What has happened so far: motion, petition and referendum
The beginning: the motion in 2021
Following the example of a group from Münster, which together with 30 groups and initiatives drew up a motion and then introduced it to the city council, where it received a majority and thus became a decided matter, we brought a motion for climate neutrality by 2030 to the city council in February 2021.
Together with a lot of support from different environmental, climate and social groups from Göttingen, we as GöttingenZero worked on this motion for the city council. It was brought to the city council meeting on February 12, 2021 by Dr. Francisco Welter-Schultes (Piraten) with the support of the Göttingen Linke/ALG council group. In the council meeting it was decided to refer the motion to the Committee for Environment, Climate and Mobility.
In this motion, we demanded that the City of Göttingen revises its action plan “Climate Plan Göttingen 2030” with the help of the Climate Advisory Council so that Göttingen achieves true climate neutrality by 2030. This means phasing out all fossil fuels and becoming climate neutral in all sectors (transport, buildings, economy, etc.). All emissions from the city and city-owned businesses are to be reduced. Only if a reduction is not completely possible, emissions shall be offset.
The action plan shows the jobs that are required for this, gives an overview of the finances and names the central fields of action. The emissions saved by the action plan should be comprehensible for all citizens.
In addition, we demanded monitoring, whereby a report is to be prepared. In this report, the greenhouse gas emissions of Göttingen should be recorded annually and the success of the measures should be documented every two years. In addition, we demanded an annual written statement from the mayor on the implementation of the measures.
If the administration and the city council determine that the targets are not being met, appropriate measures should be introduced to counteract this. We also demanded that the achievement of climate neutrality be taken into account in all council decisions.
Our demands of the motion:
- true climate neutrality by 2030, i.e. less and less climate-damaging gases
- in the plan of the city steps to create that
- these steps should really be taken
- everybody should be able to understand how the emissions decrease every year
- regular control of the steps
here you can download the motion in German
In response to our motion, the city council fractions drafted three further motions of their own (here the motions on German: SPD, CDU & Die Grünen/FDP/Die Partei) and introduced them on 12.02.2021. Ulrich Schwardmann has taken a closer look at these motions and has written a study on the climate policy effects of the Göttingen council motions on the Climate Plan 2030. A condensed version of the study in German can be found here.
Additional pressure from below: The citizens’ petition 2020/2021
To keep up the pressure from below after the motion was referred to the Environment Committee, we launched a citizens’ petition in December 2020. Like the motion, this called for a resolution on climate neutrality by 2030.
To ensure the success of the citizens’ petition, we had to collect signatures and advertise. A total of 9600 Göttingen citizens signed the petition demanding climate neutrality by 2030, which meant that we reached the required number of eligible voters and submitted the lists for the city council meeting on July 16, 2011.
The successful citizens’ initiative could have led to a citizens’ referendum. In a referendum, all eligible voters in Göttingen would be able to vote on whether their city should become climate-neutral by 2030. This decision would then have represented a binding mandate for the city.
Demands of the citizens’ petition
The city of Göttingen should strive to achieve the climate neutrality set as a goal in the “Climate Plan Göttingen 2030” not for the year 2050 as planned, but already for 2030 and adapt and accelerate the measures already developed for this purpose.
Climate plan Göttingen 2030
In the “Masterplan 100% Klimaschutz” (100% Climate Protection Master Plan) presented in 2014, the city of Göttingen sets a target year of 2050 for extensive climate neutrality. It is currently continuing to write this plan of measures. The so-called “Climate Plan Göttingen 2030” contains concrete measures for the next 10 years, but we have to assume that the target year for climate neutrality will still be 2050. However, we consider 2050 to be far too late to limit global warming to below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, as agreed in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
In order to fulfill our responsibility to leave the climate in an intact state for future generations, we demand that the “Climate Plan Göttingen 2030” be adapted and rewritten so that with its implementation the city of Göttingen can achieve true climate neutrality by 2030. This plan must clearly estimate the annual costs and personnel requirements for planning and implementing the measures necessary for this in the sectors of private households, commercial trade services, industry, transport, agriculture and CO2 removal in a comprehensible manner. For each year from 2018, the final energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions in these sectors are to be documented or projected, so that by 2030, with the inclusion of regional greenhouse gas sinks in a source-sink balance, greenhouse gas emissions in Göttingen are reduced to zero. To ensure that the success of the measures is regularly monitored, the adapted climate plan should also include an effective monitoring concept. The proposals for climate protection projects already developed in 2020 with the participation of citizens in the “Göttingen 2030 Climate Plan” should be explicitly included.
From our point of view, a climate-neutral Göttingen with renewable energies, sustainable building stock, fossil-free mobility and extensive green corridors increases the quality of life and the health of all citizens. The goal of climate neutrality by 2030 can only be achieved through bold action by politics, business and all of us together. If we act now, we can only win!
Thanks to 7,686 valid signatures, the council decided on our citizens’ petition submitted in July 2021. However, with a reference to the “Declaration of Intent for Climate Neutrality by 2030” (December 2021), a referendum was ultimately averted.
Missed oppotunity: the referendum 2021
Accompanied by statements such as “We – CDU and die Grünen – have adopted a really ambitious climate plan.” (die Grünen), “A long-term plan is needed for the existentially important climate protection.” (SPD) or “The climate crisis is on our doorstep and wants to be dealt with.” (CDU) a citizens referendum was averted in yesterday’s council meeting.
How can it be that climate protection is apparently given such great importance when a climate referendum is not to be held?
The council meeting on March 18, 2022 was primarily designed to discuss and adopt the 2022 budget. You can find our statement on the budget on German here. After four long, unproductive hours, a decision was made on our petition under agenda item 13. Already in January the examination of the signatures could state as result that of the delivered 9,580 signatures 7,686 are valid – the quorum for the request (7,116 signatures were needed) was thus far exceeded and after § 32 NKomVG a referendum was to be brought about!
Now, however, the Council decided with its “Declaration of Intent for Climate Neutrality by 2030” of 17.12.2021:
[“The city of Göttingen strives for the goal of climate neutrality by 2030 and initiates all necessary steps for this within the urban sphere. To this end, the ambitious strategies and measures from the Göttingen 2030 Climate Plan will be continuously implemented, expanded and adapted to changing framework conditions. The city of Göttingen supports the necessary social change in its spheres of influence as a moderator, mediator, role model and motivator. On a supra-regional level, the city advocates for significant improvements in the framework conditions for successful and necessary climate protection measures.”]
“essentially decided in the sense of the citizens’ petition” and can avert the referendum according to § 32 VII 5 NKomVG.
However, the declaration of intent from December does not address the measures listed in the justification of our petition, with which the goal of climate neutrality is to be achieved. That is to say: in particular, such important points as a concrete timetable for the measures and reliable monitoring of their effectiveness in terms of reducing emissions are not covered by the letter of intent. Nor does the budget on which a decision has now been made show that the goal of climate neutrality by 2030 is more than mere lip service. Serious aspirations cannot be found in the budget.
We had the opportunity to make a statement at the council meeting, you can find the text on German here. After the statement, an amendment was introduced by tdie Grünen to add monitoring to the December statement of intent. This amendment was approved almost unanimously, averting our decision. So now we have to close the chapter “citizens’ petition and citizens’ referendum” for the time being.
In fact, we as citizens of Göttingen, who were involved in the climate decision, could be infinitely proud of what we have achieved. Just a year ago, the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 was adhered to – this was changed to 2030. And at the last moment, monitoring has also been adopted as a target.
Nevertheless, it is important to note:
In our opinion, the budget and the negotiations in the Council do not show that it was really understood what was decided in the declaration of intent in December: Climate neutrality by 2030 actually means that from 2030 no more avoidable CO2 is to be emitted and unavoidable residual emissions are to be compensated – courageous and consistent action according to this understanding is unfortunately largely missing in the Göttingen City Council.
The point criticized above can be further strengthened by a reference to the budget: in the coming budget year, no money will be spent on investment measures that would contribute to CO2 emission reduction. Instead, the budget that is supposed to be spent on “climate protection” includes few measures that actually do so.
A citizens’ referendum could have provided broader support for the necessary policy decisions and measures for the set goal of becoming climate neutral by 2030. This option was rejected by the Council.
Our work will not stop there – we are just getting started… so if you are interested in joining us, you are always welcome!