Merkel rebuffs German minister’s call to step into climate dispute

Barbara Hendricks was dealt a blow last night, when Germany's blueprint for implementing the Paris Agreement was blocked. [UNclimatechange/Flickr]

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday (2 November) rejected a call from her environment minister to intervene in a dispute over how to curb CO2 emissions that has prompted her cabinet to delay approving a climate action plan.

Barbara Hendricks, a member of the Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, had wanted her proposals for Germany’s Climate Action Plan for 2050 to be ready for the next round of global climate talks in mid-November in Morocco.

But Merkel said Hendricks needed to try to work out an agreement with other ministers before she would get involved.

“Until now there have been no discussions at the ministerial level,” Merkel said, adding that it was therefore a totally normal procedure for specialists to try to reach an agreement first before the ministers do so.

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Only then would the chancellery need to act as a mediator and Merkel said she would be prepared to do that if necessary.

Resistance from ministries – in particular transport and agriculture – run by Merkel’s conservatives has led to a delay and means Hendricks will go to the Morocco talks empty-handed.

“If the chancellor’s policy competence is worth something, the proposal should have come back almost unchanged from the ministries,” Hendricks told the Funke Media Group, adding that she had discussed her plan with the chancellery.

Merkel, once dubbed the “climate chancellor”, has remained noticeably absent in recent months from the debate over what is intended to Germany’s plan to meet its ambitious climate goals.

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The plan lays out how Europe’s biggest economy will move away from fossil fuels and achieve its objective of a 95% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050. It is based on pledges made as part of a global climate treaty clinched in Paris last December.

Following months of debate, the environment ministry has already watered down its proposals by abandoning a timetable to exit coal-fired power generation and scrapping C02 emissions reduction goals for individual sectors.

Instead, the new version proposes measures to ensure Germany will be “largely” greenhouse-gas neutral by 2050.

Hendricks urged other ministries to take Germany’s climate commitments seriously. “Some people still seem to believe that climate protection is solely the pleasure of the environment minister,” she said.

“If we cannot reach a consensus on the way to exit coal, legal regulations will inevitably become unavoidable. I want to avoid this.”

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