German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempt to form a new government failed on Monday, marking the first time in decades that majority political parties have been unable to form a governing coalition.
If no coalition forms, Germany may be forced to hold new elections. But one casualty of Germany’s ongoing political crisis could be the country’s costly plan to promote green energy and fight global warming.
“Germany’s utopian dream of transforming itself into the world’s green powerhouse is collapsing as its political and media establishment is mugged by reality,” Benny Peiser, director of the UK-based Global Warming Policy Forum, wrote in a blog post.
“The country’s climate obsession has turned into one of the country’s biggest political and economic handicaps, making Germany almost ungovernable,” Peiser wrote.
Indeed, environmental issues were a major point of contention among parties Merkel and her Christian Democratic Party wanted to partner with.
“The ecologists wanting to phase out dirty coal and combustion-engine cars, while the conservatives and FDP emphasised the need to protect industry and jobs,” News24 reported.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama often praised Germany’s green energy policy, calling it a model for the world to follow, but recent political upheaval may have planted the seeds of Germany’s reversal on climate policy.
Greens wanted to shut down 10 to 20 of Germany’s 180 coal-fired power plants that still provide 40 percent of the country’s electricity. Conservatives opposed this, fearing massive economic and social upheaval.
Further attacks on coal power could boost the popularity of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Peiser noted.
“Its skeptical stance on climate and green energy issues has sent shock-waves through Germany’s political establishment who fear they can no longer afford to appease the Greens without losing further support among their traditional voter base,” Peiser wrote.
“Without the development of new pragmatic policies and a forceful defence of a cheap energy strategy in face of a rapidly fading (and ageing) green movement, Germany is unlikely to free itself from the green shackles that are hindering technological and economic progress, never mind political stability,” Peiser added.
Germany’s environmental goals, or “Energiewende,” have come under scrutiny in recent months due to a government report from September claiming the country was not on track to meet its 2020 emissions targets.
“Energiewende” is Germany’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and replace coal and natural gas with green energy, mostly from solar and wind. Germany’s goal is to reduce emissions at least 80 percent and draw 60 percent of its electricity from green energy, both by 2050.
Merkel promised to “find ways to get to the 2020 climate target,” including the continued shut down of coal-fired power plants. But conservative German lawmakers have opposed more punitive environmental measures.
Taxes and fees used to subsidize wind and solar power have caused German electric and heating bills to spike — all while emissions stay relatively flat.
Electric rates are about three times higher than what Americans pay, prompting the German media to label electricity a “luxury good.” Germans often refer to heating bills as the “second rent.”
Merkel was pressed by reporters and environmentalists about the fate of Germany’s coal fleet at the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, which ended Friday.
Merkel refused to give a deadline for when Germany’s coal plants would be phased out, but she did say the coal phaseout would be discussed in coalition talks. Now, all of it is in limbo.
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