Multiple Elections in Germany Make It Hard to Predict the Impact on Climate Change Policy

There are a good number of important elections this year in Germany. First and foremost are the European Parliament representatives. In addition, the regional elections for the estate parliament in the eastern German states of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Thuringia also occur this year. Furthermore, local elections (Kommunalwahl) in seven states will take place as well. We’ll focus our view this time on the first two mentioned, which might have the most impact regarding climate regulations.

European Parliament

The most significant elections in Germany 2024 are the European Parliament elections, scheduled for June 9, 2024. These elections occur every five years and are critical for determining the future development of the European Union and its policies, including those related to climate change and sustainability. With 96 seats in the European Parliament, Germany plays a pivotal role in shaping EU policies​​. (Source: European Elections in 2024)

Candidates and political parties participating in these elections represent various positions on climate change and environmental policies. The major political parties (including current # sits), such as the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union, 29 sits), AfD (Alternative for Germany, nine sits), the FDP (Free Democratic Party, five sits), the SPD (Social Democratic Party, 16 sits), The Green Party (Alliance 90/The Greens, 21 sits) and “The Left” (5 sits), each has distinct stances on climate policy, ranging from strong support for aggressive climate measures to more conservative approaches​​—source: 2024 European Parliament in Germany. For instance, The Greens prioritize environmental issues and advocate for ambitious climate targets, as reflected in their campaign platforms and policy proposals. The SPD and FDP also incorporate climate policies into their platforms, albeit with different focuses and priorities.

The positions of candidates and parties regarding international collaboration and the Paris Agreement, specifically, vary. Most mainstream parties generally support international efforts to combat climate change. The Greens, SPD, and CDU/CSU have historically supported the Paris Agreement and advocated for strong EU-wide and global actions on climate change. In contrast, parties like the farther right AfD have been more critical of international climate agreements and emphasize national sovereignty and economic concerns​​.

These parties’ support base and candidates’ donors can influence their positions on climate change policies. Parties like The Greens often receive support from younger demographics, urban voters, and those highly concerned with environmental issues, which aligns with their strong climate policy stance. Other more traditional parties, such as the CDU/CSU and SPD, have a broader support base, which includes a mix of age groups, professions, and geographic areas, leading to a more varied approach to climate policies​​.

Given the varied landscape of political positions and the significance of the European Parliament elections for future EU and German climate policies, the outcome of the 2024 EU elections will likely have substantial implications for Germany’s approach to climate change, renewable energy, and its commitments under the Paris Agreement and subsequent international climate agreements.

Regional estate parliament elections in three eastern German estates that share a singular past:

Eastern Germany’s history is quite particular, after having shifted from Hitler’s dominated Germany until the Second World War defeat to end up being dominated by the Russians in former East Germany (German Democratic Republic (GDR; Deutsche Demokratische Republik), with the communist government led by the soviets and which became one of the most successful economies in the Eastern Bloc.

Under the socialist regime of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), East Germany positioned itself as an anti-fascist state. Anti-fascist and anti-colonialist education played a significant role in its educational system. Fascism was seen as an extreme form of capitalism.

Despicably, after German reunification, the far right found fertile ground in the less-developed East. The transition period saw significant internal migration to the West and a struggle to adjust to the new political and economic system. This era, coupled with the arrival of immigrants who had previously supported West Germany’s manufacturing industry, sparked public dissatisfaction and resentment toward newcomers.

Political developments and the emergence of xenophobic groups have also underpinned the far-right’s strength in East Germany. The formation of Pegida in Dresden in 2014 and the electoral successes of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, particularly in Saxony, illustrate the mainstreaming of far-right ideologies. The AfD’s strong performance in the 2017 federal elections, where it emerged as the strongest party in Saxony, marks a significant moment in the political landscape of East Germany. These trends have been accompanied by ongoing violence against foreigners and asylum seekers, with East German states like Brandenburg, Saxony, and Saxony-Anhalt experiencing high numbers of hate crimes per capita compared to Western states​​.

The response to the rise of the far right has varied, with some political figures and parties accused of appeasing or even adopting far-right rhetoric, thereby enabling the further growth of these ideologies. This has sparked concerns about the effectiveness of strategies to counter far-right extremism and the need for a more proactive approach to protect democracy and social cohesion in Germany​​.

Saxony’s Parliament elections (Landtagswahl)

The 2024 Saxony state election, scheduled for September 1, showcases a competitive political landscape that could have significant implications for environmental politics in the region.

Sixty mandates are given to constituency candidates elected directly to the State Parliament as individuals by voters with their direct votes (“first vote”). The remainder—generally also 60—mandates are given to parties that receive list votes (“second votes”) from at least five percent of the electorate.

The current government coalition (with 120 representatives) includes the Christian Democratic Union (CDU, with 32,1% of the votes), the Greens (with 8,6%), and the Social Democratic Party (SPD, with 7,7%), with the CDU being the leading party. This coalition reflects a broad spectrum of political ideologies, including the Greens, who have historically prioritized environmental issues​​. In contrast, in the opposition, the AfD gathered 2019 27,5% of the votes, while The Left 10,4%—source: Saxony Government.

In recent years, the Greens achieved their best historical result in a Saxony state election, securing 8.6% of the vote in 2019, indicating an increasing focus on environmental politics. However, the current election trend suggests a challenging environment for parties with solid environmental agendas. According to the latest polls, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) leads with 34.4%, marking a significant increase since the last election -when they also had the largest share-. The CDU follows with 31%, while the Greens are projected to receive around 7% of the vote, experiencing a slight loss compared to the last election. This shift in voter preference could impact the prioritization of environmental policies, depending on the formation of the government post-election​​.

Considering the current polling trends, the possibility of forming a government without the Greens might lead to less emphasis on aggressive environmental policies. However, the final impact on environmental politics will heavily depend on the coalition agreements formed after the election and the ability of the Greens or other parties with environmental priorities to negotiate policy commitments from their potential coalition partners.

Given the dynamic political landscape in Saxony and the rise of the AfD, the 2024 state election represents a pivotal moment for the future of environmental politics in the region. The election’s outcome will likely influence the state’s approach to renewable energy, climate change mitigation, and sustainability initiatives.

Thuringia’s Parliament elections (Landtagswahl)

The political landscape is poised for significant shifts for the Thuringia state elections scheduled for September 1, 2024. The current government (with 91 parliament members) is a minority coalition led by Bodo Ramelow from The Left (with 28,2% of the votes), along with the SPD (12,4%) and The Greens (5,7%). This coalition emerged from a complex political scenario following the 2019 state election, which saw The Left becoming the largest party, a significant gain for AfD (with 10,6%), and losses for CDU (33,5%), SPD and The Greens. The election led to a governmental crisis that was resolved by agreeing to continue the red-red-green minority government​​.

The latest trends for the 2024 election in Thuringia indicate a strong lead for AfD, with 33.6%, marking a significant increase from their previous share. The Left and CDU are experiencing shifts in their voter base, with The Left decreasing to 17% and the CDU at 19.6%. SPD and The Greens are trailing, with projections suggesting challenges for them to maintain significant representation. These trends highlight a potential reconfiguration of the political landscape in Thuringia, reflecting broader national and regional shifts in political sentiments​​.

As for the candidates and their positions on climate change and sustainability, while specific campaign pledges for 2024 are yet to be fully outlined, the historical and current positions of the parties offer insight. The Left, SPD, and The Greens have traditionally supported progressive climate policies, emphasizing renewable energy, emission reductions, and sustainable development. In contrast, the far-right AfD has been critical of climate measures perceived as economically disruptive, emphasizing energy security and economic considerations.

Given the evolving political dynamics, the upcoming Thuringia election will likely play a crucial role in shaping the state’s approach to climate change and environmental policies. The election’s outcome may affect Thuringia’s stance on national and international climate commitments, including the Paris Agreement, and influence the state’s policies on renewable energy, fossil fuels, and sustainability initiatives.



Brandenburg’s Parliament elections (Landtagswahl)

The 2024 Brandenburg state election is scheduled for September 22, 2024. It will involve electing all 88 seats of the Landtag of Brandenburg. Half of the representatives will be elected personally, and the other half will be from each party’s list. The incumbent government is the “Third Woidke cabinet,” a coalition of the SPD (28,7%), CDU (18,6%), and Greens (7,9%). This election follows the 2019 election, which resulted in small losses for the SPD, making it the strongest party, and significant gains for the AfD (18,3%). The CDU saw significant losses, falling to third place.

The latest trends for the 2024 election in Brandenburg indicate a strong lead for AfD, with 30%, marking a significant increase from their previous share. The Left, SPD, and Greens are experiencing shifts in their voter base, with The Left seeing a decrease of 6,1%, SPD to 20%, and  Greens at 7,5%. CDU is expected to remain around 17%, with projections suggesting challenges for them to maintain significant representation. These trends highlight a potential reconfiguration of the political landscape in Brandenburg, as the current ruling parties might not achieve a majority together.

As for the candidates and their positions on climate change and sustainability, while specific campaign pledges for 2024 are yet to be fully outlined, the historical and current positions of the parties offer insight, as explained before

It’s essential to monitor the unfolding election campaigns for specific climate policy pledges and positions on international collaboration, including adherence to the Paris Agreement and attitudes toward recent climate agreements from COP28.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Germany Country Manager Katherine Cote.


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.