30 Aug 2021, 13:27
Kerstine Appunn

Chancellor candidates focus on climate and industry in first TV debate

The three German chancellor candidates from the Conservative CDU/CSU alliance, the Green Party and the Social Democrats (SPD) stressed the importance of helping German industry through the energy transition but proposed markedly different ways to do it during their first public debate broadcast live by TV stations RTL and ntv. Green Party chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock said the current CDU-SPD government coalition had done little to steer industry toward CO2 neutrality, and as a result new low-emission technologies were now developed abroad. She argued that industry needs reliable framework conditions, including a 2030 end-date for the sale of combustion engine vehicles. Conservative candidate Armin Laschet criticised Baerbock for “putting industry actors in chains while telling them to run faster,” adding steel production in Germany would no longer be possible with ever stricter regulations. “Companies don’t need more regulations, they are innovating because they want to become climate neutral themselves,” Laschet said. The SPD’s Olaf Scholz criticised what he called the CDU’s lack of engagement in a faster and wider expansion of renewable energies necessary to meet industry’s increased power demand in the future.  “How can you get out of coal and nuclear power at the same time without replacing them with something else? Yet the CDU/CSU has always refused to let us produce more [renewable] electricity,” he said.

All three candidates dodged the question whether citizens would face higher costs because of the energy transition, and whether climate neutrality would require other sacrifices from the average consumer. Baerbock called Scholz’s wait-and-see industrial policy approach “terrifying” and accused Laschet of  “apparently not having a plan for climate policy.” She argued that combustion engines and oil-fired heating systems will have to be phased out. “People are waiting for politicians to give them answers on how climate neutrality could be achieved,” she said.

The three candidates’ first TV debate came four weeks before the general election. The conservatives, the SPD and the Green Party are currently head-to-head in the polls. All major parties have vowed to follow through with Germany’s target of becoming climate neutral by 2045.

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