Green governor sets bold climate goals for rich German state

Germany’s only state governor from the rising Green party on Wednesday announced ambitious new climate targets that includes boosting new technologies so that “Tesla will soon only see our tail lights.”

The wealthy southwest German state, home to German automakers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, aims to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2040 — five years earlier than the national goal, recently re-elected governor Winfried Kretschmann said.

Baden-Wuerttemberg will also become the first German state to require that all new buildings have roofs with solar panels, he said. The same requirement will apply to existing buildings undergoing major refurbishments.

Kretschmann’s state government, which has Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats as its junior coalition partner, is seen as a possible template for the federal level. The Greens are currently leading in polls ahead of Germany’s national election on Sept. 26, with measures to combat global warming among voters’ top concerns.

“Whoever protects the climate, protects our freedom,” Kretschmann said in a speech to regional lawmakers setting out his government’s plans for the coming five years.

At least 2% of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s land will be designated for wind power and solar farms, particularly along highways and railway lines. The state government will also expand the Black Forest national park, and push for higher carbon prices and for the national deadline to phase out coal by 2038 to be brought forward to 2030, Kretschmann said.

The 73-year-old said the state where German inventor Karl Benz invented the modern motor vehicle almost 150 years ago would now “reinvent the car” by supporting battery technology, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.

“That way we’re going to ensure that Tesla will soon only see our tail lights,” he said, referring to the American electric car powerhouse.

The state of about 11 million people bordering Switzerland and France is one of the richest per capita in Germany.