Local politicians say that there are not enough skilled workers to complete all the necessary municipal projects in seven years, Source: Marcus Lenk / Unsplash

Berlin is gearing up for a referendum on climate neutrality

Berlin is gearing up for a referendum on climate neutrality

The ballot proposes to move the carbon neutrality horizon from 2045 to 2030

On 26 March, Berliners will again head to the polls – this time in a referendum about climate change. A successful grassroots movement has been able to secure enough signatures for a referendum to make Berlin reach its climate targets in 2030, rather than 2045. This means that in 2030, the emissions of Berlin would have to be 95% lower than they were in 1990.

The last referendum in the city was about expropriating large corporate landlords and it passed in 2021. However, after that local leaders were faced with a legal conundrum, as there were no clear laws to do so and have struggled ever since to find legal justification to go ahead with proceedings.

This referendum would be different, as upon passing it would become automatically binding, as it aims to address a specific law in Berlin – Berlin Climate Protection and Energy Transition Act (Berliner Klimaschutz- und Energiewendegesetz).

Reducing climate action timetables 

Apart from reducing climate adaptation’s time from close to 25 years to seven, the referendum also proposes strict yearly guidelines on the reduction.

Yet, in order for the referendum to be valid, there must be a majority of ‘yes’ votes and a voter turnout of at least 25%. This means around 613,000 votes. On 15 March, local authorities reported that they have issued 405,000 mail-in ballots – 16.7% of those eligible to vote.

Berlin’s concerns about the referendum

Local leaders from across the political spectrum in Berlin have spoken out against the referendum. One of the main reasons they cite is that it just would not be feasible.

This is because the technology to institute district heating with green hydrogen is not yet advanced enough and pushing deadlines for solar and wind on private buildings would incur a debt in the double-digit billions, according to some analysts.

Additionally, focusing only on public buildings in the municipality – redevelopment would also be impossible in the next seven years, because of insufficient workers in the city.

Moreover, Berlin does not have enough surface area to produce all of its own electricity, meaning that a large chunk of that would have to be imported. At the same time, local authorities in the German capital have little to no say in what type of energy is generated outside of its borders. 



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU