terça-feira, 16 de outubro de 2018

Theresa May faces frantic 48 hours to save Brexit plan as talks stall

Theresa May faces frantic 48 hours to save Brexit plan as talks stall

PM to seek cabinet support before calling on EU leaders to drop backstop proposal

Dan Sabbagh, Pippa Crerar and Daniel Boffey
Mon 15 Oct 2018 23.50 BST First published on Mon 15 Oct 2018 20.42 BST

Theresa May faces a frantic 48 hours to try to save her Brexit negotiating strategy after she admitted talks had ground to a halt because of the EU’s insistence upon a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

The prime minister is expected to plead with EU leaders to drop their Irish backstop proposal at a make-or-break summit dinner on Wednesday night after seeking the support of members of her cabinet on Tuesday morning.

With time running out before Wednesday’s meeting, May used an emergency Commons statement to say the EU’s plan “threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom” because it could lead to the creation of a customs border in the Irish Sea.

She told an audience of largely sceptical MPs that the EU had stuck to its backstop proposal because Michel Barnier’s negotiating team had told her there was not time to evaluate a British UK-wide counter-proposal “in the next few weeks”.

The prime minister was due to speak to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Monday night as she tries to lobby EU leaders to change their minds. May has already also spoken to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, in recent days, according to No 10.

A group of eight Brexiter ministers met on Monday night at a meeting dubbed the “pizza summit”, organised by Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the house, to discuss May’s strategy before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, amid separate concerns from the Tory right that May’s all-UK backstop plan needed to be clearly time limited.

The strength of the turnout – including the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove – is likely to concern Downing Street. They are understood to have aired concerns about May’s negotiating strategy, although one of those present said no strategy for the cabinet meeting was agreed.

Friends of another one of those attending, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said she was remaining loyal to the prime minister for now. Others present included the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, and the chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss.

EU leaders acknowledged that the Brexit talks had hit a roadblock, although some insisted the problems could still be overcome. Donald Tusk, the EU council president, said a no-deal scenario was “more likely than ever before”.

Merkel said: “We were actually pretty hopeful that we would manage to seal an exit agreement … at the moment, it looks a bit more difficult again”. Speaking to the German Foreign Trade Federation, she said a breakthrough was still possible but would need “quite a bit of finesse and if we aren’t successful this week, we’ll just have to keep negotiating”.

The cautiously optimistic tone was further echoed by Macron, who had demanded “maximum progress” by the time of this week’s leaders’ summit to allow an extraordinary Brexit summit to be called in mid-November. “I believe in our collective intelligence, so I think we can make progress,” he said.

A backstop is required to ensure that there is no hard border in Ireland if a comprehensive free trade deal cannot be signed before the end of 2020. The EU plan would mean that Northern Ireland would remain in the single market and the customs union, prompting fierce objections from Tory hard Brexiters and the Democratic Unionist party, which props up her government.

That prompted May to propose a country-wide alternative in which the whole UK would remain in the parts of the customs union after Brexit, but she admitted in the Commons that, despite months of talks, her counter-proposal had not been accepted.

“The EU still requires a ‘backstop to the backstop’ – effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy. And they want this to be the Northern Ireland-only solution that they had previously proposed,” May told MPs on Monday.

Raising the stakes, the prime minister insisted that the EU’s insistence amounted to a threat to the constitution of the UK: “We have been clear that we cannot agree to anything that threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom,” she added.

The prime minister insisted that she was demanding of the EU that the UK backstop was time limited: “I need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say this backstop is a temporary solution.”

May had gone to the Commons to clarify the status of the Brexit negotiations a day after a deal had been thought to be close. The Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, was dispatched to Brussels on Sunday afternoon, only to return empty-handed with No 10 warning that the talks had reached an impasse.

Few MPs in the Commons spoke in support of May. Tory Brexiters, led by former cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith, repeatedly pressed her to confirm there would be a specific end date for the temporary backstop plans.

The prime minister avoided answering the question, telling MPs: “I continue to believe that we should be working to ensure that the backstop never does come into place.”

Simon Clarke, the Conservative Brexiter MP for Middlesbrough South, told her she had “failed to reassure the house”.

The prime minister also came under pressure from the remain wing of her party. The former home secretary Amber Rudd urged her to deliver a Brexit that also worked for the 48% who voted to remain and the former education secretary Nicky Morgan warned may there was no majority for no deal in the Commons and that MPs would have to “step in” if she failed to get one.

May highlighted a concession she had already made on the EU withdrawal bill, telling MPs: “If it were the case that at the end of the negotiation process actually it as a no deal … then that would come back to this house and then we would see what position this house would take in the circumstances”.

About 15 MPs, including four Conservatives, used the debate to urge May to reconsider holding a second referendum. Former cabinet minister Dominic Grieve, who has led previous rebellions against the prime minister’s plans, said he would not back the transition period, which he described as a “condition of vassalage”, unless there was another vote.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, pressed May to reiterate the UK would leave the EU “together with no part hived off either in the single market or customs union differences”.

Dodds was visibly unhappy with May’s answer, shaking his head when she replied in general terms: “We will be leaving the European Union together.”

Jeremy Corbyn urged May to “put the country before her party” and stand up to the “reckless voices” on the Tory benches. “It is clear that the prime minister’s failure to stand up to the warring factions of her own side have led to this impasse.”

6 Things You Can Do to Avoid Climate Catastrophe

6 Things You Can Do to Avoid Climate Catastrophe

Deutsche Welle
Oct. 11, 2018 11:29AM EST
Ken Fager / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
6 Things You Can Do to Avoid Climate Catastrophe
By Katharina Wecker

We've already warmed the world about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times—with disastrous effects. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, species are going extinct and extreme weather is on the increase.

A new report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals what life on Earth would look like if temperatures were to rise another 0.5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also paints a picture of what a 2-degree warmer world would look like.

In the report, more than 90 scientists from 40 countries agree that it's still possible to remain under 1.5 degrees of global warming—at least technologically—and outlined what we must do to make that happen. However, a lot of political will be required.

But there are also things that normal people can do to avoid climate catastrophe. Here are six concrete ways you can take action on climate change.

1. Change Your Energy Provider
The majority of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere come from burning coal, oil and natural gas.

In Germany, brown coal (or lignite) is responsible for a fifth of the country's CO2 emissions.

So a major step toward reducing greenhouse gases is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energies.

In many countries, you can pick your energy provider. Consider switching to one that provides energy from renewables like wind, solar, hydropower or sustainable bioenergy—check to make sure the energy company and renewable sources are independently certified.

2. Eat Less Meat
What ends up on your plate makes another big difference.

In a 2013 report, the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) found that 14.5 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions came from the livestock sector.

That is more than all cars, ships, planes and other forms of transport throughout the world combined. Of those emissions, 41 percent are caused by beef production; milk production makes up another 19 percent.

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single simplest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, suggested a study released this year in the journal Science.

Getting your protein from beef instead of plants produces at least six times more greenhouse gases and uses 36 times more land.

The study also revealed the importance of how the food is produced. For example, beef raised on deforested land results in 12 times more greenhouse gases than those grazing on existing pasture.

So if you do eat meat, get it from local organic farms if possible.

3. Waste Less Food
Agriculture accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, but about a third of all food grown on this planet never actually gets eaten.

Of course, not all of this goes into the waste bin—the European Parliament reckons about half of EU food waste takes place at home, the rest is lost along the supply chain or never harvested from the fields—but home is a simple starting point.

Food waste translates into a carbon footprint of a whopping 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to the United Nations—amounting to more than India's annual emissions.

An easy solution: Buy less and make sure eat it all.

4. Take a Train Instead of Flying
Flying harms the climate in several ways.

Many estimates put aviation's share of global CO2 emissions at just above 2 percent—but other aviation emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), water vapor, particulates, contrails and cirrus changes contribute to additional warming effects.
Cut out a single roundtrip and you could save anywhere from 700 to 2,800 kilograms of CO2, depending on the distance traveled, fuel efficiency of the aircraft and weather conditions.

To put that into perspective: According to Eurostat, the average European emits about 900 kilograms of CO2 per year.

If you do fly, consider offsetting your carbon emissions—through a reliable, certified offsetting scheme.

5. Just Consume Less
Natural resources are limited.

We deplete local resource stocks through overfishing and overharvesting forests, and harm the climate by emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than ecosystems can absorb.

Most countries use more natural resources than the planet can regenerate within a year. In Germany, we would need 1.7 planets per year to support our consumption levels as they are today.

But not all countries are equally to blame for overshooting our natural budget. Higher-income countries use far more resources per year than lower-income countries.

Worldwide, fossil fuels are the main culprit of our resource overshoot—and responsible for high CO2 emissions. In order to live within the means of our planet, we need to radically rethink our consumption patterns.

Do you really need that new smartphone, or discounted dress?

Reducing our environmental footprint means buying fewer products, buying products that last longer, recycling whenever possible and—best of all—reusing as much as we can. Circular economy, baby!

6. Take Collective Action
Many believe the most important thing individuals can do is form groups and take collective action. Bill McKibben, a veteran climate activist and a leading voice for civil society movements to protect the planet, is very vocal on this point.

While individual actions like changing behavior feed into the bigger fight against global warming, that's no longer enough considering how climate change has taken on such worrying dimensions, McKibben says.

So to really make a difference, people should join together with others in movements that are big and broad enough to actually change government policy.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.

domingo, 14 de outubro de 2018

“Aprés nous le Déluge!”

“Aprés nous le Déluge!”

Em nome do PIB Costa está disposto a vender, a prostituir e a alienar os habitantes, a destruir todo o tecido social e a identidade local e nacional.

13 de Outubro de 2018, 6:14

“Se o vento tivesse soprado de Oeste tinha ardido a serra toda”. Foi esta a conclusão com que fomos ‘consolados’ após a catástrofe de Sintra. Foi um milagre! Afirmou o Presidente, e com esta conclusão pertencente à melhor tradição Lusa, da ‘gestão’ da fatalidade e do imponderável, neutralizámos assim o facto de que os governantes, perante o desafio, pareciam umas ‘baratas tontas’ e andaram atarantados, atrás dos acontecimentos.

O problema, tal como um pertinente artigo posterior do PÚBLICO provou, é que Bruxelas tinha avisado antecipadamente dos perigos e da urgência de um planeamento estratégico, e de uma nova atitude explícita de antecipação ao facto de a Península Ibérica ser uma das zonas mais expostas ao aquecimento global/ alterações climáticas.

Mas tanto na gestão da floresta como na gestão futura do transporte ferroviário, a incompetência e a ausência total de uma visão ou estratégia para o futuro é grave e confrangedora. Espera. Não. É mais do que isso. Perante as consequências, é criminosa.

Sim, porque no caso do transporte ferroviário, Portugal falhou os fundos disponíveis de Bruxelas para investimento, simplesmente porque se não candidatou.

Mas o que tem isto dos comboios a ver com o aquecimento global, perguntará o leitor ...

Tem tudo a ver, pois Portugal não está ligado ao corredor Ibérico da alta velocidade que constitui uma das únicas alternativas ao altamente poluidor transporte rodoviário e aéreo.

Ora, isto da democratização da mobilidade é complicado. Especialmente na era do turismo de massas. É complicado na sua relação com o impacto ambiental e pegada de carbono. Em 2015, data da assinatura do Acordo de Paris o número de voos comerciais foi de 34 milhões. Em 2018 esse número já vai em 39 milhões. E, claro a tendência é para duplicar estes números até 2030.

O número de chegadas turísticas na Europa em 2015, data da assinatura do Acordo de Paris, foi de 605,1 milhões. Em 2017 já foi 670,6. 2018 já apresenta um crescimento de 7% em relação ao ano passado.

Ora, nós sabemos através da esgrima de artigos de opinião que se sucedem no debate dos benifícios e malifícios do turismo, que este tema está fortemente presente na opinião pública e merece forte atenção de vários ‘lobbies’.

“O problema na habitação não é culpa do turismo”. Correram a afirmar sucessivamente Costa, Medina e Marcelo. Isto imediatamente confirmado pela ALEP e pelo poderoso lobby do Alojamento Local.

Tanto mais que a colaboração entre a ALEP, a AIRBNB e afins está assegurada, pois eles ‘ajudam’ no registo e controle do fenómeno. Desde o início, Medina elegeu-os como cúmplices e colaboradores com a mesma tranquilidade e naturalidade como se elege a raposa como principal guardiã da capoeira.

Quando foram anunciadas, finalmente, tímidas medidas de controle nas principais freguesias do centro, sem se consultarem as mesmas freguesias, assistiu-se a uma corrida desenfreada aos novos registos que são já da ordem dos milhares.

Tudo isto ilustra a total dependência de Costa, mago geringonço no seu jogo das três panelas e duas tampas, das receitas turísticas. Para isso e em nome do PIB ele está disposto a vender, a prostituir e a alienar os habitantes, a destruir todo o tecido social e a identidade local e nacional.

Só para dar um pequeno contra-exemplo. Em Amesterdão, a coligação de partidos que governam o municipal decidiu em reunião e por unanimidade retirar de imediato (10 de Outubro) os famosos signos de letras gigantescas IAMSTERDAM que se encontravam em sítios estratégicos e muito apreciados pelos turistas.

A medida foi justificada como um acto simbólico de abertura de um novo período onde a cidade vai deixar de promover o Turismo e a disneyficação da cidade. Para isso fechou o Bureau de marketing de Turismo.

Amsterdam quer reencontrar a sua “alma” e o municipal quer explicitamente deixar de investir no “Big Money” e dirigir toda a sua atenção aos verdadeiros habitantes de Amesterdão, e estes não são os turistas, foi dito abertamente.

E agora a última pergunta. Com o novo relatório do IPCC que anuncia que a urgente e incontornável fronteira/ limite são os 1,5 graus para o planeta e o tempo limite são de 12 anos para radicalmente inverter o processo do Apocalipse, que pensam Costa, Medina e Marcelo sobre este assunto e o papel da mobilidade incontrolada e o turismo de massas, neste desafio definitivo.

É que segundo as estimativas a Península Ibérica vai transformar-se num imenso deserto inabitável. Assim foi salvo o PIB e o outro problema dos habitantes também foi resolvido.

Simplesmente, deixaram de existir!


What Went Wrong for Bavarian Conservatives? / Bavarian voters rattle Berlin politics

CSU in Crisis
What Went Wrong for Bavarian Conservatives?
For decades, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria has exerted outsized influence on Germany's national political stage. With state elections approaching on Sunday, however, the CSU finds itself embroiled in crisis. What went wrong?

 © Maurice Weiss           By Markus Feldenkirchen
A pin on a Bavarian hat depicting Franz Josef Strauss.
imago / Sebastian Widmann
A pin on a Bavarian hat depicting Franz Josef Strauss.

 October 10, 2018  05:22 PM Print

The mausoleum of Franz Josef Strauss lies at the back of the cemetery, in the shadow of the monastery chapel in Rott am Inn, a tiny village just southeast of Munich. Visitors have to climb a couple of steps to reach the spot where Bavaria's modern-day father has been laid to rest. He is an almost mythical figure for the state -- and even more important for the state's most important political party, the Christian Social Union. Indeed, current CSU éminence grise Peter Gauweiler says of the spot: "It is where our heart is buried."

Cobwebs cling to the dark corners of the room before the alcove where Strauss and his wife Marianne are interred. In the corner is a dehumidifier that looks as though it may have been there since Strauss' death on Oct. 3, 1988. The floor could use a sweep.

A couple of days earlier, "Dr. h.c. Franz Josef Strauß," as the concrete inscription reads, would have turned 103. Two wreathes with ribbons lay in front of the crypt in early September, one of them from the "state capital of Munich" and another with the dedication: "In love, your children." No wreath arrived for his birthday from the CSU itself.

An elderly couple enters the mausoleum. They used to know Strauss personally, back when he lived in Rott am Inn. Indeed, he and Marianne were married right here in the monastery chapel. The couple stands silently before the grave, their heads bowed and hands folded in front of them. "Thank God that he didn't have to live through all this," says the man once they have exited the mausoleum.

The CSU is going through a rough patch. Suddenly, a disaster that Strauss never would have thought possible has become quite likely: a plunge below 40 percent when Bavarian voters go to the polls on Oct. 14. Current public opinion surveys have the CSU at around 33 percent. For a party that has spent decades -- minus a brief interlude 10 years ago -- ruling with an absolute majority in the state, 33 percent is a catastrophe. It is comparable to FC Bayern coming in last in the Bundesliga and being relegated to the second league.

Nothing, in other words, is like it used to be, resulting in a party that has become deeply insecure. And that insecurity has frequently expressed itself in abnormal behavior, particularly from party head Horst Seehofer, the drama queen of the CSU. The party has realized that after years of omnipotence, it is losing its absolute grip on power in the state. But it doesn't yet understand what went wrong or how.

It is impossible to write a story about the CSU in 2018 without it turning into a tragedy. The party grew to become the strongest and most idiosyncratic political movement in the country, but now it is becoming apparent that even the success of the Christian Social Union is finite. The causes for that are myriad, and they go far beyond the peculiarities of Seehofer.

Not all of the blame lies with the party itself, though much of it does. It managed to change the state so dramatically that even the CSU no longer quite feels at home in Bavaria.


"Adelgundis, where is Strauss' watch?," Wilfried Scharnagl calls out.

"Upstairs," she calls back.

"Could you please bring it?"

A few minutes later, Ms. Scharnagl appears in the dining room with the watch and sets it on the table in front of him. Scharnagl, 79, looks at it rapturously.

For 24 years, he was editor-in-chief of the CSU party newspaper Bayernkurier and Strauss himself used to say: "What I think, Scharnagl writes." Scharnagl picks up the watch that Strauss wore so often, a silver Omega Speedmaster Professional. After Strauss' death, his children presented it to Scharnagl for his birthday.

Scharnagl tears up. "I always have to fight against the emotion. There is this deep sadness," he says. "I still haven't gotten over the loss, after 30 years."

One reason that Strauss is still so deeply loved in Bavaria is because he did more than almost anyone else to transform Bavaria from a poor, agrarian state where nearly half the people worked in farming after World War II into the industrial powerhouse it is today. It was once Germany's poorest state. Today, it is the wealthiest.

Dozens of crucifixes of all different kinds hang on the walls of the Scharnagls' dining room. Behind him sit two neatly dressed dolls on a chair. It is as though time has stood still.

"The development of my party makes me sad," Scharnagl says. He speaks slowly and quietly. He has had a difficult couple of years involving broken bones and a stroke. "The CSU is a huge part of my life." Even now, he still makes his way to party leadership committee meetings.

'Completely Absurd'

When he looks at how successful the state has been, the official statistics, the economic growth and the unemployment rate of just 2.8 percent. When he sees how beautiful and attractive Bavaria is, so attractive that everyone wants to move there. When he sees all that, he can't believe that his beloved CSU currently finds itself in the deepest crisis in its history. "It is completely absurd," he says.

Scharnagl has gone through a lot with his party, including donation scandals, corruption scandals and the shockingly low 43.4 percent result it obtained in 2008 -- its lowest ever -- which forced it into a coalition for the first time in 40 years. "But a result in the 30s? That is inconceivable." He shakes his head.

"How can it be that the CSU isn't in better shape given the fantastic current conditions? How can it be that our survey numbers are so grotesque? I don't get it. I don't understand people."

Like many in the party's leadership, Scharnagl is frustrated by what he sees as the ingratitude of Bavarian voters. And he also hasa problem with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Even though she is head of the Christian Democratic Union, nominally the CSU's big sister on the national stage, many CSU leaders believe she is primarily to blame for their party's misery. Horst Seehofer, Scharnagl says, was right when he said the migration question was the mother of all political problems. "But Merkel doesn't get it. And she never will," Scharnagl says. "Ms. Merkel is a disaster. She is a disaster for German conservatives."

Unfortunately, he continues, the CSU has become "an obedient party." It doesn't have the courage, he says, to risk a break with its sister party. "There needs to be a confrontation but there isn't one. It is grotesque how Merkel and Seehofer always grit their teeth and reach an agreement." Scharnagl has no idea what to do. In fact, nobody knows how to escape the current dilemma. Nobody.


That dilemma is not immediately apparent if you take a drive through small-town Bavaria. The quaint villages and onion-domed churches look just as bucolic as they always have. But recently, the pollsters at Forschungsgruppe Wahlen took a closer look at the views of Bavarian voters on issues from foreigner integration to renewable energies, from childcare to equal rights for gays and lesbians. What they found is that traditional positions no longer receive majority support on any single issue.

The phenomenon of changing societal values is continuing apace in Bavaria as well -- secularization, individualization, egocentrism and differentiation. The Bavarian populace is much more modern, much more German than the CSU would like to believe.

In 1945, the first time that the Bavarian governor was a member of the CSU, the state had a population of 8 million people. Today, it is 13 million. People have moved to Bavaria from across Germany, attracted by the prospect of work and prosperity -- and not necessarily because of any particular affinity for the CSU. The party, in other words, is something of a victim of its own success.

The conditions have become more difficult, says current Bavarian Governor Markus Söder during an interview about the development of his party. "Economic success has attracted many people who aren't particularly familiar with the Bavarian myth." He recalls the former location of CSU party headquarters on Nymphenburger Strasse in a middle-class neighborhood in the heart of the city. Today, it can be found on Mies-van-der-Rohe-Strasse. Even the name itself, Söder says, tells you a lot. Sure, the Bavarian governor allows, Mies-van-der-Rohe was an internationally respected architect. But, he adds, "the entire district is cosmopolitan. Employees of global companies work here. They are people who have worked in Berlin, London or the United States. You can't assume that they have an understanding for what makes Bavaria special, the Bavaria gene."

'Increasingly Radical'

All of Europe has changed, Söder says. Bavaria cannot simply isolate itself from international trends. Even when Strauss was still around, he says, the CSU was rarely more than 10 percent higher than the average support received by conservatives nationwide. "Name me one country in Europe that has seen the stability that Bavaria has."

He lists off a number of reasons for the party's current struggles, none of which have anything to do with him -- even though he happens to be the CSU's lead candidate in this Sunday's vote, and goes into some detail when talking about the changes caused by the internet and technological advancements. The physical presence of the CSU, the analog element of the party, he says, is still intact. The difference is that there is now a digital element as well. "Digitalization has naturally led to changes in democracy. Echo chambers and filter bubbles have developed that reaffirm themselves emotionally with fake news. Over the long term, they will become increasingly radical."

In contrast to the analog world, the digital world is more difficult to shape and steer. That has led to a loss of control that has presented huge hurdles to Söder's party. As such, it is fair to say the CSU is one of the losers of technological advancement.

"Unfortunately, digitalization has led to distorted perceptions," Söder says. "It is a paradox that on the one hand, we are better off than ever before, while on the other, we are more divided than we have ever been. There needs to be an anchor, a direction, a compass. That is what the governor has to provide." His goal is to achieve the best possible result for his party despite the difficult conditions.


It's a sunny morning in September and the CSU is hosting a Sunday get-together at the Ebersberger Alm, an inn just east of Munich. Somebody has installed the party's powder-blue letters in the meadow out front -- and it all looks so harmonious, as though everything belongs together. Almost as if it wasn't God that created this beautiful natural setting but the CSU itself.

Sometimes, the party is still able to stage this wonderful symbiosis between the landscape and the party, the fusion of attractive mountains with less attractive politicians. "Upper Bavaria is beautiful. Bavaria is beautiful," calls out to those who have turned up for the event. "There is no more beautiful place in the world." It is somehow fascinating how he can say such a thing without even a trace of irony.

The inn is packed with guests, many of the women are wearing dirndls while the men are dressed in traditional Bavarian jackets. But the tables are loaded down with more coffee cups and water glasses than beer mugs. That, too, is a break with the past.

Söder speaks of the "great personalities" who have led the state of Bavaria in the past. He speaks of Strauss and of Edmund Stoiber, who governed the state from 1993 to 2007. And, of course, he talks about himself as well. This CSU gene has apparently been passed down, he says. "Just like Coca-Cola, we have a secret formula that only the bosses know. The CSU gene." He doesn't mention the name Seehofer. Not even once.

The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 41/2018 (October 6th, 2018) of DER SPIEGEL.
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When guests get the opportunity to ask questions later, they aren't particularly interested in the Bavarian governor's genes. A man wearing a tradition Bavarian hat stands up. "We met at the pub yesterday and Alois had an idea for how to fix the apartment shortage," he says. "It wasn't bad." The reason for the shortage, the man continues, is primarily because of the large companies that have moved to the region, bringing their own people and driving up prices. "When a large company comes and hires 1,000 people then it should be required to build apartments for at least 500 people. I think the idea is pretty good." The man's proposal is met with loud applause. But he doesn't get a particularly satisfactory answer from Söder.

Political Decisions

The next to ask a question is a mother of two. She wants to know how Söder plans to improve daycare options. "In elementary schools, classes are often over by 11:30. For parents, that is really difficult."

In Bavaria, many police officers, nurses and commuter train drivers can no longer afford to live in many cities -- places that would no longer function without the work they do. It's a problem not just in Munich, but also in smaller Bavarian cities like Bamberg, Nuremberg and Erlangen.

None of this happened overnight. It, too, is the result of political decisions -- or, to be more precise, a lack of political decisions. "Such a thing would never have happened under the watch of Franz Josef Strauss," says Peter Siebenmorgen, the author of the most authoritative Strauss biography available. "He would have launched a gigantic apartment construction program 10 years ago."

The CSU has also been claiming for years that it is improving the state's IT infrastructure. Indeed, the German transportation minister, who is responsible for IT infrastructure across the country, is a CSU member. And yet, there are still huge swaths of Bavaria where you still can't get adequate mobile phone reception.

Siebenmorgen says there have been two grand promises, two guiding principles in the history of the CSU. "Conservative means to march side-by-side with progress," that was Strauss' credo. Edmund Stoiber, for his part, was fond of the motto "laptop and lederhosen," the pairing of the modern and the traditional. That motto, though, is now 20 years old. Since then, Bavaria has been waiting for the next courageous policy proposal that everyone in the state might benefit from.

Part 2: Losing Touch with the Electorate

When the event in Ebersberg comes to an end, Edmund Stoiber strides across the terrace, water glass in hand. He is wearing a white-and-blue plaid shirt beneath a Bavarian jacket, but he still fits better with a laptop than he ever did to lederhosen. The guests treat him with no shortage of respect. "Grüss Gott, Mr. Governor," they say in greeting. Stoiber is still the party's honorary chair and he embodies the grand, omnipotent past of the CSU more than any other living member.

He orders a plate of smoked fish on salad. "Oh yeah, and I'd like a water," he adds, before noticing that he is already holding one in his hand. "Err, actually I've already got one."

Stoiber says he has an anecdote he wants to share, one which helps understand why the CSU exerts so much power on the national stage. He speaks of the coalition negotiations in 1983 when the CDU, the CSU and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), who were still the kingmakers of German politics back then, were trying to form a government. Stoiber accompanied Strauss to Bonn, Germany's capital at the time, for the talks. Right at the beginning, Strauss had come up with all kinds of special demands, a slew of projects that would primarily, if not exclusively, benefit Bavaria. Finally, the CDU governor of Lower Saxony, Ernst Albrecht, pounded the table in anger, protesting that a single state couldn't keep making demands. He had a few things he wanted for his state as well, Albrecht said. "Well, Mr. Albrecht," Strauss responded drily, "then you'll have to found your own party as well."

Even today, Stoiber loves telling the story and laughs out loud. "That's it! That's the difference. That independence!"

And it's true: Without it, the CSU would never have become what it is today. It enables the party to repeatedly push through Bavaria-friendly policies on the national stage, even if the rest of the country isn't interested. It is the only party in the country that is able to do so.

Stoiber's voice becomes quiet, almost secretive as he leans in deeply over his plate. "The church is here in Munich," he murmurs. "The headquarters. It's not in Berlin. We make the decisions here." It is, he continues, a bit of historical luck that the CSU was founded in 1945 and the establishment of the CDU came later. That meant, Stoiber says, that the party's independence could no longer be taken from it, despite all of the attempts that have been made over the decades, starting with Konrad Adenauer, Germany's first postwar chancellor and a founding member of the CDU.

"It is a structural advantage that can be taken advantage of without having to be particularly intelligent," says Passau-based political scientist Heinrich Oberreuter, who has been a member of the CSU for 50 years and knows the party inside out. "But it is possible to make a mess of it if the quality of our political leaders continues to erode."

Strauss and Stoiber were adept at using Bavaria's privileged position. The former brought industry to Bavaria while the latter brought in the high-tech companies. A booming economy resulted, along with microscopic unemployment rates. But the price for the rapid development can be seen both in the cost of living and in the impersonal ring of suburbs surrounding Munich, where it is difficult to tell if you are in Unterhaching, Unterföhring or Unterschleissheim. The glass-concrete office buildings all look the same.

In a way, those buildings are symbolic of the CSU's current situation. The party has modernized many parts of the state and welcomed globalization with open arms. But at the same time, it has become colder and less personable. A victim of its own success.


One man who experienced that lack of warmth first hand is Reinhard Kremmling. He has hauled out a large white binder labeled "CSU local chapter" and placed it on the garden table, right next to the bowl of veal sausages. For almost 10 years, he led the local CSU chapter in the municipality of Görisried, population 1,300. His binder tells the story of his relationship with the CSU -- a story of alienation.

Kremmling is a friendly 65-year-old in cowhide clogs. He and his wife run a hair salon in the neighboring village and they organize peace prayers in their spare time. His wife is on the board of the local parish.

When he canceled his membership in the party in June, several other local party leaders in the region did so as well. Kremmling pulls out the letter he received on July 3 in response to his withdrawal. It is the last document in the binder. "We have received your notification that you have withdrawn from the CSU. We have completed your discharge and this notice serves as confirmation."

"Any other club would have avoided such an ice-cold reaction," Kremmling says. His ties to the party began to dissolve in fall 2015 when party head Horst Seehofer held a speech blasting Chancellor Angela Merkel for not having closed the borders to refugees. Kremmling wrote Seehofer several times to warn him that taking the party to the right as a consequence of the refugee crisis would be damaging. He was critical of the party's demand for a hard ceiling on the number of refugees Germany would accept in addition to what he describes as a radicalization of the rhetoric.

"I miss the C, the beloved C," says Kremmling, a devout Christian. "The C has become an empty promise." He says he never received a response to his concerns from Seehofer.

Ever since he left the party, Kremmling says he has felt shunned in his village. "When you leave the party, you have to be careful that they don't tar and feather you." Some people have begun pretending that they don't recognize him on the streets, he says, while he and his wife have noticed that fewer people are coming to their beauty salon.

Recently, Kremmling wrote to Katharina Schulze, head of the Bavarian chapter of the Green Party. He says he finds it refreshing how she has remained so open and friendly despite the caustic environment. Schulze wrote him back immediately, which he also appreciated.

A Challenge from the Right

Reinhard Kremmling is not the only liberal Christian who has migrated toward the Green Party. The CSU finds itself fighting a battle on two fronts, both the left and right. And on both sides, the party's foundation is crumbling. They are losing people like Kremmling to the Greens and many others to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Indeed, many in the CSU have begun pining for the good old days when the SPD was their primary opponent. The center-left party, to be sure, rarely managed over 30 percent in Bavarian state elections, but they made for a good enough foil to mobilize the CSU base. And the party is experienced when it comes to dealing with the SPD; they always play by the established political rules. The AfD, on the other hand, resorts to guerilla tactics -- something with which the CSU has no experience whatsoever.

Katrin Ebner-Steiner, the AfD candidate in the eastern Bavarian town of Deggendorf, is running her campaign with four volunteers. Two of them join her at the information stand while two others hang posters. The AfD has 63 members in Deggendorf. The Bavarian AfD chapter has one full-time and one part-time employee, but it has temporarily doubled its payroll for the campaign.

It is an unequal battle. On the one hand is a party that is virtually synonymous with the state of Bavaria, one with 140,000 members, almost three-quarters of all government officials in the state and a deep network. On the other is the AfD, a party that essentially only has a shrewd marketing agency on its side. It's posters aim directly at the CSU's Achilles' heel: "We do what the CSU promises," is one example. Another: "If CSU is on the label, Merkel is one of the ingredients." "Both posters do quite well," says Ebner-Steiner.

There are hardly any Bavarian restaurants anymore, she said prior to our meeting, before proposing a place right on the Deggendorf main square. She orders stewed plums with plenty of whipped cream. She ends up laughing a lot on this afternoon. After all, things could hardly be going better for her. In the federal elections last September, the AfD received roughly 20 percent of the vote in Deggendorf and in the region next door. This time around, the forecasts look even rosier. "It really is embarrassing for the CSU," Ebner-Steiner says.

A Tradition of Patronage

It's not just refugee policy that is driving people into the AfD's arms, she says, and goes on to talk about large and small scandals in which local CSU politicians have been embroiled. There is the state parliamentarian who hired his wife to work in his office at taxpayer expense. There is the construction company belonging to a local CSU politician that received a contract to build a refugee hostel. She laughs. "That's how things work here. Nobody is allowed to build a fence taller than 1.5 meters. But if you are in the CSU, you can get away with 2 meters."

The CSU took extra care of its members even during the Strauss era, says biographer Siebenmorgen. An extremely diverse group of people assembled under the CSU big tent because they hoped it could be good for them personally. There was almost no other way to win a public construction contract. Such patronage has always been the flip side of the party's success, says Siebenmorgen.

The CSU has its spies everywhere, says Ebner-Steiner. She says she knows Deggendorf municipal employees who are not even allowed to stop by an AfD informational stand. "For these people, it is such a feeling of autonomy to be able to secretly cast their ballots for the AfD. They say: It's time to put an end to the cronyism and the social control." It is a sense of frustration, she says, that has been building up over the course of several years. The refugee crisis was merely the straw that broke the camel's back.

On that issue, too, Ebner-Steiner says she doesn't understand the CSU. "It would be so easy to combat the AfD, but they simply don't do it," she says. Horst Seehofer especially makes all the wrong moves, she says. "He's like a press spokesman for us. It's like he's campaigning for us." His comment that the migration question is the mother of all problems, she says, was fantastic for the AfD. "He keeps putting the issue in the spotlight. And everybody knows that the AfD dominates the issue. I don't understand how they don't get it."


The CSU isn't alone in its nostalgia for days gone by, for their proud past. Almost all big tent parties are currently embroiled in territorial battles, both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. It's just that the atrophy is more obvious with the CSU because the party considers anything below an absolute majority to be undignified. But in this era of societal fragmentation and political party dilution, results of over 50 percent are likely a thing of the past.

Still, the party has made a significant contribution to its own crisis. Over the years, it had always been able to rejuvenate itself. It never needed the voters to send it into the opposition for a period of reflection. Their intuition was sensitive enough to make timely adjustments when necessary. But the party leadership has recently lost that intuition.

The most significant failure, however, is the following paradox: Even as the CSU happily modernized the state of Bavaria, it failed to modernize itself. For years, the party has been led by the same type of personality: male, coarse and more or less cunning. There is hardly room at the top for women, much less for immigrants.

Ahead of the party's convention three weeks ago, somebody must have noticed that all the important speeches were going to be held by men: the CSU's general secretary, party leader and the Bavarian governor. So they set up a panel discussion between the speeches in which six women were allowed to participate. They briefly addressed issues such as the midwife shortage, palliative care, elderly care and family benefits. Then, the convention moved on.

Peter Gauweiler, the party's intellectual cornerstone, says that the CSU still hasn't managed to completely digest the events of 1989/1990. He is sitting on the sofa inside his law offices in Munich and dragging on a cigarillo. He says the party is suffering from a kind of depression born of success. "We have reached all of our goals: Moscow is defeated, communism is over, Bavaria is the No. 1 state in Germany. There is nothing left to win."

Now, he says, the party finds itself in a transitional period. The CSU must now reinvent itself, a tortuous process, he allows. "But then, a butterfly will emerge from the cocoon."

Bavarian voters rattle Berlin politics
Angela Merkel and the Social Democrats face existential questions in the wake of an electoral drubbing.

By           MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG AND ZIA WEISE          10/15/18, 2:30 AM CET Updated 10/15/18, 6:03 AM CET

A tough 2018 continues for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose allies in Bavaria suffered an historic electoral setback on Sunday | Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
MUNICH — The Bavarian wing of Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc suffered its worst result in nearly 70 years in a state election as voters abandoned Germany’s ruling parties for alternatives on both the left and right, sending a clear signal to Berlin that growing numbers of Germans are displeased with the country’s direction.

The Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, lost its absolute majority as more than one-fifth of its supporters defected, according to preliminary results. However, with 37.2 percent of the vote, the CSU, which has dominated Bavarian politics since World War II, still managed to defend first place, paving the way for it to build a coalition.

The larger question was what effect the election will have on the government in Berlin. At the least, the result delivered an unvarnished rebuke to the “grand coalition” between Merkel’s bloc and the Social Democrats (SPD), which has been beset by infighting and controversy since it took office in March. With its support diminished, there is growing doubt over whether the government will survive its full term until the fall of 2021, at least in its current form.

SPD Vice Chairman Ralf Stegner suggested the party needed to rethink its commitment to the coalition. “There’s no reason to hang on to the grand coalition at any price,” he tweeted, adding that the Bavarian election outcome showed the coalition’s “stability is dwindling.”

The big winners of the night were the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which debuted in a Bavarian election with 10.2 percent, and the Greens, which more than doubled its 2013 result to finish with 17.5 percent.

The two parties’ success underscored the ongoing polarization of German politics as well as the continued resonance of the 2015 refugee crisis. One-third of voters cited migration and the integration of foreigners as the biggest problem facing the state in an exit poll for German public television. While the AfD attracted many disgruntled former CSU supporters upset over Merkel’s liberal approach to asylum, the Greens drew in centrist voters put off by the CSU’s often-harsh rhetoric on migration.

Söder pain — and relief
Describing Sunday’s outcome as “painful,” Bavarian premier Markus Söder said his party accepted it “with humility.”

“The grand coalition is a challenge for us all,” he added.

The CSU hopes to form a center-right coalition with the Freie Wähler (Free Voters), a conservative movement that shares many of the CSU’s views. It finished in third place with 11.6 percent, benefiting from voter frustration with its incumbent rival.

A poor showing in Hesse at the end of the month could force Angela Merkel to relinquish the chairmanship of her party.

While the election was a disaster for the CSU, given its long record of success, most polls predicted an even worse outcome in the low 30s. That relief could help Söder, who took over as premier in March, keep his position. More than half of voters believe he’s doing a good job, according to exit polls, a result that should bolster his case to remain.

Less clear is whether his predecessor as premier and current CSU leader Horst Seehofer will survive. Many within the CSU blame Seehofer, who took over Germany’s interior ministry after stepping down as Bavarian premier, for the party’s crisis. He has been engaged in an often cantankerous feud with Merkel over migration policy, a dispute that nearly brought down the government over the summer and that remains a serious point of contention between the two erstwhile allies.

Munich sneezes, Berlin catches cold
While a Seehofer exit would certainly be welcomed by Merkel, it wouldn’t resolve the larger questions hanging over her government. The Bavarian result, which follows a flurry of recent polls suggesting that the grand coalition has lost its popular majority, is bound to fan speculation about Merkel’s own future as chancellor. She faces a further challenge at the end of October with another regional election in the state of Hesse, where her party, which leads the local government, faces steep losses. A poor showing in Hesse could force Merkel to relinquish the chairmanship of the CDU at a party congress in December, severely diminishing her power.

The biggest loser of the night was the center-left SPD, which imploded, dropping by more than half to just 9.7 percent. If confirmed, the result would be the worst-ever in a state election for Germany’s oldest political party, which is ceding many of its traditional supporters on the left to the Greens.

“It’s worse than expected,” Michael Schrodi, an SPD member of the federal parliament who was born and raised in Munich said, calling the result “disastrous.” He added: “It’s clear that it can’t continue like this.”

The SPD had not “kept pace with the times” and was “perhaps no longer interesting enough,” he said.

Three-quarters of Bavarian voters think the Social Democrats should try to renew themselves in opposition in Berlin.

Many voters complain the SPD has lost its profile under Merkel, who has co-opted and taken credit for various SPD initiatives over the years. In Bavaria, where the SPD had long been the No. 2 political force, 76 percent of voters believe the party should try to renew itself in opposition in Berlin, according to an exit poll for German public television.

The SPD initially resisted joining another grand coalition, after seeing its support dwindle significantly during its last term as part of a Merkel government. It eventually relented and since then its decline has accelerated, as the Bavarian election illustrated.

Not the economy, dummkopf
For the CSU, which many credit for transforming what was long an agrarian economy in Bavaria into one of Europe’s most successful industrial corridors, Sunday’s election offered a reminder that economic success alone doesn’t guarantee voter support.

Bavaria counts as Germany’s most prosperous region with an unemployment rate below 3 percent. Yet the conflicts that arose from the influx of refugees in 2015 threw the state’s political system out of kilter.

The CSU leadership decided to go toe-to-toe with the AfD on the question of migration. Though it was undoubtedly a subject of great concern to many, critics complained that the CSU focused too much on it, while giving short shrift to other issues on voters’ minds, such as affordable housing and education.

That second-guessing was on full display Sunday evening in the Bavarian state parliament, where representatives of all parties gathered to watch the results come in on television. CSU politicians and supporters sipped their beers with long faces.

Barbara Stamm, a popular CSU politician and the president of the Bavarian parliament, said the CSU had “overemphasized” the topic of migration and asylum.

“We let ourselves get pushed in that direction,” she said, alluding to the pressure from the AfD. “I always said, you can’t gain from the right what you will lose in the center. The results today suggest as much.”

Felix Mönius, a member of the influential CSU youth organization Junge Union, said that the party would need to change. “Making it more youthful can’t hurt,” he said.

“The results still show that you cannot govern in Bavaria without the CSU. We got away with a black eye.”

Inside the Green party’s parliamentary offices, green confetti rained from the ceiling as the results came in at 6 p.m. Party leaders Katharina Schulze and Ludwig Hartmann were greeted with whooping and thunderous applause.

Whatever comes next, “this election result has already changed Bavaria,” shouted Schulze, who was wearing a green dress.

The boast reflected the kind of bravado that made Schulze, who sometimes appeared on the campaign trail in a traditional dirndl, a media favorite. Despite the buzz surrounding their surge, the Greens appear destined to remain where they have been ever since they first joined the Bavarian parliament in 1986 – in opposition.

Judith Mischke contributed reporting.

The future is unwritten: taking action is best cure for climate change angst / Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’

The future is unwritten: taking action is best cure for climate change angst

Rebecca Solnit

A revolution is what we need, and we can begin by imagining and demanding it and doing what we can to try to realize it

Sun 14 Oct 2018 08.10 BST Last modified on Sun 14 Oct 2018 08.53 BST

Greenpeace members gather while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, hold a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, on 8 October.
 Greenpeace members gather while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, hold a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, on 8 October. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP
In response to Monday’s release of the IPCC report on the climate crisis – which warned that “unprecedented” changes were needed if global warming increases 1.5C beyond the pre-industrial period – a standup comic I know posted this plaintive request on her Facebook: “Damn this latest report about climate change is just terrifying. People that know a lot about this stuff, is there anything to be potentially optimistic about? I think this week I feel even worse than Nov 2016 and I’m really trying to find some hope here.”

A bunch of her friends posted variations on “we’re doomed” and “it’s hopeless,” which perhaps made them feel that they were in charge of one thing in this overwhelming situation, the facts. They weren’t, of course. They were letting understandable grief at the news morph into an assumption that they know just how the future is going to turn out. They don’t.

The future hasn’t already been decided. That is, climate change is an inescapable present and future reality, but the point of the IPCC report is that there is still a chance to seize the best-case scenario rather than surrender to the worst. Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in a gulag for his work with Soviet dissident Andrei Sarkovsky, recalls his mentor saying, “They want us to believe there’s no chance of success. But whether or not there’s hope for change is not the question. If you want to be a free person, you don’t stand up for human rights because it will work, but because it is right. We must continue living as decent people.” Right now living as decent people means every one of us with resources taking serious climate action, or stepping up what we’re already doing.

Sign up to receive the latest US opinion pieces every weekday
Climate action is human rights, because climate change affects the most vulnerable first and hardest – it already has, with droughts, fires, floods, crop failures. It affects the myriad species and habitats that make this earth such an intricately beautiful place, from the coral reefs to the caribou herds. What we’re deciding now is what life will be like for the kids born this year who will be 82 in 2100, and their grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren. They will curse the era that devastated the planet, and perhaps they’ll bless the memory of those who tried to limit this destruction. The report says we need to drop fossil fuel consumption by 45% by 2030, when these kids will be 12. That’s a difficult but not impossible proposition.

 The histories of change that have made me hopeful are often about small groups that seem at the outset unrealistic in their ambition
Taking action is the best way to live in conditions of crisis and violation, for your spirit and your conscience as well as for society. It’s entirely compatible with grief and horror; you can work to elect climate heroes while being sad. There are no guarantees – but just as Sakharov and Sharansky probably didn’t imagine that the Soviet Union would dissolve itself in the early 1990s, so we can anticipate that we don’t exactly know what will happen and how our actions will help shape the future.

The histories of change that have made me hopeful are often about small groups that seem at the outset unrealistic in their ambition. Whether they were taking on slavery in antebellum USA or human rights in the Soviet bloc, these movements grew exponentially and changed consciousness and then toppled institutions or regimes. We also don’t know what technological breakthroughs, large-scale social changes, or catastrophic ecological feedback loops will shape the next 20 years. Knowing that we don’t know isn’t grounds for confidence, but it is fuel against despair, which is a form of certainty. This future is as uncertain as it’s ever been.

There have been countless encouraging developments in the global climate movement. The movement was small, fragmented, mild a dozen years ago, and the climate recommendations then were mostly polite, with too much change-your-lightbulbs focus on personal virtue. But personal virtue only matters if it scales up (and even individual acts depend on collective decisions – I have, for example, 100% renewable electricity at home because other citizens pushed our amoral power company to evolve, and it’s more feasible for me to ride a bike because there are now bike lanes all over my city).

The movement that has taken on pipelines and fuel trains, refineries and shipping terminals, fracking and mountaintop removal, divestment and finance, policy and law, and sometimes won is evidence of what can happen in 12 years. Some of what were regarded as climate activists’ wild ideas and unreasonable demands are now policy and conventional common sense. There are so many transformative projects under way from local work to transition off fossil fuels, to the effort to stop pipelines (with some major victories, including the one to stop the Trans-Mountain pipeline, which won in court in late August), to the lawsuit against the US government on behalf of 21 young people, charging it with violating their rights and the public trust. The trial begins on 29 October in Eugene, Oregon.

The other thing I find most encouraging and even a little awe-inspiring is how profoundly the global energy landscape has already changed in this century. At the beginning of the 21st century, renewables were expensive, inefficient, infant technologies incapable of meeting our energy needs. In a revolution at least as profound as the industrial revolution, wind and solar engineering and manufacturing have changed everything; we now have the technological capacity to largely leave fossil fuel behind. It was not possible then; it is now. That is stunning. And encouraging.

Astoundingly, 98% of the energy Costa Rica generates is from non-fossil fuel sources. Scotland closed its last coal-fired power plant two years ago and overall emissions there are half what they were in 1990. Texas is getting more of its energy from wind than from coal – about a quarter on good days and half on a great day recently. Iowa already gets more than a third of its energy from wind because wind is already more cost-effective than fossil fuel, and more turbines are being set up. Cities and states in the USA and elsewhere are setting ambitious goals to reduce fossil fuel consumption or go entirely renewable. Last month California committed to make its electricity 100% carbon-free by 2045. There are stories like this from all over the world that tell us a transition is already under way. They need to scale up and speed up, but we are not starting from scratch today.

The IPCC report recommends urgent work on many fronts – from how we produce food and to what use we put land (more forests) to how we generate and use energy (and the unsexy business of energy efficiency also matters). It describes four paths forward, three of which depend on carbon-capturing technologies not yet realized, the fourth includes the most radical reductions in fossil-fuel use and planting a lot of trees.

The major obstacles to this withdrawal are political, the fossil fuel and energy corporations and the governments obscenely intertwined with them. I called up Steve Kretzmann, the longtime director of the climate policy-and-action group Oil Change International (on whose board I sit), and he reflected on the two approaches to climate action – changing consumption and changing production.

Going after production often gets neglected, and places like Alberta, Canada, like to boast about their virtuous energy consumption projects while their energy production – in Alberta’s case, the tar sands – threatens the future of the planet. Addressing production means going after some of the most powerful and ruthless corporations on earth and the regimes that protect them and are rewarded by them – or, as with Russia and Saudi Arabia and to some extent the US are indistinguishable from them.

 Five countries – Belize, Ireland, New Zealand, France and Costa Rica – are working on bans on new exploration and extraction
Five countries – Belize, Ireland, New Zealand, France and Costa Rica – are already working on bans on new exploration and extractionSteve told me, “We have to be real about this: this is the oil industry and wars are fought over it. There’s a lot of political power here and there’s a lot of people defending that power.” But he also noted, “The moment it’s clear it’s inexorably on the wane, it will pop.” You can hasten the popping by cutting the enormous subsidies, and by divesting from fossil fuel corporations – to date the once-mocked divestment movement has gotten $6tn withdrawn. As Damien Carrington reported for the Guardian last month, “Major oil companies such as Shell have this year cited divestment as a material risk to its business.”

We also need to shut down production directly, with a just transition for workers in those sectors. Five countries – Belize, Ireland, New Zealand, France and Costa Rica – are already working on bans on new exploration and extraction, and the World Bank sent shockwaves around the world last December when it announced that after 2019 it would no longer finance oil and gas extraction.

Given that the clean energy comes with lots of jobs – and jobs that don’t give people black lung and don’t poison surrounding communities – there’s a lot of ancillary benefit. Fossil fuel is, even aside from the carbon it pumps into the atmosphere, literally poison, from the mercury that contaminates the air when coal is burned and the mountains of coal ash residue to the toxic emissions and water contamination of fracking and the sinister chemicals emitted by refineries to the smog from cars. “Giving up” is often how fossil fuel is talked about, as though it’s pure loss, but renouncing poison doesn’t have to be framed as sacrifice.

Part of the work we need to do is to imagine not only the devastation of climate change, and the immense difference between 2 or 3 degrees of warming and 1.5 degrees, but the benefits of making a transition from fossil fuel. The fading away of the malevolent power of the oil companies would be a profound transformation, politically as well as ecologically.

I don’t know exactly if or how we’ll get to where we need to go, but I know that we must set out better options with all the passion, power and intelligence we have. A revolution is what we need, and we can begin by imagining and demanding it and doing what we can to try to realize it. Rather than waiting to see what happens, we can be what happens. And by the way, the comedian I mentioned: she’s already organizing fundraisers for climate groups

Saturday interview
Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for 

me” is no use to anybody’
Human rights has always been a struggle’ ... Mary Robinson in her office in Dublin. Photograph: Johnny Savage/Guardian

The former president of Ireland has a new raison d’être: saving the planet. Yet, despite the dire warnings of this week’s IPCC report, she is surprisingly upbeat

by Rory Carroll

Fri 12 Oct 2018 15.00 BST Last modified on Fri 12 Oct 2018 21.25 BST

On the morning that the world’s leading climate scientists warn that the planet has until 2030 to avert a global warming catastrophe, Mary Robinson appears suitably sombre. She wears black shoes, black trousers and a black sweater and perches at the end of a long table at her climate justice foundation, headquartered in an austere, imposing Georgian building opposite Trinity College Dublin. The only dash of brightness is a multicoloured brooch on her lapel. “It symbolises the sustainable development goals,” she says. “It’s the one good emblem that the United Nations has produced, so I like to wear it.”

There seems little reason for cheer on this Monday. The landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just warned that urgent, unprecedented changes are needed to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C; even half a degree beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Donald Trump, rejecter of the Paris climate agreement, is riding high on the back of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the US supreme court. Britain and the EU are consumed by Brexit. Brazil is on course to elect a president who wants to open the Amazon to agribusiness. Closer to home, the Irish government is flunking its climate policy goals. Now, climate scientists warn that the clock ticks ever closer to midnight.

“Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to: that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business. “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe. It’s beyond safe. Therefore, we have to work much, much harder to stay at 1.5 degrees. I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries ... villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”

 The glass may not be half full, but there's something in the glass that you work on. Hope brings energy
Robinson sips a glass of water and sighs. “We’re in a bumpy time. We’re in a bad political cycle, particularly because the United States is not only not giving leadership, but is being disruptive of multilateralism and is encouraging populism in other countries.”

This could be the start of a depressing interview that concludes we should hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic’s first trip to space and try to stay there. But it turns out to be surprisingly upbeat. Despite the headlines, Robinson, who served as the UN secretary general’s special envoy on climate change after serving as the president of Ireland and the UN high commissioner for human rights, is hopeful.

She has anticipated the IPCC report by writing a book-cum-manifesto, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, published this week. It tells stories of farmers and activists, mostly women, who tackle climate change in Africa, Asia and the Americas. They are examples of positive change that Robinson thinks can help turn the tide.

“I don’t think as a human race that we can be so stupid that we can’t face an existential threat together and find a common humanity and solidarity to respond to it. Because we do have the capacity and the means to do it – if we have the political will.”

Climate change may be man-made, but Robinson believes women are key to the solution, through planting trees, recycling waste, eating less meat and a thousand other measures, big and small. “There’s a nurturing quality, a concern for children, that’s very deep in women. And women change behaviour. It’s women who decide what the diet will be. And, of course, in vulnerable countries, it’s women who bear the brunt of climate change.”

The former barrister karate-chops the air for emphasis. “I’ve learned from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be a ‘prisoner of hope’, a great expression that he uses. That means the glass may not be half full, but there’s something in the glass that you work on. Hope brings energy.”

 Mary Robinson with the Indian activist Ela Bhatt and the former US president Jimmy Carter in East Jerusalem for the NGO The Elders
So, while the Trump administration withholds leadership and money from the global effort for clean energy – “That’s where it hurts” – the US may yet meet Paris emissions targets, thanks to efforts by We Are Still In, a coalition of mayors, governors, tribal leaders, colleges, businesses, faith groups and investors that is continuing to follow the terms of the agreement. The movement to divestment from fossil fuels is also making progress. “They’ve now moved to trillions being divested. That’s very significant.”

Grim scientific prognoses must not paralyse civil society, says Robinson. It must unite, march, organise, pressure politicians. “Feeling a complete inability to do anything – ‘This is too big for me, I give up’ – that’s no use to anybody. [With] despair, all the energy to do something goes out of the room.”

Robinson says she is adapting her own behaviour: fewer flights and more teleconferencing; eating less meat as an “aspirant vegetarian”; using public transport, although she confesses to taking taxis frequently. “I talk to the taxi drivers, that’s my compensation. I get them to message for me. Ten years ago, taxi drivers were the most sceptical about climate change. Now, they’re the most keen to get an electric car, or at least a hybrid.”

At the age of 73, Robinson has carved out a new role in public life. No longer a high-powered global bureaucrat with a big budget and staff, no longer a head of state trailed by pomp, she instead relies on a formidable intellect, her brand name and her social and political network. You could call it soft power, except Robinson does not do soft. She is friendly and courteous, but the famous iron-grip handshake is still there; so too her antiphathy towards smalltalk. The gaze is direct, the sentences exact. When I go off-topic and ask about Brexit, or the Irish presidential election, there is a tight smile. “We’re straying far from the book, aren’t we?”

Supporters and critics have long noted a personal stiffness matched by an unbending commitment to liberal principles. How else would a GP’s daughter from Ballina, County Mayo, emerge in the 1970s as a law professor and outspoken advocate for women’s rights and contraception while other politicians genuflected before the might of the country’s Roman Catholic church? She was denounced from the pulpit and had condoms sent to her in the post. Nominated by the Labour party as a long-shot candidate for the presidency in 1990, she won. It was an astonishing result that prefigured Ireland’s social liberalisation. It enshrined Robinson as a progressive talisman.

 Women change behaviour; they decide what the diet will be. And they bear the brunt of climate change
Kofi Annan tapped her up to become the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in 1997, three months before her presidential term ended. It was a rare misstep. She has expressed regret for letting the then secretary general “sort of bully” her into leaving the presidency early to head to Geneva. Later, George W Bush’s administration bristled at her stance on human rights, Palestine and other issues after 9/11, which contributed to her stepping down in 2002.

A year later, Robinson found herself in a Dublin maternity ward holding her first grandchild, Rory. “I was flooded with a sense of adrenaline, a physical sensation unlike anything I had ever felt before,” she writes in Climate Justice. “In that moment, my sense of time altered and I began to think in a time span of a hundred years. I knew instinctively that I would now view Rory’s life through the prism of our planet’s precarious future ... the abstract data on climate change that I had skirted around for so long became deeply personal.”

Robinson was struck by the injustice that those least responsible, such as islanders in Kiribati or herders in Kenya, suffered most from climate change, and by the fact that much of the world ignored scientists’ warnings. Her response is to tell the stories of people such as Sharon Hanshaw, a hairdresser in Mississippi who led community recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina; Constance Okollet, a Ugandan farmer who taught neighbours to plant trees to stop topsoil erosion; and Natalie Isaacs, an Australian entrepreneur who launched an online initiative to help households curb their carbon footprints. “I try to illustrate the hope and the fightback,” says Robinson. “And the need for empathy. We need to have empathy now with those who are suffering ... because that’s where we’ll all be very shortly if we don’t change course.”

Robinson wanted to do a documentary to accompany the book, but she was advised instead to do a podcast. “Being of my generation, I said: ‘What’s a podcast?’” she laughs. She agreed. Thus was born an unlikely phenomenon: Mary Robinson, comedian. The former president co-hosts the podcast Mothers of Invention with Maeve Higgins, an Irish comedian based in New York. They banter while discussing climate change and interviewing guests. “People listen through Maeve, through her questions. It’s making it much more real. There’s no doubt that Maeve is drawing me to the dark side. I’m getting funnier because of that.” Higgins does the comedic heavy lifting, riffing and throwing out lines while Robinson plays the straight foil.

“I’ve learned that young people now in the United States get their politics from comical programmes,” says Robinson. She alludes to The Daily Show, but mixes up Jon Stewart with Jimmy Stewart and Trevor Noah with Trevor Nunn, which is actually pretty funny.

Robinson considers comedy a sensible response to existential threat. “Laughter in a very serious discussion is much more persuasive than if we were all the time serious, serious, serious.” I consider asking her to tell a joke, but my nerve fails; back to business. “We have 11 years to change course and it has to be done with a seriousness of purpose, particularly by governments, because they determine the rules.”

Preparations for a conference in Poland in December to ensure implementation of the Paris agreement are not going well, she says: “There’s a lot of arguing around what needs to be done.” She hopes the IPCC report will focus minds. “Future governments won’t be able to do what governments now have 11 years to do. In the future, we will have these tipping points – the Arctic will be gone, the coral reefs will be gone, the permafrost will be dissolving ... all these things will just spin us out of control.”

Governments need to end fossil fuel subsidies and increase tax on carbon, she says. “Put a real price on carbon and do it now. These are the levers that move things quickly and get the investment into clean energy. If governments are not capable of being more serious, then they lack moral leadership, which is what we really need now.”

Leaving aside the rest of the world, the country outside Robinson’s door challenges her optimism. When Irish civil society marches these days, it is for housing, not climate change. The government hinted that it would increase carbon tax in this week’s budget, but it did not. Climate change has barely registered in the presidential election. Robinson seems unabashed. “In my experience, human rights has always been a struggle. We don’t always keep going forward; there are setbacks and then you dig deeper. You get the prisoner-of-hope mentality and you fight harder.”

Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future is out now (Bloomsbury, £16.99). To order a copy for £12.49, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK P&P over £10, online orders only. Phone orders minimum P&P of £1.99.

This article was amended on 12 October 2018 to correct the caption accompanying the picture of Mary Robinson in East Jerusalem. She was visiting the area with the NGO The Elders, not as the UN high commissioner for human rights.