The recent deadly flooding in Germany might affect energy and climate policy here in Minnesota.
German General Consul to the Midwest Wolfgang Moessinger visited Rochester on Monday and shared his thoughts on renewable energy, climate change, and how the flooding could affect political will to address climate change.
Although Moessinger doesn’t directly set Minnesota energy and climate policies, he works closely with people who do.
Sen. Dave Senjem, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and Sabine Engel, of the University of Minnesota, have been working on renewable energy and climate projects that partner with Germany and Moessinger to explore policies for energy transition.
That transition may get some serious acceleration in Germany, Moessinger said in a meeting with the Post Bulletin editorial board Monday.
The initiatives that Engel and Senjem are part of look at ideas and policies on both sides of the Atlantic, and see what has worked well and what needs improvement.
Energy Transition 2.0: Regional Economies & Renewable Energy in the Upper Midwest/Berlin focuses on renewable energy policies and their links to longer-term economic development. Climate-Smart Municipalities focuses on sustainable policies in cities and metro areas that embrace them.
Germany has been a leader in adopting renewable energy. However, consideration of economic impacts, especially on the agriculture and transportation sectors, have tempered some changes.
“I think this flooding will accelerate the feeling in the population in Germany that there is something seriously wrong with our climate and we have to do something about it,” Moessinger said.
Although the flood hasn’t been definitively tied to climate change, weather patterns that cause heavy downpours have increased. Moessinger described the new patterns as “weird.”
“Climate is getting weird, and we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Similarly heavy, slow-moving rain storms have increased in this area, too.
The flooding killed at least 170 people in western Europe, with most of the deaths coming from Germany. It has dominated the political talk about two months out from a national election in September.
Moessinger said even before the flooding, Germany’s Green Party, which advocates for bolder and faster changes to policies to address climate change, was polling strongly.
A Politico poll reports outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party is polling at 29%, with the Greens at 19% as of July 16.
Merkel’s party has made concessions to Germany’s transportation and agriculture sectors on fuel and carbon emission policies.
“There are lots of people who think Angela Merkel could have done more,” Moessinger said.
The Greens and their supporters are among those critics, he added, and are calling for overhauls of industries that have had to make as steep of changes as others.
“They have been very clear that they are very committed to reducing CO2 emissions from the transportation sector and agriculture,” he said.
Moessinger noted that major news has also recently shaped Germany’s energy policy. After an earthquake and tsunami triggered reactor meltdowns and radiation release at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, public opinion in Germany turned irrevocably against nuclear power.
Germany’s last nuclear energy production facilities are scheduled to shut down in 2022, he said.
What this means for Minnesota remains to be seen, but chances are Germany is about to undergo some aggressive climate and energy policy changes, and that might help show Minnesota the way forward.
John Molseed is a tree-hugging Minnesota transplant making his way through his state parks passport. This column is a space for stories of people doing their part (and more) to keep Minnesota green. Send questions, comments and suggestions to email@example.com.