Citizens' Assembly demands priority for climate protection

23. June 2021

"To ensure the preservation of the livelihoods of all people, the 1.5 degree target is non-negotiable." This is one of the guiding principles of the German Climate Assembly, which came to an end on 23 June 2021. As part of the Citizens' Assembly, 160 randomly drawn people from all over Germany had deliberated in twelve online sessions on climate policy recommendations to the Bundestag and the Federal Government. The result is numerous concrete proposals to politicians.

For example, the Citizens' Assembly demands that every new law be checked for its climate protection effect and that no law should contradict the climate goals. Climate protection is a human right and must be included in the Basic Law. Economic interests must be subordinated to climate protection. Large companies in particular must be obliged to act in the interest of climate protection and the common good.

Education and transparency

Education and transparency are named as prerequisites for climate policy action by all citizens. Everyone must have access to all relevant information. Climate protection education should therefore be anchored in all educational institutions and curricula. "There is a state duty to educate," the Citizens' Assembly states. Politics and society must be guided by their responsibility for a climate-neutral, fairer and better future. "The effects of the change must be distributed in a socially just manner on all shoulders," the Citizens' Assembly demands. The randomly selected assembly members want to make the economy climate-neutral and tax and punish climate-damaging actions.

In order to formulate concrete recommendations for action, the assembly participants had dealt with four fields of action in working groups: Energy, Food, Buildings & Heating and Traffic. In the field of energy, one guiding principle is that the speed of the energy turnaround must take precedence over its costs, but that the end consumers should be burdened the least financially. The Citizens' Assembly proposes that 70 % of Germany's total energy supply be covered by renewable energies by 2035 and 90 % by 2040. In the electricity sector, 100 % should already be achieved by 2035.

Bringing forward the coal phase-out

The Citizens' Assembly furthermore proposes mandatory municipal climate protection programmes by 2023 and the provision of at least two per cent of the area of each federal state for solar and wind energy plants. Photovoltaic systems on house roofs should be made compulsory, wind energy expansion should be promoted and regulations for a minimum distance between wind turbines and residential buildings should be abolished. The phase-out of coal should not be completed until 2038, but already in 2030, and the lifespan of electrical appliances should be extended by a minimum guarantee of ten years.

In the field of traffic, the Citizens' Assembly wants public space to become an attractive habitat for people, animals and plants. Buses and trains, bicycles and pedestrians should have priority over car traffic. Rail transport should be preferred to air travel, and freight transport should be shifted to rail. The first registration of vehicles with combustion engines is to be discontinued by 2027, but by 2030 at the latest.

"True climate costs" for air travel

In the case of air travel, which is also recognised as harmful to the climate, the assembly members want ticket prices to reflect the true climate costs. The additional revenue should be used to expand rail transport or for a per capita rebate. The remaining air traffic should be converted to synthetic fuels.

As the issue of buildings and heating is of crucial importance for climate policy, the Citizens' Assembly calls on the federal, state and local governments to decisively advance the necessary transition through appropriate legislation and financing in the next two legislative periods. By 2024, the urgency of renovation must be determined for every building by means of a renovation traffic light and free renovation advice must be offered. There should be a ban on the installation of oil heating systems from 2026 and gas heating systems from 2028.

Conversion of agriculture

In the field of "food", the Citizens' Assembly calls for the conversion of agriculture to climate-friendly production by 2030. Subsidy policy must be oriented towards the criterion of climate-friendliness. Climate-damaging emissions are to be reduced by reducing livestock numbers. Food prices should reflect health and environmental costs. By 2030, there should be a climate traffic light for all food. Education should be used to encourage people to give up meat and dairy products as much as possible. The Citizens' Assembly also calls for a democratisation of the food sector.

While many recommendations received only a few votes against in the final vote, some proposals received more headwind. For example, 24 assembly members voted against lowering the minimum voting age for federal elections from 18 to 16. This is to give the young generation, which is particularly affected by climate change, more responsibility. The use of electric cars as temporary storage for surplus electricity was rejected by 27 percent of the Assembly members. 42 percent said no to a speed limit of 120 km/h on motorways, 80 km/h on rural roads and 30 km/h in inner cities. A climate budget also found many opponents. The proposal to levy a city toll did not receive a majority at all.

Carbon price as an instrument of change

On the other hand, there was again a broad majority in favour of making the carbon price for the entire economy and society an instrument for achieving the 1.5 degree target. In doing so, its calculation, the amount of revenue and its use should be comprehensible to citizens. The Citizens' Assembly proposes that the revenues from the carbon price be used for climate-friendly measures, for research and development, and for infrastructure. The associated higher costs for private households should be compensated by a climate dividend or per capita flat rate and by tax relief elsewhere.

Former Federal President Horst Köhler called the Citizens' Assembly process "inspiring" as its patron. "My confidence in the citizens and in democracy has been strengthened," said Köhler. He hopes that the recommendations will be taken up by the parliamentary parties in the Bundestag.

Citizens' report handed over to top politicians

The Citizens' Assemblies recommendations have been incorporated into a Citizens' Report, which was handed over to top politicians of all democratic parties represented in the Bundestag on 15 September 2021. In addition to the Chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Armin Laschet (CDU), the assemblies recommendations for future German climate policy were also handed over to Robert Habeck (Greens), Lukas Köhler (FDP) and Dietmar Bartsch (Left). The AfD had shown no reaction to the publication of the citizens' report.

More information