#127: Bürgergeld blocked, climate referendum, robo-checkout, sound fest
World Cup? What World Cup?
Dear 20 Percent,
You have to respect the tireless signature-gathering volunteers of campaigns like “Berlin 2030 klimaneutral” - braving the elements, approaching random strangers all day long, hitting up parents in playgrounds, annoying people walking off their hangovers in Tempelhofer Feld. Collecting one signature at a time.
Their work is paying off: according to RBB, “Berlin 2030 klimaneutral” has collected the names of 261,968 supporters (far more than the required 171,000), meaning a referendum on making the city “climate neutral” within 8 years (rather than the city’s own target of 2045) could very well be added to the ballot in the election do-over next spring.
The authorities still have to cross-check the list of names with the official registry (signatories have be angemeldet in Berlin and must be German citizens). Campaign spokesman Stefan Zimmer said around 30% of the signatures would have to be invalid for a referendum to fall through.
Is a climate-neutral, de-carbonised city by 2030 even realistic, though? Even if the referendum passes, the project faces huge obstacles. Most obviously, the streets remain clogged with fossil-fuel guzzling cars. Hundreds of thousands of Berliners and Brandenburger commuters seem hell-bent on driving, no matter how bad the traffic or how high the cost gets.
It’s a complex process for a city to rapidly green not just transport, but also all heating, all power-generation and all businesses and institutions. Even Copenhagen, which is much further ahead than Berlin in the decarbonisation process, announced in August it had to abandon its ambitions to be “carbon neutral” by 2025.
The 2030 goal is probably pie in the sky, but as the capital of one of the wealthiest, most polluting countries on the planet, we have to shoot for it. “Be realistic, demand the impossible,” is back.
More news below!
P.S. A warm thank you to today’s sponsor Ostrom, which makes signing up to climate-friendly green energy easier than ever.
Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, November 15
New cases in one day: 1,588 (1,153 Friday )
Total deaths: 5,029 (+12 over Friday )
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 168.2 (186.5 Friday )
🔴7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 10.2 (9.7 Friday )
🟢 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 4.9% (4.9% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
CDU blocks welfare reform
The SPD-Green-FDP federal coalition’s big welfare reform package has been shot down in the Bundesrat, the second chamber of parliament, made up of representatives of the 16 federal states, or Länder. States governed by the conservative CDU/CSU joined forces to scupper the welfare reboot, which would see the Hartz-IV jobless benefits system replaced by the Bürgergeld scheme, which plans to bump up benefits (by about €50/month for a single), drop the threat of financial sanctions and place more emphasis on re-training people for the job market. CDU pols say the plan makes being unemployed too comfy.
Iran demo attack(s)
On Saturday, a 26-year-old man waved a knife at several exiled Iranians taking part in a protest against the Iranian regime, accorrding to Tagespiegel. Demonstrators have set up a protest camp near Green Party headquarters in Mitte to support democracy and women’s rights in Iran. Two weeks ago, three men attacked another protest with knives outside the Iranian Embassy, injuring several people. Berlin police say they investigated the attacks but have found no evidence that they were orchestrated by the Iranian state.
No doubt worried that a US retailer named after a South American river is going to swoop in, retail giant REWE has opened up Berlin’s first “hybrid” supermarket at Schönhauser Allee 130, Prenzlauer Berg where shoppers can either check out with a human being or choose to “pick and go” after signing up for the chain’s Pick&go app. No human interaction, hence no German needed! Cameras and sensors figure out what you bought and computers charge you as you leave the store. REWE promises the process is “data poor”, but I’m sure their privacy lawyers had a ball making sure the thing complied with German DATENSCHUTZ.
World Cup boycott?
The bizarre winter World Cup in Qatar kicks off in five days and the usual excitement is absent in Germany - due to the discussion on poor human rights in the host country. According to a BILD survey, half of all Germans say they won’t be watching a single match. In Berlin sports bars, the mood is mixed, writes Tagesspiegel. Some say showing World Cup games is a matter of survival, while others have joined the #KeinKatarInMeinerKneipe (“no Qatar in my bar") or #BoycottQatar2022 initiatives.
Berlin Atonal: Experimental sounds
Okay, not everyone’s idea of a good night out, but this is Berlin so why not dive into some seriously experimental music in an impressive repurposed industrial space? I’m talking about a special three-day event run by Berlin Atonal. The X100 Festival celebrates and re-interprets the work of avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis (1922 – 1997), who was born 100 years ago. I won’t attempt to describe his music or what to expect at the event. All I can say is that the venue, Kraftwerk Berlin, is always a magnificent backdrop for this kind of thing — and that alone is usually worth the ticket price. This being Berlin, there will be also be “discourse”! November 18-20. The info.
City transport operator BVG says it serves 1 billion passengers per year — with 2,119 km of bus lines, 300km of tram routes and 155 km of U-Bahn. The S-Bahn, a separate organisation, carries 304 million passengers annually on 340km of track.
Finally, a shout out to …
… the Common Ground Berlin podcast. My co-writer Andrew Bulkeley appeared on their newest episode to discuss the trials and tribulations of dual-citizenship in Germany. Well worth a listen.
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