Germany′s ′climate cabinet′ delays action again | News | DW | 30.05.2019
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Germany's 'climate cabinet' delays action again

The special committee met in Berlin to discuss future climate action after the issue featured prominently in Sunday's EU elections. But critics say the government is dragging its feet on an urgent topic.

A special meeting of Germany's so-called climate cabinet on Wednesday produced little action on the issue of confronting climate change as members opted to delay making fundamental decisions until September.

Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, said concrete measures for lowering Germany's CO2 emissions will be determined by the end of the year.

The group was formed in April and consists of representatives from the ministries of economic affairs, finance, transportation, construction and agriculture. Wednesday's meeting was convened at the request of Environment Minister Svenja Schulze from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Merkel's coalition partner.

Earlier this week, Schulze voiced her frustration about the CDU's foot-dragging on her climate bill, saying she could not "take responsibility for further delays."

Read more: German political parties go green for EU 'climate election'

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Proposals on the table

The representatives of the ministries presented concrete proposals for reducing Germany's greenhouse gas emissions, but Schulze said Wednesday's meeting was only "the first step," noting, "We have a lot of work ahead of us." She said the group will meet throughout the summer.

Read more: Opinion: Germany's climate activism is full of hypocrisy

Proposals put forth at the meeting included extending rebates for the purchase of electric cars, expansion of public transport and billions in tax breaks for the modernization of buildings.

Power of the automobile industry

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), attributed great importance to a voluntary nature of any new measures, saying, "We want to allow, enable and make possible, not prohibit, ostracize and increase costs."

Read more: Germany: From leader to loser on climate protection?

Scheuer has come under fire for a lack of initiative when it comes to reducing carbon emissions from cars and trucks. Experts say his proposals for more electric cars and expanding regional public transportation will not be nearly enough.

Germany has historically resisted putting restrictions on cars and trucks due to the strength of the nation's automobile industry. As a result, carbon emissions from automobiles have not gone down in decades.

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'Our priority is to reach our 2030 aims'

Germany has made some progress in reducing carbon emissions by taking some of its dirtiest coal-fired power plants off the grid. The move has been expensive and the push for renewable energy has lagged, due in part to resistance to windmills and a lack of energy grid infrastructure.

"It isn't a question of whether Germany will be carbon neutral by 2050, but which path we will take. But right now our priority is to reach our 2030 aims," said a government spokesperson. Germany is on track to miss its 2020 aims, and will face hefty fines if it misses internationally agreed 2030 goals.

Read more: Bye bye lignite: Understanding Germany's coal phaseout

Environment Minister Schulze said one tool being discussed is the idea of a carbon tax, but members of the conservative CDU and CSU are strictly opposed to the concept, arguing such a tax would make driving and heating more expensive. Another option being discussed is an emissions trading scheme.

Not listening to voters

"It is regrettable that the government is making such slow progress on climate protection," said Green Party parliamentary co-leader Anton Hofreiter. "Promises of climate action were big again on Sunday, but today we just heard vague hints at fundamental decisions this fall. That is not convincing."

"It's embarrassing that the coalition has delayed climate action yet again after the clear message of the European elections," said Greenpeace Managing Director Martin Kaiser.

Germany's ruling coalition parties all suffered massive election losses on Sunday, whereas the Green Party, a champion of environmental issues, surged in support.

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js/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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