BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany should lead the fight against climate change and cut emissions without destroying jobs, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, treading a fine line as she tries to clinch a coalition deal with environmentalist and pro-business parties.
Merkel’s comments, made in her weekly podcast in the midst of 200-nation talks on limiting global warming in Bonn, show the dilemma of the center-right leader in tricky coalition negotiations to form the next government.
Merkel’s conservatives, which bled support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Sept. 24 election, are trying to forge a coalition government with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the environmentalist Greens.
The unlikely partners have cited progress after three weeks of exploratory talks about a three-way coalition. But the Greens raised the pressure on Merkel ahead of a meeting on Sunday in which party leaders are due to thrash out differences over climate, immigration and euro zone policy.
The Greens want Merkel and the other parties to spell out which additional measures the next government will implement for Germany to reach its 2020 goal of lowering emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels.
In her podcast, Merkel said industrialized countries had a special responsibility to reduce their emission of climate-damaging greenhouse gases, warning that time was running out.
“The urgency, I think we all see this in light of the natural disasters, is great,” Merkel said. Climate change is leading to droughts and famine and this is causing mass migration from poorer to richer countries, she added.
Referring to the Paris climate agreement, Merkel said: “As things stand right now, the target to keep the rise in temperature below two degrees Celsius – ideally at around 1.5 degrees – will be missed.”
Due to strong economic growth and higher-than-expected immigration, Germany is at risk of missing its emissions target if the next government does not implement further measures.
“That’s why we are also wrestling in exploratory talks for a possible new coalition about this: How can we adopt even more measures in order to try and reach this 2020 goal,” Merkel said.
But the chancellor insisted that Germany’s “industrial core” should not be put at risk and any further climate measures should not force companies to relocate.
“If steel mills, aluminum factories, copper smelters, if they all leave our country and go somewhere where environmental regulations are not as strict, then we have won nothing for global climate,” Merkel said.
The government should therefore adopt a sound mix of regulatory policy, financial incentives and voluntary measures in order to avoid major disruptions and job losses, she said.
“We have to push ahead forcefully with electromobility and alternative drive systems,” Merkel said. She also suggested that the next government should give tax incentives for home owners to improve building insulation.
The Greens called on Merkel’s conservatives and the FDP to make concessions after the party itself gave ground on Tuesday by dropping its demand for fixed dates to ban cars with internal combustion engines and shut down coal-fired power stations.
“Instead of the week of truth, this was a week of disappointment,” parliamentary floor leader Anton Hofreiter told Der Spiegel magazine, adding that the Greens had done their part by offering “painful” compromises.
Juergen Trittin, another senior member of the Greens, warned Merkel personally that her political future was at stake.
“Mrs Merkel, the lead candidate of the conservatives and acting chancellor, she wants to get re-elected – with our votes,” Trittin said. “And for this, she must move now.”
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; editing by Clelia Oziel