This summer, when I visited him in his office in Berlin, the most powerful green politician in the world was at a low point. It was the last day of the parliamentary term and Robert Habeck, Germany’s vice-chancellor, was running half an hour late. When he finally arrived, he pretend-collapsed as he entered the room, dragging his satchel behind him like a frustrated teenager. When I asked how his day had been, he exhaled theatrically and quoted the opening line of the Boomtown Rats song I Don’t Like Mondays: “The silicon chip inside her head gets switched to overload.”
Habeck leads Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, and earlier that afternoon one of his core pieces of legislation had been due to be passed by parliament. It would have obliged public authorities, datacentres and businesses to periodically audit their energy use and reduce heat waste. But the opposition had managed to scupper the vote, and now Habeck was heading into the summer recess empty-handed.