03 Jun 2019, 13:54
Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany’s SPD demands clear stance on coal exit from conservative partner as coalition wavers


The German Social Democrats (SPD) have demanded a clear stance on the country’s envisaged coal exit from their bigger partner in the governing coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance, newspaper Tagesspiegel reports. After a group of conservative members of parliament last week criticised the proposal by a government-appointed commission to gradually phase out coal-fired power production by 2038, SPD environment minister Svenja Schulze said “the SPD will not allow this compromise to be broken up again”. SPD climate politician Matthias Miersch said backtracking on the coal exit proposal would mean Germany cannot reach its 2030 emissions reduction targets and therefore lead to “a clear violation of the coalition treaty and a massive loss in credibility”.
The group of conservative MPs, none of which hails from a coal mining region, had argued that the phase-out would lead to rising power prices, threaten power supply security and force companies to relocate abroad to stay competitive.
Green Party politician Oliver Krischer rejected the MPs’ criticism, arguing it came down to criticising a compromise forged by energy and climate experts without having made any viable proposal as to how to proceed on emissions reduction themselves. Krischer said the government coalition had to clarify its position regarding the coal exit as soon as possible or otherwise “the coalition will have met its end”.
Meanwhile, the resignation of Andrea Nahles as leader of the SPD has fuelled concerns that the governing coalition between SPD and the CDU/CSU will fall apart before the official end of its term in 2021. In an interview with Tagesspiegel, SPD finance minister and vice chancellor Olaf Scholz said the government would have to come up with “ground-breaking decisions” regarding climate policy before the end of the year. With a view to possible resistance from the conservatives against Germany’s planned Cliamte Action Law, Scholz said his party would “not remain inactive” and might review its participation in the coalition at the planned coalition half-time evaluation later this year.

The grand coalition has been tainted by internal quarrels ever since the SPD reluctantly joined another government with Merkel following the collapse of the so-called Jamaica coalition talks between the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the pro-business FDP in late 2017. In a bid to assuage critics of the coalition among its ranks, the SPD leadership entered the government partnership on the condition that it be reviewed two years after the elections to assess how successful the party can assert its own priorities.

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