In a SPIEGEL interview, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, of the Social Democratic Party, discusses the prospects for climate protection in the economic crisis, the shortcomings of Obama's new emissions policies and the challenges to be faced in Copenhagen this December.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Gabriel, when you became Germany's environment minister in 2005, you were described as an "environmental black box." Is there any light in the box today?
Gabriel: It was nonsense back then, because I began my career as an environmental politician in the state parliament in Lower Saxony, where I was dealing with the problems of heavy metal contamination in the part of the northern Harz Mountains where I come from, as well as in the Harz National Park. However, I have a low opinion of people with narrow political horizons. Someone who talks about the environment and knows nothing about economics can make as many mistakes as someone who does the opposite.
SPIEGEL: Can we image you as a successful case of a reawakening?
Gabriel: Hardly, since I haven't died yet, but if SPIEGEL wants to embark on that esoteric path, please, be my guest ...
SPIEGEL: After having served in other government positions, have you now become a dyed-in-the-wool environmental politician?
Gabriel: In the business of politics, emotions and productive dissatisfaction with the world in which we live today are gradually being covered up by the minutiae of ordinary life. The preoccupation with current environmental issues, the injustices it conceals, the ignorance that threatens entire populations today as a result of environmental destruction, and the burdens we all expect our children to bear, all of these things have brought me back to the questions and emotions that attracted me to the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and politics in the first place.
SPIEGEL: Are you saying that you take environmental problems personally?
Gabriel: Yes, most definitely. Being told about the effects of climate change is an appeal to our reason and to our desire to bring about change. But to see that Africans are the hardest hit by climate change, even though they generate almost no greenhouse gas, is a glaring injustice, which also triggers anger and outrage over those who seek to ignore it.
SPIEGEL: But one cannot claim that the German government is making any particular effort to stop climate change. The measures that have been introduced to date are insufficient to achieve the goal we have set for ourselves, a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Are you disappointed by Angela Merkel, the former climate chancellor?
Gabriel: Oh please. We are among a handful of countries in Europe that have exceeded their Kyoto climate protection goals for 2012 in 2008. And we never claimed that have already implemented all the measures that will be needed to reach our goal for the year 2020. We are still about five percentage points behind. But a great deal has been put in motion, from the expansion of renewable energy to the renovation of buildings. And just as an aside, these efforts have created 280,000 new jobs. Our counterparts in other countries, including South Africa, China and India, rate us in a completely different way and see us as role models. So why the criticism? See the rest of the article