The German action plan for Climate Foreign Policy and the manifestos of Green parties

ARTICLE

The German government recently adopted an action plan for its climate foreign policy. This article presents the core characteristics of this plan. Furthermore, it compares these characteristics with the findings of a recently published study conducted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which attempts to determine the concept of “green foreign policy”. The conclusion is that the German plan is indeed directed towards a concrete green strategy.

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The rapid exacerbation of the climate crisis, as well as the ever-intensifying shameless exploitation of natural resources have undeniably caused many adverse effects both on the natural environment and on human life itself. It is, therefore, now imperative to establish, but mostly to adopt and concretely implement a global green strategy in order to achieve the goals of protecting the ecosystem and normalising the ecological chain balance. The recent creation of an action plan for a Climate Foreign Policy by the Federal Republic of Germany is oriented towards this direction. The plan describes in detail the requirements regarding multilateral co-operations within the country’s public administration and ministries as well as the requirements pertaining to a transnational osmosis taking place in the context of international organisations and meetings. This emphasis on the means of achieving the goals of the German government with regard to climate change is exactly the reason why this plan and its publication are particularly important.

This text will present the core characteristics of the plan. Furthermore, it will compare them with the findings of a recently published study that attempted to determine the concept of “green foreign policy” by encoding the manifestos of green parties around the world (Evangelos Astyrakakis Aslanis, Green Foreign Policy Snapshots: Preliminary findings report, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Thessaloniki, 2023).

 

Germany’s action plan for climate foreign policy

Climate policy is about more than protecting the environment – it is also a policy for innovation, a policy for Germany as a location for business and a policy for more security. Plus, in these geopolitically challenging times, climate policy provides an opportunity to overcome old divides in power politics. Those countries which are working together, which want to achieve something in climate policy, have the chance to get everyone on board and to lead the world to the vital 1.5 degree pathway. And in a world in which the global regulatory framework is under increasing pressure, to thereby help strengthen multilateralism.

Annalena Baerbock, Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany


Interconnection between ecological protection and development

Interconnectivity is a core concept of this plan. The concept has a double function with regard to both the desired aim and its implementation method. As far as the aim is concerned, the German strategy plan highlights the need to promote in parallel the safeguard of natural resources and the adoption of new energy sources on the one hand (Green Foreign Policy characteristics 3 and 5, see the table at the end of the article)[i] and the construction of a new model for financial sustainability and development, which will focus on the use of green energy and renewable energy sources, on the other hand. As far as the implementation method is concerned, the plan mentions particularly the need for institutional cooperation at national and global level, as provisioned for example in the goals of the Paris Agreement (Green Foreign Policy characteristics 1 & 9)[ii], as well as in other international conventions mainly prioritising ecological protection in addition to social and financial resilience within developing countries and vulnerable social groups (characteristic 5)[iii].

This analysis of the German plan demonstrates important similarities between the strategic priorities of the German climate foreign policy and the policies that tend to be embraced by green parties around the world. So, we notice a convergence for certain characteristics, primarily regarding the interconnection of climate and ecological protection with the goal of green development and renewable energy sources. This interconnection proves that the aspiration for climate neutrality is not a “blank cheque”, namely a unilateral view, approach, which green parties are often accused of, but a view that takes into account the value of achieving financial and social benefit and is feasible through a different course of action in relation to energy. 

Co-operations and multilateralism

Moreover, the comparative study of the German plan and the manifestos of green parties reveals one more point of agreement concerning the characteristic of the urgent need to build co-operations and strengthen multilateral consultations in order to solve the environmental issues (characteristics 1 & 9). There is, namely, a coincidence of views with regard to the promotion of universality and global cooperation for the adoption of environmental and ecological priorities. The German plan is also aligned with the texts of green parties over the view of climate crisis as a security issue that already threatens peace and may lead to the destabilisation of certain state entities, thus creating financial and social inequalities, for instance in the field of fair resource distribution. Furthermore, another point in common is the view of climate crisis as an issue that leads to tectonic natural disasters through the overexploitation of resources, forcing people to internal and external migration (characteristic 5). The instrumentalization of energy and natural resources by certain states has resulted in energy issues related to the supply of other states and has made it difficult to achieve the ecological imperatives. To deal with these specific difficulties, the action plan of the German government promotes the opening of multilateral discussions and negotiations in the context of international organisations (characteristic 1), aiming to ultimately mitigate differences and create a positive agenda, which will de facto marginalise states adopting unconventional and revisional practices that undermine climate balance and decarbonisation. In parallel, once again by the means of dialogue, the German plan claims that the scenario involving the differentiation of energy suppliers, as an element that strengthens the resilience of any statehood, becomes more realistic.

The goals and principles of the German climate foreign policy strategy are explicitly determined, but special cases are also considered. More precisely, while the importance of the imperatives about climate neutrality and resilience provisioned by the Paris Agreement, as well as the significance of the adaptation to new energy standards induced by the climate change are obviously promoted, particular emphasis is also put on those regions, in which recent environmental effects have radically affected the financial and social process, such as African countries and smaller developing islands, where an intensified effort is needed to achieve climate justice. As previously mentioned, the German government appears as an advocate of all multilateral cooperation networks pursuing consultations on environmental issues and their effects. For example, a reference is made to G7, G20 and to the collaboration among European partners on the basis of European Green Deal. Concerning the means for promoting cooperation and achieving goals, the action plan includes many different techniques and initiatives, such as multilateral climate diplomacy, the financing of specific actions and the creation of global cooperation networks outside the EU[iv], as well as a continuous and uninterrupted evaluation of strategy activities, so as to detect potential weaknesses and obtain an adequately designed political and financial framework that strengthens ecological cooperation.

Instruments and methods

The reviewed strategy analysis field for climate diplomacy welcomes in parallel certain fundamental principles embraced by the German government regarding foreign policy methods and instruments. More thoroughly, parallel to the promotion of the environmental agenda, the promotion of peace, the protection of human rights, the strengthening of rule of law and the presence of impartial institutional entities (characteristics 1, 6 & 7)[v] are also overemphasised as main principles of the government coalition, as this is deemed to ensure social equality and regularity. A joined-up correlation between these characteristics and policy elements on the one hand and the components that are reflected as foreign policy cornerstones of green parties in multiple regional subsystems, on the other hand, is, therefore, easily discernible, based on the analysis done so far. The European subsystem constitutes of course the most typical case of this.

Apart from qualitative goals, the new German strategy plan provides also for clear quantified priorities. First, it stipulates the intensification of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve relevant goals, such as, for example, the limitation of temperature increase to only 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, as explicitly specified in the Paris Agreement. Second, it provisions the need to safeguard and further strengthen economic competitiveness by restructuring trade agreements and reforming the supply chain in order to reduce the energy footprint of transports (characteristics 1 & 3). Furthermore, it clearly determines the need to support more vulnerable regions that are mostly affected by the ecological balance rupture and it suggests to draw up special action plans aiming ultimately to financially help these regions by promoting their local economy and products and thus eliminating also the energy transport cost, on the one hand, and to provide health aid, on the other hand, in order to address natural disasters induced by the climate deregulation of the ecosystem that is caused by predatory human interventions.

The key-year 2030

The German plan includes further some more quantitatively graded measures, such as a worldwide tripling of renewable energy sources and a doubling of the energy efficiency measure by 2030. At the same time, the need for full industrial decarbonisation by the key-year 2030 is promoted in the context of G7 and G20 (characteristics 1 & 3). Additionally, the goal pertaining to the energy transition of countries to a level, where there is almost zero presence of fossil fuels and energy needs are not predominantly covered by the latter, is promoted in cooperation with European and other partners. The promotion of new energy storage technologies that restrict CO2 emissions is also decided to be an important initiative.

To corroborate the above, the goal of protecting, reforming and restructuring the sustainability of soil and marine ecosystems is added. For instance, reference is made to the need for a complete elimination of the phenomenon of deforestation, as stipulated by the Kunming-Montreal Framework agreement (characteristics 1 & 3), in order to protect ecological diversity and climate resilience. 

Finally, the need to include the concept of climate diplomacy and more generally the issue of climate change in other foreign policy areas, such as issues related to the provision of humanitarian aid and the stabilisation of war fields, is noted, since the effects of environmental contamination can be noticed everywhere. It is, therefore, necessary to perform strict controls of the already existing funding programmes, as well as to create new funding schemes, which aim to achieve predefined targets.

Conclusion

To conclude, the strategy concerning the climate foreign policy of Germany clearly crystallises the significance and the complexity of climate change in many fields and policies and highlights the necessity for convergence, consensus and cooperation that is required by state actors in the context of international organisations in order to rehabilitate the environment (characteristics 1, 3 & 9), which has been perturbed by human interventions all over the world. From Sub-Saharan Africa to the dry and most stuffy summer atmosphere of Europe and from the already semi-frozen territory of Alaska to the ravaged by hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters regions of North America, the sense of responsibility that burdens all of us is unbearably heavy. Only if we realise that each generation borrows the natural environment from the next one, then we might also understand that the international community is not sufficiently mobilised and has not adopted in practice a universal action plan. Otherwise, our environmental footprint will remain engraved for ever and this is not a reason to be proud of in any event.

 

Green Foreign Policy Characteristics
 

[i] Characteristic 3, under the heading “Climate Policy & Sustainability”, means the emphasis on the management of natural resources in a sustainable way. Characteristic 5, under the heading “Fair Trade, Development and Resources”, means the emphasis on the management of natural resources in a fair way. See Evangelos Astyrakakis-Aslanis, Green Foreign Policy Snapshots: Preliminary Findings Report, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Thessaloniki 2023. https://gr.boell.org/en/2023/09/13/green-foreign-policy-snapshots

[ii] Characteristic 1, under the heading “Elements of Normative Foreign Policy”, pertains to references and promts to an institutional framework. Characteristic 9, under the heading “International Cooperation/Alliances”, includes references to cooperation as a method to resolve international issues. Op. cit.

[iii] Characteristic 5, under the heading “Fair Trade, Development and Resources”, includes references of the green parties’ manifestos to the need for inclusion of the developing economies as a parameter for fair and sustainable development. It is noted that a decolonising tone creeps usually in these references. Op. cit. 

[iv] Characteristic 9, under the heading “International Cooperation/Alliances”, prioritises multilateralism as a way to manage issues and establish co-operations beyond the borders of EU. Here, it shall be noted that seeking co-operations beyond the European neighbourhood is influenced also by characteristic 5, in a light that supports decolonisation. Op. cit.

[v] Characteristic 6, under the heading “Promotion of Peace/Non-Violence”, includes references to the promotion of peace as a fundamental principle in international relations. Characteristic 7, under the heading “Promotion of Human Rights”, includes references to human rights as a fundamental principle in international relations. Op. cit.