Germany reacts to collapse of coalition talks

After almost five weeks of deliberations, the pro-business Free Democratic Party has pulled the plug on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to form a coalition government made up of her conservative CDU/CSU alliance, the Greens and the FDP. Migration, climate, energy, and transport have been key stumbling blocks over the past weeks. The Clean Energy Wire presents first reactions to the failure of coalition negotiations. [Updates reaction by the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE)]

Reactions from civil society and industry representatives:

Fritz Brickwedde, head of the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE)

“The election result surely posed a great challenge for the parties. But that is exactly why they need to act responsibly. Given the need for amending the renewables auction system […] and other great challenges, the energy industry cannot wait months for a government capable of acting. The lines of compromise for carrying the energy transition forward were clearly visible. They did not convince us in every way, but would have enabled a successful energy transition and a strong boost for the necessary electrification of transport, heating and the industry. Instead, achieving the climate targets has become even more uncertain and no measures will be taken for the time being to counter emerging employment problems in relevant parts of the renewables industry.”

 

Tuomo Hatakka, CEO Vattenfall:

"I had hoped the talks would work out. Hope dies last - but it is dead now. The country now needs strong political leadership. We have massive issues in the energy sector, but not only there. We now face tense weeks, if not months.”

“The Energiewende is our reality, we get that. The Energiewende will continue. Mentally, we are well prepared in this regard. The Energiewende will continue regardless of what coalition we will get.”

“We must reasonably balance climate goals, supply security and affordability.”

 

Andreas Kuhlmann, head of the German Energy Agency (dena):

"One observation on the coalition talks: I noticed that the really important issues [for the energy sector] didn't play much of a role. There was a long debate about the 2020 climate goals and how they might be achieved.

"We have achieved three quarters of this target [a 40 percent emissions reduction compared to 1990] in 27 years, it seems obvious that we cannot achieve the remaining quarter in three years." Kuhlmann said it was more important to find a path towards the 2030 goal of a 55-percent reduction.

 

Sascha Müller-Kraenner, managing director of Environmental Action Germany (DUH):

“During the ‘Jamaica’ negotiations, the Conservatives and FDP have shown they are unwilling to take concrete steps to implement self-imposed and internationally agreed climate targets,” Sascha Müller-Kraenner, managing director of NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) in a statement.

“The Chancellor’s fine-sounding pronouncements on the climate have been followed up by very few, if any, concrete steps during the exploratory talks. Once again, the FDP proved a servant to the fossil fuel lobby. It was the only democratic party to question German climate targets and the roll-out of renewables.”

 

Utz Tillmann, managing director of the Chemical Industry Association (VCI):

“Obviously, the chemistry between the partners wasn’t good enough to find a common political vision for Germany. That is regrettable. But to stand up for political convictions instead of vague solutions deserves the same respect as the courage to compromise. Germany needs a capable government as soon as possible. The challenges for the country are substantial: Digitalisation, the energy transition, innovation and education, as well as infrastructure, will all have to be tackled.”

 

Reinhold von Eben-Worlée, president of business association Die Familienunternehmer (family-owned enterprises)

“If, two months after the federal elections and an following two extensions of coalition talks, no agreements were possible in the most important policy areas, these four parties are apparently unable to form a coalition. The FDP was the party to call a spade a spade. In times of numerous ruptures, a stable coalition government in Germany is more important than ever. A minority government is therefore not a reasonable alternative, and Germany needs new elections.”

 

Leif Miller, managing director of Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (Nabu):

“It’s regrettable there was no deal and that negotiators did not manage to agree on questions that are vital for humanity, such as climate protection. The Conservatives and the FDP, which talked about modernising Germany, ignored that imperative when it came to energy and climate policies. The acting government, and Chancellor Merkel in particular, have to make good on their climate protection promises by 2020. Germany agreed as early as 2010 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020. Key points are a coal exit by 2035 at the latest, and a climate protection law that enforces international climate targets within Germany.”

 

Sweelin Heuss, director Greenpeace Germany

“The Jamaica coalition has failed – because of the FDP’s stubbornness, but also that of the CDU/CSU – to lead the country into a sustainable, climate-friendly future. The Greens, ironically, are the only ones who want to meet the 2020 climate target for 2020, which was decided by the last CDU/CSU-FDP government. FDP head Lindner has demonstrated a strange idea of modernisation by insisting on antiquated technology like coal plants."

"A Jamaica coalition could have paved the way for Germany to exit coal, phase out combustion engines in cars […] These changes will come anyway, but Germany missed its chance to implement them in a far-sighted and socially just manner.”

 

Hubertus Porschen, head of business association Die Jungen Unternehmer (The Young Entrepreneurs)

“Precious time has been wasted by breaking off the coalition talks between CDU/CSU, FDP, and the Green Party two months after the federal elections. The established parties have missed a chance to demonstrate that they can work together in a constructive way. The unprofessional way in which all parties involved conducted these negotiations lets Germany appear in a bad light. Also, a standstill in Germany means a standstill in Europe as well. The talking parties have failed to assume responsibility here too.”

 

Carsten König, head of renewable energy association BSW Solar

“Germany cannot afford to remain in energy policy limbo any longer. Neither the climate problem, nor the rapid economic change in the energy and mobility industry will wait for Germany […] Our country needs to become capable of acting quickly […] The next four years will set the standard for the global energy transition’s decisive phase […] A prerequisite for this is that the Energiewende receives a strong impetus and a smart management. We are still confident that a majority for that can be found at a political restart.”

 

Media commentary:

 

Joachim Wille, editor-in-chief of climate action website klimaretter.info:

The failure of the Jamaica negotiations might be a good thing because it is hard to imagine a government made up of these parties would have lasted four years, Wille writes. “Jamaica could have put Germany back on track to reach its 2020 CO2 target. But the FDP in particular blocked the necessary path to a coal exit. The CDU and CSU put the brakes on, too – as well as on transport and agriculture, which will have to be radically reformed. The behaviour of FDP and Conservatives is all the more grotesque because it was a government made up of those very same parties that agreed to the target of cutting CO2 by 40 percent by 2020 - which will now be likely missed by a wide margin.” Wille says the prospect of new elections is likely to be bad news for climate protection, because it would likely result in a new ‘grand coalition’ of Conservatives and Social Democrats, and a repeat of outgoing government's inaction on the issue. “Time is running out for Germany to turn from CO2-cutting laggard to pioneer.”

 

Frank Aischmann, public broadcaster ARD

The decision by the pro-business FDP to end talks over a Jamaica coalition in Germany was the right thing to do, because the parties were unable to identify a “big, convincing, and common idea”, Frank Aischmann writes in an opinion piece for Tagesschau.de. “It would have been a mistake to find an arduous compromise by deliberately producing a vague compromise of a coalition agreement, and to govern until a predictable early government collapse,” Aischmann says. A coalition of the FDP, Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance and the Greens would have been formed only “because it’s mathematically possible”, he adds. New elections now are the most plausible next step, he argues, adding that German voters are now “very well informed” about the political situation should they have to cast their ballot again.

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