Germany's social cohesion and industrial strength at stake on path to climate neutrality - Laschet
The candidate for chancellor of Germany's conservative CDU/CSU alliance, Armin Laschet, has said the country's "social cohesion" and the survival of its mighty industrial base are his biggest worries regarding climate change. In an interview with newspaper Die Zeit, Laschet stressed the "social question" would be one of his central concerns in the struggle against global warming, arguing that an end to Germany's renewables surcharge would reduce costs for electricity across the board and help to avoid social hardships. Asked how wealthier people, who on average have a much higher individual carbon footprint, could help reduce emissions by giving up certain activities, the state premier of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), doubted whether "a debate about abstinence" would be helpful. Laschet said Germany could revamp its energy supply from the current level of 80 percent fossil fuels to a climate-neutral system based on renewables within a little over two decades, but stressed that the "justified concerns" of citizens rejecting the construction of wind turbines near their homes would have to be weighed against this objective.
Moreover, he called the debate about a general speed limit on motorways "symbolism" that would not help to reduce emissions much, especially if more and more cars coming on the road have electric engines and thus cause no direct emissions. He warned against a ban on combustion engines, arguing that policymakers should instead create the right conditions for the cleanest technology to prevail. "The car industry will restructure itself. This means we won't be dealing with questions of compensation payments," he said. Laschet backed the idea of reducing short-haul flights by improving railroad services and shortening the delay caused by lengthy licensing procedures for new tracks which, according to the newspaper, can take up to 70 months in Germany for one kilometre. He argued that "western" Germany could potentially speed up its coal exit, but defended a controversial decision by his NRW state government to continue licensing extensive lignite mining projects as a contribution to the country's energy supply security.