Merkel ally warns of collapse of coalition talks, as climate comes up for debate

Merkel ally warns of collapse of coalition talks, as climate comes up for debate
Coal-fired power plants such as this one in Brandenburg put German climate targets at risk. Photo: DPA.
The parties hoping to form a Jamaica coalition are meeting on Thursday to discuss the crucial issue of climate policy. And the negotiator for Angela Merkel’s CDU is already warning that the talks could collapse.

Thursday is set to be the most delicate day yet in the ongoing coalition talks between Merkel’s CDU/CSU, the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green party. On the agenda are the sensitive topics of climate policy, energy policy and refugees.

Armin Laschet, the lead negotiator for the CDU on energy, told the Rheinische Post on Thursday that “if Germany’s position as an industrial power is threatened then we won’t be able to build a coalition.”

He argued that climate protection is important, but that securing jobs is also a moral imperative.

“If brown coal plants in the Lausitz region close and jobs are taken from thousands of people, then the AfD will win 30 percent next time around,” Laschet said.

The Green party stated in a ten-point plan they published as a condition for joining the government that the 20 most polluting coal power stations would have to close and that Germany should completely ditch coal by 2030.

But brown coal mining takes place predominantly in the east of Germany, where millions of disgruntled voters chose to vote for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the September election.

East German states have some of the highest levels of unemployment in Germany, although that is in comparison to a historic low nationwide. Economic marginalization has been cited as one reason why many voters in the former communist east were prepared to vote for the AfD.

The Green party don’t appear ready to back down, though.

Party chairwoman Simone Peter told the Funke Mediengruppe that “it is about implementing real climate policies again and securing concrete arrangements.”

Peter said that Germany must stick to the pledges it made to reduce carbon emissions by 2020 and that “without doubt closing down coal power plants and investing in the renewable energy infrastructure are necessary parts of this.”

About Laschet warned the Greens that they were isolated on their climate positions.

“The Greens know that they don’t have any allies on their hard demands,” he said, adding that the CDU had no intention of making significant concessions.

“If necessary we’ll let it crash,” he warned.

A recent report by the Federal Ministry of the Environment (BMU) revealed that Germany is likely to miss its official target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 in comparison with 1990.

The BMU's report states that emissions will likely fall between 31.7 percent at worst and 32.5 percent at best by 2020.

READ MORE: Germany at huge risk of missing 2020 climate targets, government figures show