04 Sep 2017, 00:00
Sven Egenter Benjamin Wehrmann

Merkel and Schulz shun climate & energy / NRW climate ambition

Clean Energy Wire

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democratic challenger Martin Schulz failed to address climate and energy policies in Sunday’s TV debate ahead of the 24 September federal election. The debate focused mostly on questions related to refugee issues, foreign policy and some social security topics. On the diesel emission scandal, Merkel, whose conservative CDU has governed for the past four years in a grand coalition with Schulz’ SPD, said that while the industry was facing a transition, petrol and diesel cars would be needed for decades to come.

Find summaries of the debate in English on The Economist or Bloomberg.

Get background on the German election campaign and the energy and climate policy issues in the Clean Energy Wire dossier.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

After the TV debate between conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and her social-democratic challenger Martin Schulz in the run-up to the German election on 24 September, Merkel was largely seen as more convincing, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.  In a debate that sidestepped many important topics, notably energy and climate policy, the two candidates whose parties have governed Germany together for the past four years were often seen as old colleagues rather than rivals, the article says. “It could be expected that Merkel was not going to show any drive for change, but also Martin Schulz lacked impulses for true social and ecologic transformation,” the Green party’s top candidate Katrin Göring-Eckardt said.

Find the article in German here and an overview of reactions to the TV-debate in German here.

Get background on the German election campaign and the energy and climate policy issues in the Clean Energy Wire dossier.

Washington Post

The TV debate between conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and her social-democratic rival Martin Schulz three weeks before the parliamentary elections “was billed by broadcasters as a duel but at times better resembled a duet,” Griff Witte writes for the Washington Post. The debate “featured an entirely civil exchange of ideas” between the two candidates whose parties have governed the country together in a coalition for the past four years, but lacked any true antagonism between the contenders, he says. US President Donald Trump “received far more criticism than either candidate unloaded on the other,” Witte says.

Read the article in English here.

Get background on the German election campaign and the energy and climate policy issues in the Clean Energy Wire dossier.

Der Spiegel

German economic liberal party FDP is increasingly wooing adversaries of the energy transition and climate policy sceptics in its bid to reenter parliament, write Anna-Sophia Lang and Gerald Traufetter in Der Spiegel. The FDP fell short of the required number of votes in 2013, for the first time in postwar history. During the state elections in Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), party head Christian Lindner successfully employed a strategy of opposing wind power expansion – “now he is using the same trick for the federal elections,” the authors say. Most other parties, except the right-wing populist party AfD, “do not cater for the turbine opponents,” they argue. Lindner, however, stresses that “we don’t question the entire energy transition,” while at the same time speaking of an “uncontrolled and at times ideological” expansion of renewable power – an ambiguous strategy also used by the AfD in the context of immigration, Lang and Traufetter write.

Read the article in German here (behind paywall).

See the CLEW factsheet Fighting windmills: When growth hits resistance for background.

General-Anzeiger Bonn / Welt Online

The new government of conservative CDU and business-oriented FDP in Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) seems intent on ramping up climate protection goals and quickly remedying air pollution in inner cities associated with car emissions, Kirsten Bialdiga and Thomas Reisener write in Bonn’s General-Anzeiger newspaper. NRW’s new economy minister Andreas Pinkwart (FDP) said it was possible to exceed the climate protection goals of the previous state government of Greens and Social Democrats (SPD) and to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent by the end of 2020 over 1990. Pinkwart said the state could further decrease its lignite capacities and invest in infrastructure for electric mobility, the authors say.
In a separate article on Welt Online, Pinkwart defended the state government’s decision to impose stricter regulation for wind power expansion. “So far, NRW focused almost exclusively on wind power. I think that is unfavourable,” he said, arguing that repeated protests against new wind parks showed that maintaining acceptance was necessary. However, Pinkwart added that the wind power projects that had already received a license, along with the replacement of older turbines with newer models, would eventually double the state’s wind power generation.

Find the article in Welt Online in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet Facts on the German state elections in NRW for more information.


German climate policy often overlooks the important principle of keeping costs at a minimum, economists Hubertus Bardt and Thilo Schaefer write in a guest commentary for the Handelsblatt. “Of course, there might be good reasons to diverge from this principle in individual cases,” but “when the exception becomes the norm, something is wrong,” they argue. In 2016, 9.6 billion euros of support were invested into solar installations, “equaling about 400 euros per saved tonne of CO2”, the researchers from the industry-affiliated IW Köln institute say. “The next government has to make climate policy more efficient. The EEG auctions are an important first step,” they argue.

See the CLEW dossier The energy transition and climate change for more information.

German Federal Government

Germany’s carmakers will have to step up their efforts to avoid driving bans in inner cities due to high NOx emissions, the German government says in a press release. Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with representatives of several affected German cities today to discuss necessary steps, such as software updates, buyers’ premiums for modern cars with lower emissions and the fund “Sustainable mobility for the city.” The chancellor said carmakers must “acknowledge the signs of the times” and invest more in alternative engines.

See the CLEW factsheet Dieselgate – a timeline of Germany’s car emissions fraud scandal for more information.


Germany’s energy transition “is no energy transition” since the country continues to heavily rely on lignite power as its most important source of energy, Christian Schlesinger writes in the business weekly WirtschaftsWoche. If Germany wants to lower its carbon emissions “it has to exit coal-fired power production,” he argues. Even current plans to shut down several lignite plants are by far insufficient for achieving the country’s 2020 climate target of reducing emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels, Schlesinger says. The most effective way to manage CO2 reduction would be to put a higher price tag on it, “a simple economic hypothesis,” he argues. If the EU’s emission trading system (ETS) cannot be reformed properly, “a CO2 tax would be an alternative,” he says.

Find the article in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal? for background.

Energie & Management

Climate protection and the energy transition are among the losers of the German election campaign, writes Ralf Köpke in sector magazine Energie & Management. The current grand coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats has failed to put the country on track to meet its 2020 climate and energy savings targets, he writes. Now, the chancellor has only given vague hints on key issues such as coal exit, the end of the combustion engine or the electrification of heating and transport during the campaign. The campaigning parties have also failed to explain how they plan to keep the broader public and businesses on board to reach the volume of installed renewables needed for the Energiewende.

Find the article in German here.

Get background on Germany's climate and emission targets in the Clean Energy Wire factsheet.


France Strategie

Germany is likely to lower its Energiewende ambitions after the upcoming general elections, according to an analysis by French government think tank France Strategie. Germany will likely miss its 2020 climate targets, while the long-term insecurity of the project and the associated costs remain very high, writes author Etienne Beeker. He says progress in efficiency is very slow, while the use of petrol in transport and coal in power generation has barely changed. "At a moment when voters focus their attention on other subjects, such as immigration and security, we can expect a reduction in the ambition of German energy policy after the parliamentary elections in September," he concludes.

Read the analysis in French here.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
« previous news next news »


Researching a story? Drop CLEW a line or give us a call for background material and contacts.

Get support

+49 30 62858 497

Journalism for the energy transition

Get our Newsletter
Join our Network
Find an interviewee