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Berlin vote could turbocharge German capital’s climate plans

AP – Voters in Berlin go to the polls this weekend to decide on a proposal that would force the city government to drastically ramp up the German capital’s climate goals.

Today’s referendum, which has attracted considerable financial support from United States (US)-based philanthropists, calls for Berlin to become climate neutral by 2030, meaning that within less than eight years the city would not be allowed to contribute further to global warming. An existing law sets the deadline for achieving that goal at 2045, which is also Germany’s national target.

The centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which won a recent local election in the capital and is likely to lead its new government, opposes the earlier target but would be bound to implement it if the referendum passes.

A spokesperson for the grassroots group that initiated the vote Jessamine Davis said Berlin’s current target isn’t in line with the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with the pre-industrial average. “This is a very ambitious target, we’re clear about that. And it won’t be easy,” she said of the plan to cut almost all emissions by 2030. “But the climate crisis is an even bigger challenge.”

Davis pointed to the flood disaster in western Germany two years ago that killed more than 180 people and caused tens of billions of euros in economic damage.

Traffic along Bismarkstrasse street in the direction of the city centre of Berlin, Germany. PHOTO: AP

Scientists say such disasters could become more likely as the planet warms.

By contrast, redesigning Berlin’s city-wide heating network so it becomes carbon neutral is estimated to cost EUR4 billion, she said.

Polls show Berliners are narrowly in favour of the proposal, but the law also requires that it win the support of at least 25 per cent of the city’s 2.4 million eligible voters to pass – something that could be harder to achieve on a day when no elections or other votes are taking place.

To draw attention to the referendum, Davis’ group has conducted a large-scale advertising campaign, helped by donations of almost EUR1.2 million.

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