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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel demands faster climate action as German flood death toll rises                

Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need to "speed up" the fight against climate change, as the death toll from devastating floods in Germany reached 177 on Thursday.

Merkel demands faster climate action as German flood death toll rises                
The floods have had a devastating impact on communities like Altenahr in western Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Merkel, who is retiring after the September elections, said that Germany and other countries had “not done enough” to meet the goal set out in the Paris climate accord of capping global warming at 1.5C.

“We shouldn’t pretend that we haven’t done anything, but it’s true that not enough has been done to reach the aim of staying well under two degrees and as close to 1.5C as possible,” Merkel told reporters.

“That is not just true of Germany, but of many countries across the world, which is why we need to increase the tempo.”

Merkel had already called for faster climate action last Sunday as she visited flood victims in Rhineland-Palatinate state.

One of the regions worst hit by last week’s devastating floods, Rhineland-Palatinate said Thursday that its death toll had reached 128, taking the total count to 177 in Germany and 209 across Europe.

READ ALSO: Merkel defends German flood alerts as death toll climbs

Merkel’s cabinet approved a huge emergency aid package Wednesday for flood-stricken regions, unlocking some 400 million euros ($470 million) in immediate relief.

“We have also made clear that this sum will be increased if it proves not to be enough,” Merkel said Thursday.

She added that society faced a “profound transformation” as European governments looked to reach carbon neutrality in the coming decades.

Merkel, who will leave office after 16 years following the September 26th poll, defended her record on the environment.

She pointed to new emissions reductions targets agreed by her government earlier this year, which mean Germany now aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2045, five years earlier than the previous target.

READ ALSO: How the extreme flooding in Germany is linked to global warming

Climate change ‘failures’

But the Chancellor admitted failures and disappointment in Germany’s climate protection policy. “Not enough has happened” during her chancellorship, Merkel said. “That’s why the pace has to be picked up.”

Merkel, who has been dubbed the ‘climate chancellor’ in the past, emphasised her personal commitment to the fight against global warming. “I am of the opinion that I have spent a great deal of energy on climate protection,” she said. 

“And yet, after all, I am sufficiently equipped with a scientific mind to see that the objective circumstances require that we cannot continue at this pace, but must speed up.”

At the same time, the chancellor pointed out that there has been resistance worldwide to efficient climate protection – for example, when it came to the implementation of the climate protection treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, where Merkel was in charge of negotiations. 

“I experienced many disappointments back then,” Merkel said. She said she had “devoted very, very much energy in my political life” to trying to do more to protect the climate worldwide at a political level. This has “actually shaped my entire political work,” said Merkel. 

READ ALSO: Merkel urges Germans to get vaccinated amid ‘exponential’ growth of Covid infections

Member comments

  1. This has very little to do with anthropogenic climate change and much more to do with natural variables, land use and a total failure of internal communications. Merkel should be ashamed to use this as an excuse.

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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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