Smaller German parties’ TV debate shows clear differences in approach to climate action
Clean Energy Wire
In a televised debate following on that of Germany’s three chancellor candidates, the four smaller parties in the country’s parliament have traded blows over the course of climate policy after the election on 26 September, exposing deep differences in how global warming should be tackled. Three of the four parties, namely the Left Party, the pro-business FDP and the conservative Bavarian party CSU stand a good chance to become junior partners in a new government coalition, whereas the far-right AfD does not have any credible option or partners to join the next government with.
In the debate hosted by public broadcaster ARD, the Left Party advocated banning domestic flights in Germany and a phase-out of combustion engine cars by 2030. With a view to the effects of carbon pricing on low-income households, party leader Janine Wissler said “we must not burden those further who already have very little” and offer climate-friendly alternatives like cheaper public transport. She also advocated an end to motorway construction and an accelerated transport transition that could not work with heavy passenger cars. “It won’t work to leave everything as it is and just add a new propulsion technology,” Wissler said, stressing that the number of cars on the road has to be reduced.
FDP head Christian Lindner said “prohibitive rules and reduced consumption won’t cut it”, instead arguing that Germany should strive for “technologic world leadership” and bet on imports of clean energy, for example synthetic fuels produced in Chile. “If we relinquish economic growth [as an aim in climate action], we will not have any influence globally whatsoever,” he said. Many companies in the country are ready to implement clean technologies but are restrained by excessive regulation and red tape, Linder argued.
Alexander Dobrindt, who heads the parliamentary group of the CSU, said synthetic fuels would be irreplaceable for reducing emissions in the transport sector. He argued that renewables expansion and emissions reduction in the country had already happened faster than many would have believed in the past and that the same vigour would ensure that future climate targets are reached. “And we can also end coal earlier than envisaged. That’s something we need to talk about after the election,” Dobrindt said.
The AfD said Germany should make no effort to abide by the Paris Agreement. However, party deputy leader Alice Weidel deviated from the party’s position by not reneging the fact that manmade climate change is a challenge that needs to be addressed. “Climate action can only work internationally,” she said, arguing that Germany’s national decision would thus be irrelevant in the wider picture. At the same time, however, the far-right politician said the international Paris Climate Agreement is “inadequate” to curb global warming, as it allows developing and emerging nations to increase emissions until 2030.
As Germany's 2021 election campaign enters the final stretch, the vote on 26 September has turned into the country's most unpredictable in decades. After 16 years of reign under Chancellor Angela Merkel, the conservative CDU/CSU alliance could lose power to their current government coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), who have led polls for several weeks. The Greens' poll numbers have declined, but the party – as well as the pro-business FDP – could yet become a strong junior partner at any next cabinet table, influencing Germany's coming years on the path to climate neutrality 2045.