New SPD leaders call for 'massive investments' in new energy system, say climate package needs revamp
Clean Energy Wire
The new leaders of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, have called for "massive" investments in modernising the country's energy system and reopening negotiations with their conservative government coalition partners CDU/CSU on the government's recently agreed climate package. At a party conference in Berlin, where the pair was formally elected and their main motion is put to a vote, Walter-Borjans said a ten-year investment programme of over 45 billion euros was needed to finance necessary climate action efforts and other policy measures. "A low national debt quota is worthless if the environment is destroyed," he argued, adding that this would put "a much greater debt on the next generation." Walter-Borjans said the bill for climate change is currently being passed on to other parts of the world and to future generations, but must be addressed "here and now" and paid for "by those who make the biggest profits from causing it." He said a "fundamental tax reform" would allow Germany to increase a planned CO2 price and the new SPD leadership is ready to reopen negotiations on the climate package. "We cannot just sit back," Walter-Borjans said, adding that compromises were necessary in politics but the SPD could not afford to alienate the many young people protesting for more ambitious climate action in the Fridays for Future movement.
His fellow party leader, Saskia Esken, stressed that Germany's greenhouse gas emissions are meant to fall to less than half of their 1990 level by 2030, warning that "every day with inaction is a day lost". She also called for "massive investments" and predicted that technologies like the combustion engine car would become obsolete more quickly than many people think. Esken said the interests of workers in emissions-intensive industries and those of climate activists are not opposed, but rather aligned, as both groups want a clean environment and a society with low unemployment. "We must not take part in building up artificial antagonisms," Esken said.
To the surprise of many observers, the new SPD leaders won an internal party vote last week, putting the two relatively unknown politicians at the helm of Germany's oldest party. Walter-Borjans and Esken are seen as more left-leaning than their competitors, vice-chancellor and finance minister Olaf Scholz and Klara Geywitz and campaigned on a platform of increased climate action ambitions and possibly ending the coalition with Merkel's conservatives, but have been seen as backtracking from their most drastic demands since the leadership election.