How to call for energy saving?: Habeck's communication is facing a difficult moment

Economics Minister Habeck rejects an energy-saving premium.

How to call for energy saving?: Habeck's communication is facing a difficult moment

Economics Minister Habeck rejects an energy-saving premium. Instead, he relies on the solidarity of the people. When it comes to reducing gas consumption, that could still work, but not in another crisis.

Robert Habeck seems to be well aware that it seems strange when he, as Federal Minister of Economics, ponders shower heads on television. In any case, the Green politician let that shine through in the RTL interview on Thursday evening. But the situation is serious. At the moment it's all about saving as much gas as possible. Russia has now cut its supplies through the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline by 60 percent and may soon turn off the gas tap completely. That's why it's now also about shower heads. That always sounds banal, says Habeck. "But this banality in the sum times 41 million households creates a huge amount."

The economy minister refuses to pay people a premium to reduce their gas consumption. Every effort is a question of solidarity, says Habeck. If everything goes right in political communication, there is no need for an energy saving bonus in the end, explains Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw in an interview with "If it is actually possible to explain well why it is necessary for everyone to give something and that it can actually make a difference, then there is no need for financial incentives," says the professor for political communication from the University of Hamburg.

Economics Monika Schnitzer also said on Thursday on ZDF that it's not just about the money. "I think you have to send the right signals to people," said the professor of economics. The gas price is also an incentive. However, it will only increase in the coming weeks and months. For companies in particular, the gas auction models would therefore be a market-driven element, which the federal government is already preparing.

But Schnitzer also reminds us that there is not only the market. "On the other hand, appeals are needed that really motivate people." The economics professor recalled Japan's pragmatic handling of the oil price crisis in the 1970s. At that time, heating pipes were wrapped in the cellars for insulation. In companies it was said: "One up, two down". Only those who needed to go up more than one floor or down more than two should use the elevator. Everyone else should climb stairs.

There are comparable indications from the German Ministry of Economic Affairs. In recent months, Habeck has rarely been embarrassed to remind people to save energy at public events. Two weeks ago he presented a campaign to save energy. The first motifs are in bright colors and call on companies and retailers to turn up the air conditioning by two percent - or households to change the shower head. Whether that will reach people remains to be seen.

Rather, it is the minister who is already convincing. Communication is Habeck's strength, certifies expert Kleinen-von Königslöw the Green politician. "Basically, one has to say that Robert Habeck usually does his job very well." Also because he is good at explaining in detail why something is necessary or sometimes an unwelcome compromise has to be made.

A prime example of this is a video from late March. Habeck had traveled to Doha, Qatar, to negotiate new gas contracts. On the fringes of the visit to the desert, he stood in front of a camera and revealed his inner conflicts. He spoke about the emirate's questionable human rights record and what it would be like to speak openly about it in the conversation. Political advisor Johannes Hillje characterized Habeck's manner in the interview at the time as a "turning point in political communication".

This new species is now being tested. From the point of view of the expert Kleinen-von Königslöw, it is currently an exciting moment to count on people's solidarity. "With the climate issue, we are at a point where more and more people are understanding that individual behavioral changes alone are not enough. It also requires the major political decisions that are necessary," she says.

More and more people would have accepted the idea of ​​adapting their own lives to stop climate change. They think about what they eat, what clothes they wear and what they should refrain from in everyday life. "At the same time, a certain amount of frustration set in," says the expert. "Many are worried about really changing their lives, also because they observe that the major political decisions that are needed at the same time to protect the climate have not yet been made sufficiently."

A problem that could also arise in the gas crisis. But still: Regarding Habeck's comment that every effort is a form of solidarity, Kleinen-von Königslöw says she can imagine that such an appeal would work - "if it is well explained and made clear why saving energy can be effective". Ideally, it should not only be households that are responsible for saving gas, but also industry.

In addition, unlike the climate crisis, there are two completely different aspects. "Regardless of whether there is a bonus, saving energy has an individual advantage: the federal government doesn't have to rely on people saving energy to mock Putin or show solidarity with Ukraine," says Kleinen-von Königslöw. It is enough if they want to reduce their own energy costs.

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