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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel urges richest nations to up climate game despite Covid

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged industrialised nations not to let the enormous financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic deter them from investing in the fight against climate change.

Merkel urges richest nations to up climate game despite Covid
Angela Merkel at the digital climate event on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/EPA Pool | Filip Singer

Speaking at the annual informal Petersberg Climate Dialogue, held online because of the pandemic, Merkel said she was “not looking ahead to the next few years without concern”.

“This pandemic has torn enormous holes in the budgets” of industrialised nations, she said.

“We have invested a great deal to counter this pandemic… And yet we must not let up in our international responsibilities. That will be a very big task.”

Dubbed the “climate chancellor” thanks to her engagement for cutting global emissions, Merkel is set to retire from politics in September after 16 years in power.

The veteran chancellor initiated the Petersberg Climate Dialogue after stalled negotiations at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15).

The German government this week tightened its targets to reduce CO2 emissions after a landmark ruling by the country’s top court declared a flagship climate protection law “insufficient”.

READ ALSO: Germany sets more ambitious climate goals after landmark ruling

Under the new targets, the government expects to slash emissions by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, going further than the current 55 percent reduction target.

Germany is also aiming to be carbon neutral by 2045, five years earlier than previously planned.

Merkel on Thursday also called on other countries to follow Germany’s lead by implementing taxes on carbon emissions, which she described as a “particularly suitable instrument” on the path to carbon neutrality.

Germany in January slapped taxes of €25 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted by the transport and heating sectors.

“In the interest of future generations all over the world, it is important that we act quickly and decisively to limit the dramatic consequences of global warming,” she said.

Speaking at the same forum, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the G7 summit in England in June will be the first at which every member has committed to hitting net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

But he said he would push during the summit to “secure a substantial pile of cash” from the industrialised nations to help fund developing countries’ transition to cleaner energy or technology.

“At the G7 and other international fora I will not hesitate to bend the ear of my fellow leaders on the need for them” to take action, he said.

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POLITICS

Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
 

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.

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