AI-Generated Coal Miners

And a little tidbit at the end: The supposed depiction of hard coal workers on the BSW subpage "Social Justice" is irritating. Coal miners in 2023? Maybe Team Wagenknecht missed it, but the last colliery was closed in Bottrop in 2018.

Our photo editor Daniel Hofmann therefore immediately set out to find out where the picture of the sad-looking men smeared with coal dust came from – perhaps from Colombia? For this reason, Germany currently obtains a large part of its hard coal. But no: the picture is fake and was produced with artificial intelligence, he found out. AI-generated sad workers. What a metaphor!

This raises the question of whether the text sections of the website are also the work of the AI chatbot ChatGPT? At least when it comes to climate and energy policy, one can get the feeling that someone has been looking for wording aids with the keywords "economic miracle" and "Ludwig Erhard" on ChatGPT.

Many passages read like a desperate obituary for the 1950s, when the world was supposedly still in order. But unfortunately, post-war romanticism has a catch: the old recipes from back then have fallen completely out of date in the midst of the climate crisis – and also on other topics. They are not only questioning current climate policy, but also the entire Green Deal of the European Union. Perhaps Ms. Wagenknecht is getting a little out of her way here, because the EU is on course for climate neutrality despite populist attempts to put the brakes on. Even a left-wing splinter group from Germany can do little to change this. But it will certainly be enough for populist vote-gathering.

If you like, we will inform you once a week about the most important things about the climate crisis – stories, research results and the latest developments on the biggest topic of our time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

This week's topics

Goal of the global climate agreement: Will we break the 2023.1 degree mark as early as 5?
The current year is likely to set a record for global warming. For the first time, the politically explosive mark of 1.5 degrees could be reached. And this is how science reacts.

Appeal from experts: WHO should declare
a health emergency for climate crisis More than 200 scientific journals have published the researchers' appeal. They argue that the consequences of the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity must be combated in a bundled manner.

Mission of social balance: Where is the climate money?
The traffic light coalition has been promising for more than two years: the climate money is intended to compensate citizens for the rising CO₂ price. Why does the project fail?

Possibly from pre-colonial times: Drought exposes
rock paintings in Brazil Brazil is struggling with enormous drought. Water levels have reached historic lows, rivers lack water. In the Amazon, old rock carvings have now become visible – including a face.

WWF report: Forest area the size of Bavaria destroyed last year
Fires, road construction, agriculture and forestry: Around four percent more forest than in the previous year was destroyed worldwide in 2022. According to experts, "biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate."

New Age of Biology: The Internet of Animals
From space, scientists monitor the movements of more than 10,000 birds, mammals and fish around the world. The "Icarus" project provides a unique treasure trove of data that could revolutionize behavioral research.

Shuttle revolution in the countryside: Parent taxis hate this trick You
can't do without a car in the countryside? In the vicinity of Hanover, apparently, it is, at least more and more often. There, a special transport service moves the masses – and is now expanding vigorously.

Alternative fuel: E-fuels in the tank – this is how my first time
went Our old Mercedes swallows eleven liters, the guilty conscience drives along. The offer to fill up with a synthetic fuel that had hardly been available so far sounded tempting. But after that, I was disillusioned.

Planned meeting in the United Arab Emirates: Why the Gaza war threatens the UN Climate Change Conference
The war in the Middle East could have serious consequences for the UN Climate Change Conference, which is scheduled to begin at the end of November. It would not be the first time that a COP has been postponed at short notice – or failed.

Stay confident,

Yours sincerely, Susanne Götze
Science Editor