Hubert Aiwanger made a relaxed and cheerful appearance in the BR election arena on Wednesday evening. In the discussion with citizens, the Free Voters leader was able to exploit his great strength: proximity to the people. He talked about favorite topics like hunting, his forest and lower taxes for retirees. There was a lot of applause and nods from the studio audience. The affair surrounding a neo-Nazi leaflet, for which Aiwanger was punished as a high school student, hardly played a role, on the contrary. “You are a decent, correct citizen,” an older man told him.
Aiwanger feels like a man of the people, and he incorporates sentiments unfiltered into his election campaign. This can sound like it did at the heating demonstration in Erding, where he insulted the federal government in Berlin: “You’ve probably got your asses up there.” Apparently assuming he has the “silent vast majority” behind him, the minister pays no attention to the rules of the political game. That’s exactly what a lot of people seem to like. In surveys, Aiwanger’s party is far from a majority, but is still doing well: sometimes at 14, sometimes at 17 percent.
However, political scientists attest that Bavaria has a populism problem shortly before the state elections. “Söder is becoming more populist, Aiwanger is becoming more populist anyway – they are becoming louder, more polarizing,” said Bamberg communications researcher Olaf Hoffjann to the dpa. He noted that Aiwanger “poisons the political discourse, but he seems to be succeeding in preventing the AfD from becoming so big.” The problem with populism, however, is that the seemingly simple solutions are often at odds with political reality. You have to choose one. This decision is easy for AfD politicians without government responsibility.
It’s a balancing act for a deputy prime minister, as became clear during Aiwanger’s appearance in the election arena. A studio guest asked him how Bavaria plans to achieve its climate goals. With the Climate Protection Act, the state government made up of the CSU and Free Voters has committed itself to thisto make the Free State climate neutral “by 2040 at the latest”. According to experts and the state government’s climate report, CO₂ emissions are not falling fast enough.
“It’s just like me saying: I want to be top of the football league next year.”
Aiwanger replied that the goal was still being pursued. “We don’t know whether we’ll achieve it.” The State Minister put the date set in the law into perspective with a sports comparison: “That’s exactly like me saying: I want to be the leader in football next year.”
The Free Voters leader emphasized that progress had been made in climate protection and referred, for example, to the relaxation of the 10H distance rule for wind turbines. But you shouldn’t overwhelm industry and people. “We are not a dictatorship where we say, from tomorrow there will be no more meat, no more cars and no more houses – then in five years I will have implemented it.”
A minister who doesn’t take his own laws seriously? Because when Aiwanger questions the goal of climate neutrality, it’s not just a campaigner speaking. Also speaking are the Vice Prime Minister of the Free State of Bavaria, the responsible Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy and the head of a party that provides the Environment Minister in Bavaria.
“As a climate doubter, Economics Minister Aiwanger is the brake on climate policy,” criticizes Katharina Schulze, the top candidate of the Greens. “I expect Prime Minister Söder to make a clear statement as to whether he takes climate protection in Bavaria seriously. Because no state can be created here with the Free Voters.” Climate protection must become the priority of the next government.
Scientists are increasingly pointing out that time for effective action is running out. Bavaria is already suffering noticeably from climate change, and the extreme weather in August was only the most obvious consequences. The rise in temperature is affecting Bavaria disproportionately; it is inevitably getting hotter. The only question is how bad it gets.
On this topic of all things, Hubert Aiwanger is now exploring whether he can break away from the decision to achieve climate neutrality in 2040. And it is true that many people are hoping for a break from crises after the Corona crisis, the war in Ukraine and inflation. But climate change cannot be wished away. Instead, federal and state governments are faced with the difficult challenge of developing an effective climate policy – for which they must also seek support from the population. There are hardly any simple solutions: The green hydrogen, which Aiwanger once again presented as a solution in the BR broadcast, cannot be produced without green electricity. It won’t be available in large quantities for years, if at all.