Due to the ceiling and the density of the buildings, Munich is a hot island – and is up to seven degrees warmer than the surrounding area. 2020 was the second warmest year since 1881, and also the year with the least snow and the least snowfall since 1955. On the other hand, the incidence of heavy rain is increasing: in 2020, half of the total rainfall fell in Munich in just 20 days of the year. At the same time, 2020 is at the third place in the least rainy days. The consequences of climate change in Munich have been around for a long time. And that’s not all: “As a heat island, Munich is particularly hard hit by climate change.” This is what it says in a collection of facts from the Municipal Department for Climate and Environmental Protection, which has compiled the data and statistics. “Time to act!” stands above.
Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, is all about the big picture these days. about the 1.5 degree target, about the gross injustice against poor states; About when and how the world can become climate neutral. But what does it look like on a smaller scale in Munich, this little point in the world? SZ wants to shed light on this in a series. How can change be achieved in terms of energy, transportation, climate adaptation and nutrition? The answers to all these questions are above politics. And yet it’s always about individual behavior. So we’re also introducing a family that’s trying to stay climate-neutral.
It has been almost three years since young people in Munich first took to the streets for more climate protection. It was December 14, 2018, and about 90 students performed at the Max-Joseph-Platz. The next day “A strike goes to school” was written in SZ. The climate strikes started by a girl in Sweden were about to grow into a global movement. His influence was also in Munich. In late 2019, the Munich city council declared a climate emergency. Local politicians also decided at the time that the city should become climate neutral by 2035 – rather than the previously targeted one by 2050.
In 2008, the then city council decided on the so-called Integrated Action Program for Climate Protection in Munich, which for the first time was intended to bundle the activities of the city administration. In 2010 town hall politicians decided to strengthen climate protection – they provided 26 million euros, spread over three years. Meanwhile, the topic has become much more important. Since January, a separate Department for Climate and Environmental Protection (RKU) under Speaker Christine Kugler has been promoting the topic. With that, the Greens occupy an important position with which they seek to politically implement their goals from the local election campaign.
In July, the city council passed a decision in principle: according to it, Munich would be the first German city to enact a municipal climate protection law – a climate law setting out its goals. The 15-member Climate Council with representatives from politics, science, business and civil society will advise them critically and constructively. In the future, relevant proposals will also be scrutinized for their impact on the climate, before being discussed in the city council. And finally: there should be an additional budget of 100 million euros per year for climate protection – initially by 2026.
It was a declaration, especially since the financial situation devastated by the pandemic was even more bleak than it is now. “Municipalities are the main cause of greenhouse gases around the world,” said Munich’s second Mayor Katrin Habenschden (Greens) in the presentation of the package. “Whether we master the climate crisis will largely depend on the determination of cities.” Munich takes this responsibility seriously. President Christine Kugler points out that the idea of climate protection is “to be anchored in the DNA of the Munich city administration”.
Took a while, but now the climate test announced two years ago is underway. A spokesperson for RKU announced that the process had recently been submitted to other departments. Because the exam should be in the authorities concerned – that is, where the proposals for politics are drafted. “Potentially relevant to climate” resolutions remain to be investigated. This can be several hundred templates a year. The Climate Council is also making progress, even if it has been a bit difficult over the past few weeks. Since the process of appointing civil society representatives was too opaque for them, various organizations quickly took matters into their own hands. The Munich Sustainability Initiative launched an election in which 28 organizations participated. The three elected representatives and their representatives then submitted them to the RKU, and the city council accepted the suggestions.
In December, city councils will adopt more cornerstones of the climate strategy
Clara Bosch will be on the committee in the future. The 17-year-old has been active on “Fridays for the Future” since May, closely following climate policy at the town hall. She says past fundamental decisions ranging from the climate emergency to measures to be adopted in December are “certainly in the right way”. But: “We can already see that it is moving very slowly.” For example, when implementing the bike decision, the expansion of local public transport and the energy transition. In conversation with the departments of the Municipal Corporation, his fellow campaigners must have clearly seen that there is a will. “There was a paradigm shift.” A good climate policy means, above all, “speed, speed, speed.”
The Climate Council will hold its Constituent Assembly meeting on 19 November. In December, the city council will adopt more cornerstones of the climate strategy. For this, the Climate Council has to be involved for the first time. The proposals for which projects should then be implemented come from an external report that examines how the city can achieve its ambitious goals. It should be available in parts soon. Basically it should have happened by now this summer.
With the decision in December, “a major milestone would have been achieved”, says Mona Fuchs, Greens’ environmental policy coordinator, “but implementation will not come on its own”. One is now looking primarily at the coalition agreement in the federal government, as there are many variables evolving and climate neutrality in 2035 is “a great act of force that municipalities cannot manage on their own”. If nothing changes in the way the federal government and the free state funding, the ambitious goal will not be achieved.
Julia Schmidt-Thiel, spokeswoman for environmental policy for the SPD, expressed a similar opinion. The ensuing resolutions are important, but so is the question: “How do we implement this?” What is urgently needed from his point of view is a transparent overview of where the city stands in terms of climate protection. A major focus in the next package will probably be on building renovation. Mobility was the focus of urgent measures in the summer: about 91 million euros will be invested in the electrification of the bus fleet over the next five years. The package was criticized by the CSU and ODP as lacking ideas, not too ambitious, nothing new.
Climate-neutral Munich by 2035? “You’re making a fool of yourself.”
Has climate change finally reached the top of urban politics? Not everyone is sure in opposition. The chairman of the parliamentary group on the DP/Munich list, Tobias Ruff, still only sees the “Triple Steps”. A climate-neutral city administration by 2030? “Utopian” for that. Climate-neutral Munich by 2035? “You’re making a fool of yourself.” Describing the target as “dishonest” two years ago, CSU has always been skeptical of it. What is needed now, for example, is so that oil and gas owners can switch to heat pumps, says Sebastian Schall, CSU’s environmental policy spokesman. He is also expecting more from the municipal housing associations. “Wherever we have influence, we have to go full force.”
For his colleague Raf of DP, however, giving up on the 2035 target is not in question. Just like for the ruling coalition. “It’s important for us to keep it up,” says Mona Fuchs of the Greens. Otherwise, even Clara Bosch of “Friday for Future” and her fellow campaigners will complain loudly. Bosch is pleased that you can influence the Climate Council. “We will be very careful that the 2035 target is retained.” In general, limiting global warming is about every tenth of a degree. “And here we will fight for every remedy.”
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