“Restricting Freedoms” May Be Necessary To Fight Climate Change: German Ethics Council

Via The European Conservative,

The government may be forced to limit the available choices for citizens in order to battle predicted ‘devastating consequences’ of climate change. That’s the message in an opinion titled “Climate Justice,” published on March 13th by the German Ethics Council.

In the opinion, the Ethics Council—a board of expert advisors established by German law—recommends actions to be taken by corporations, individuals, and the government to ensure the effects of climate change do not unjustly burden “those who are not so well-off.” 

Primarily, the Ethics Council says, this should be done on a voluntary basis—through individual ”self-commitment as an expression of one’s individual freedom”—by, for example, “voluntarily abandoning certain vacation, consumption, or mobility practices.”

However, the Council’s statement continues (emphasis added),

On grounds of justice, it can be morally required to contribute to measures to tackle climate change. If one’s own exercise of freedom interferes in an unjust manner with the freedom and welfare of others or of future generations, for example through consumption that is harmful to the climate, the authorities may intervene with restrictions of freedom. 

In other words: If you cannot be shamed into behaving in a way deemed morally correct by the elite, the government may simply have to force you. Flugscham, from the original Swedish flygskam, meaning “flight shame”—guilt about flying experienced by environmentally conscious travelers—is now an established word in the German vocabulary.

While the opinion states that the Ethics Council is opposed to suspending “democratic freedoms and processes” to reach the desired climate goals, the group says it largely falls to the government to provide the “supportive framework conditions” under which individuals can—as we say to the kids—make good choices. 

These framework conditions, the opinion says, should among other things include lowered speed limits, increased “electromobility,” and increased CO2 taxes. The Council suggests a personal emissions limit that cannot be exceeded, and even “the ban on particularly climate-damaging products or services”—or, as Apollo News puts it: “a regulation as to who can buy what and to what extent.”

Defining climate change as a man-made (“due to, among other factors, the combustion of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests and moors since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution”) phenomenon, the organization also says Germany needs to take into account “the long history of colonialism and industrialisation” as well as “ongoing neo-colonial dependencies,” meaning

a distinction must be made between growth in countries of the global South that are catching up on development, and further growth of consumption and resource use in industrialised countries, and appropriate compensatory payments must be negotiated.

At a time when the former European industrial powerhouse barely has its nose above water, it’s questionable whether “compensatory payments” to the Global South is on the traffic light coalition’s radar, regardless of Ethics Council recommendations. 

The Ethics Council is a 26-member independent organization representing diverse “scientific, medical, theological, philosophical, ethical, social, economic and legal concerns” intended to provide guidance for dealing with societal changes, “particularly in the field of life sciences and their application to humans.” Established in German law, the Ethics Council is tasked with, among other things, developing “statements and recommendations for political and legislative action,” and prepares its opinions based on its own decision, “on behalf of the German Bundestag or on behalf of the Federal Government.”


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