From physics student to “Climate Chancellor”:  Angela Merkel and climate change 

How did Angela Merkel try to change the world?

Angela Merkel, born in 1954 in East Germany, started to study Physics in 1973 at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig and now she is known as the “Climate Chancellor”. 

After five years at the University of Leipzig, she became a researcher at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry at the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, and got her doctorate in 1986.   She entered the political world only in 1989, starting from the Christian-Democratic Union party (CDU) under the leadership of then Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Always interested in climate change issues, using her scientific knowledge too, in 1995, as the Federal Environment Minister, she presided over the first UN conference about climate in Berlin, immediately fighting in order to reduce CO2 emissions starting from Germany. Defined then by journalists and intellectuals as “one of too few high-profile women having a say in the climate change arena”, she affirmed: “I have been fighting for climate action for over ten years now and I consider it to be a tough struggle” when asked in an interview in 2007- two years after being elected chancellor of Germany- a few days before hosting the World Economic Summit of the G8 industrialised countries. And on this occasion, ready and determined to fight for the Planet, she persuades G8 leaders to accept the science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and gets them to agree to the necessity of binding CO2 reduction targets. From here the title of  “Klimakanzlerin”, that means, in fact, “Climate Chancellor”. 

But what did Angela Merkel really do for climate change issues?   In 2009 during tre Copenhagen UN Climate Conference she tried to convince other countries to agree to cut 25% of CO2 by 2020 but unfortunately failed. “We all need to help each other, and we all have to be willing to change the way we live.” she said at the time. But she did not give up, as she remarked in her speech on 6th May 2021: “I launched it [The Petersberg Climate Dialogue] in 2010 after the failure of the Copenhagen conference the previous year.” The Dialogue has been, since then, held annually and the Chancellor has always given her speech and her whole attention to it. 

  Then: “There is no doubt that she personally helped to advance international climate action at critical moments, despite multiple challenges,” asserted Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate Chief. Figueres on 28th May 2015 tweeted: “Thanks Chancellor Merkel for pledge to double #climatefinance from 2 to 4 bil € by 2020, through various channels”, since, for instance, the Chancellor pointed out the intention of her country to double the contribution to climate finance compared with 2014 levels. In that same year, in fact, her engagement has been one of the main and most important and influencing  pieces that made the French UN Climate Change successful.

Another failure arrives in 2018, when, despite her words about bigger and more important global climate actions at the PCD, there seems to be a lack of action in Germany itself.     After that the Chancellor installs the “climate cabinet” and ensures climate action legislation before the end of the year. Germany worked on the CO2  pricing  project, and still works on that nowadays: “ I believe carbon pricing to be a particularly suitable steering instrument. The EU emissions trading system has shown that this works in the field of energy. It thus makes sense to expand it to other sectors such as heating and transport. In Germany, we have already done precisely this. 

She supported students’ manifestations, she worked hard and always more in order to achieve her goals. And when in 2020 the world situation got even more difficult, being the “biggest challenge in the history of Europe” as she herself affirmed, Chancellor Merkel emphasised that the recovery plans should have been used for climate actions as well- and especially for them. She did not give up. Even in such a complicated situation she fought for climate change, dealing ottimily with the crisis the whole world was living in . Some EU officials and diplomats said they could not imagine how the EU would have managed if any other country or national leader had held the presidency in the second half of this year — and that the challenges the German presidency faced were the policy equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, writes Politico.

Will Angela Merkel succeed in changing the world?


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