Munich CSU and SPD overturn 2022 coal referendum result

‘We take the referendum result very seriously,’ said Munich SPD politician Simone Burger, shortly after helping the city to ignore that same referendum result. To be honest, it has increasingly looked likely that the city council would overturn the result to close Munich’s coal-fired power station by 2022 – according to the economic committee, because it was unfeasible to do so.

Keep going until 2028? Unlikely. (image Renardo la vulpo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heizkraftwerk_M%C3%BCnchen_Nord,_6.jpeg)

Keep going until 2028? Unlikely. (image Renardo la vulpo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heizkraftwerk_M%C3%BCnchen_Nord,_6.jpeg)

The 2017 referendum result (60.2% voted for it) (Ger) had a deadline to be acted upon by the city after one year, meaning city politicians had an easy way out of what would have been a huge challenge, say the committee, of coming up with power of equal capacity. The Federal Network Agency, a national regulator, apparently, would have provided legal support to the decision.

Green politicians are furious, of course, and dispute the committee’s finding, insisting that sufficient power could have been found by 2022. ÖDP council member Tobias Ruff is quoted in the SZ (Ger) as questioning the committee’s findings. Others questioned whether, since the referendum, there had been the will to genuinely explore the possibilities of closing the energy gap.

Dominik Krause – of the Greens – is quoted on the party’s website as describing the decision as a ‘disregard for the will of the people’ (Ger). He says a plan to take the power plant out of operation ‘and used only in emergencies’ would ‘meet the legal requirements of the Federal Network Agency’.

The reality is that the coal-fired power station will continue to be used until 2028, by when the city says renewables, including geothermal energy, will have sufficiently closed the gap. The SZ reports that ‘750,000 tons of hard coal are burned every year’, which is planned to drop to 200,000 a year by the closure year.

But there is also another reality: because of what we know about the ongoing and worsening climate emergency, it seems inconceivable that Munich will still have a coal-fired power station so far into the 2020s.

This, then, isn’t the end of the story. There will be a few more twists and turns before history closes on Munich and coal-fired energy.

SPD and Greens need to deliver on Munich cycling transformation

Munich’s lord mayor, the SPD’s Dieter Reiter (Ger), has officially (Ger) put his support behind the two cycling petitions that recently gathered an impressive 160,000 signatures in the Bavarian capital.

The proposed Altstadt ring cycle route (Image: Radentscheid München)

On 24 July the city council will meet to decide how to proceed – meaning whether to accept the two petitions pretty much as they stand or to make improvements (it seems unlikely there will be sufficient voices in the Rathaus to reject the petitions, which would lead to referendums).

Organised by Radentscheid München, a cycling pressure group, the aim is twofold: to create a cycle path around the Altstadt ring and to comprehensively improve the shoddy, wholly inadequate cycling infrastructure across the whole city.

The result of the two petitions is that Munich now has the potential to become an outstanding cycling friendly city to match the best there is.

That’s the good news. The question is whether the city is prepared to come up with a plan radical enough.

The demand from Radentscheid München, armed with those 160,000 signatures, is nothing short of the transformation Munich: ‘a city-wide, continuous and dense cycling network [that is] safe, uncomplicated and stress-free …’

It will logically mean many streets without cars, for example, and vehicle parking places removed and cycling lanes put in their place. Some of this is already happening – far too slowly, on a tiny scale and the impact is laughably minimal.

With the effects of the climate emergency becoming burningly apparent every day, the opportunity afforded by the two petitions cannot be wasted. Nothing short of a radical transformation of Munich’s entire transportation philosophy will suffice.

Guardian article  on ‘ten common myths about bike lanes - and why they’re wrong’

Guardian article on ‘ten common myths about bike lanes - and why they’re wrong’

Car drivers are not going to leave their vehicles at home, share cars, do without cars altogether (as many will have to in the very near future) without world-class transport infrastructure. Or without political support and action.

The conservative CSU has shown it cannot be relied on when it comes to the environment; it is down to Reiter’s SPD and the Greens in the Munich Rathaus. The petitions demonstrate that they have good public support. They now need to deliver.

 

 

 

Munich's historic old city petition hits target for referendum

Graphic showing the current challenge riders have in cycling around Munich’s historic Altstadt (Image: Radentscheid München)

Cycling pressure group Radentscheid München today announced that the first of two June citizens’ petitions had gathered the necessary number of signatures, in a quick-fire three months. Münchners still have another week to sign the Altstadt-Radlring petition before it closes.

The petition, which runs alongside the more ambitious petition for a comprehensive and safer cycle infrastructure across Munich, aims to push the city council into creating a good-quality cycle path around the Altstadt, the historic inner city. In a press release, Sonja Haider, a Radentscheid’s spokesperson,  stressed that the ‘Altstadt-Radlring was only the first stage. Now we need a city-wide massive improvement for cycling, especially safe cycle paths for all road users.’

Both petitions close on 30 June and they will be celebrated by a major demonstration entitled Radl-Ringdemo that will see perhaps thousands of cyclists descend on the city to show their support.

See the official website for more information, including how to sign and also to join the demo (11-2 o’clock at Theresienwiese – see map below). 

 

Munich also needs to declare a climate emergency – now

The Brexit-dogged British parliament pulled itself together this week to became the first to announce an ‘environment and climate emergency’. It is now incumbent on other countries’ parliaments to follow the UK lead, thereby, building on the momentum created by Greta Thumberg, FridaysForFuture and the growing Extinction Rebellion protests that so impressed in London recently.   

Yesterday, Konstanz became the first German city to declare a climate emergency. But what about Munich? The Bavarian capital likes to promote itself as green city, extolling its own green energy plans, cycle network and other sustainable initiatives. To varying degrees, some of this is true. And Munich has already declared that it will be climate neutral by 2050.

But the hugely damaging effects of climate change demands further words, further action. Munich needs to follow in the welcome footsteps of Konstanz and unequivocally declare an environment and climate emergency.

Why?

It would place the city firmly on the right side of history. And it would proudly and publicly position itself alongside the growing bandwagon of people, cities and (hopefully) parliaments in recognising that some kind of radical transformation of the way we live is required.

 The cleverest cities, the ones that back it up with meaningful and early action, such as Copenhagen, will be the ones that benefit quickest. And this will be felt not just economically, but also in the health and wellbeing of their citizens.

 

Munich Green

Over the coming months, I will be writing blogs focusing on green issues, sustainability and a few other similar topics relating to Munich, whether citizens’ initiatives, new innovations or efforts by the city council.

If you think there is anything I have missed or should cover, please just let me know: info@paul-wheatley.eu

Bavarian television records young FridaysForFuture activists at Munich’s Marienplatz

Bavarian television records young FridaysForFuture activists at Munich’s Marienplatz