Last Sunday, Germany’s ridiculous Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock departed for a week-long tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. The purposes of the trip were, as usual, fairly hazy. Her flight would demonstrate that “despite the great distance”, Germany and the Pacific are “closely connected by common values and a common view of the world”, and that we can “rely on each other and support each other as strategic partners”. Apparently, performing these close liberal connections for the media requires the massive carbon emissions of long airplane flights, even for a Green politician who is in general opposed to air travel for ordinary people and once toyed with a proposal to ban all domestic flights in Germany.
The centrepiece of Baerbock’s junket was set to be a tedious post-colonial liturgical exercise in Canberra, at which she would oversee the return of “cultural assets” from the Grassi Museum in Leipzig to the Aboriginal Kaurna people. These objects include a fishing net, a long thin stick reported to be a spear, and two shorter sticks variously described as a club and a digging stick or a wooden sword-cum-club and a digging-stick-cum-bark-peeler. The truth is that they’re just sticks and nobody knows what they were for. Nor were these quotidian hunter-gatherer accoutrements stolen from the Kaurna. They were acquired legitimately by German missionaries between 1838 and 1839 in the course of ethnographic research. These then donated them to the Historical Museum in Dresden, via which they found their way to Leipzig.
Alas, Baerbock was unable to play the part of self-flagellating Western colonial transgressor and reinvest the Kaurna with their sticks at the ceremony yesterday. Jens Hoch, a German embassy official, had to fill in for her, because the second-hand Bundeswehr planes used to transport the highest officeholders of the Federal Republic are too old and unreliable to perform flights that commercial airlines manage daily without incident.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who has priority in booking government flights, had dibs on the only available modern and reliable aircraft in the fleet, an Airbus A350. She had reserved it for a separate trip to Australia to observe the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Faeser cancelled her girl-power spectatorship exercise after the early elimination of the German team, but the Luftwaffe could not rebook the flight, because too few of their personnel are qualified to fly the modern aircraft. Baerbock had to take a 23-year-old Airbus A340 instead. This plane was once called the “Konrad Adenauer” after the first chancellor of the Federal Republic, but they scrubbed his name from the livery sometime after a serious incident in 2018, when it lost all electrical power on an abortive flight to bring Angela Merkel to the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. The Berliner Zeitung reports that the A340 was itself a short-notice replacement for another Bundeswehr airplane that ended up being grounded because of unnamed technical problems.
Baerbock and her entourage departed Germany on their rickety aircraft without incident, landing to refuel at Abu Dhabi late Sunday or early Monday morning. They took off again at 3:33 am bound for Australia, but the pilots found they could not retract the landing flaps. They had to dump 100,000 litres of fuel to make the overweight plane fit for landing. When jets dump fuel at altitude, it is aerosolised; the small droplets eventually decay into water vapour, ozone and carbon dioxide, all of which would normally contribute to the greenhouse effect, but as in this case the fuel was released on behalf of Germany’s leading Green climate botherer, we can be assured that the action had if anything an emissions-reducing effect.
Back at the Abu Dhabi airport, Baerbock opted not to continue to Australia via a vastly more climate-friendly if considerably less comfortable commercial flight; throughout her tenure in Scholz’s cabinet, she has used government planes for 70 trips, while flying commercial only a handful of times. After repairs, the A340 departed on a second attempt for Australia at 1am on Tuesday. Yet again, the flaps jammed, forcing the pilots to dump another 100,000 litres of fossil fuels into our carbon-laden atmosphere. Defeated and the subject of international mockery, Baerbock returned to Hamburg via a commercial Emirates flight on Tuesday.
Among the European social welfare states, Germany occupies an extreme position, taxing the incomes of its workers at rates well above 40%. Unmarried workers without children pay nearly 48% of their wages into the coffers of the Federal Republic. Only Belgium is more acquisitive. Half of these vast revenues go towards our bloated social entitlement regime; everything else, from the 11% of our workforce employed in the massive civil service, to the upkeep of government aircraft, must be funded from the remainder. It’s hardly surprising that the state can hardly keep its ageing Airbus fleet in the air, and it’s happy indeed that even our rulers are not spared the widening systemic failures. If the decay continues on its present course, I will live to see the day when Germany is no longer able to transport its politicians anywhere.