The Guardian

Germany’s triple coalition puts climate crisis at top of the agenda

- Kate Connolly Berlin

Germany’s new three-way coalition government of Social Democrats, Greens and liberals has addressed the public for the first time, pledging to put climate protection at the top of its agenda, but stressing its first priority is to control the pandemic.

Replacing Angela Merkel as leader after 16 years, the acting finance minister, Olaf Scholz, of the Social Democrats used his opening speech to deliver a dramatic appeal to Germans to get vaccinated, announcing a seven-point plan to tackle the health emergency, which he called “very serious”, stressing that hospitals were close to capacity, and that his government would be considerin­g the introducti­on of a vaccine mandate.

The three parties, known as the “traffic light coalition” owing to their colours – red, green and yellow – hammered out the deal during two months of intense negotiatio­ns after the Social Democrats (SPD) won a slim margin in the 26 September national election.

Under Scholz as new chancellor, Annalena Baerbock of the Greens is widely expected to become foreign minister, the first woman in the role, and Robert Habeck, her party’s co-leader, will receive a new “super minister” role combining the economics ministry with environmen­tal protection goals.

Christian Lindner, leader of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), will become the new finance minister. Hubertus Heil of the SPD is reported to be the only minister from the old government – a grand coalition between the SPD and Merkel’s conservati­ve CDU/CSU – who will retain his post, as labour minister. The SPD will fill the roles of the health, interior and defence ministries.

It will be the first three-way alliance on a national level in German history and the first to put tackling the climate emergency, which will be a priority in each of the ministries, at the top of its agenda.

As part of its goal for Germany to become climate neutral by 2045, the parties have agreed to commit to phasing out coal by 2030, in principle to outlaw combustion engines, and to end gas power generation by 2040. Renewable energies are to be expanded considerab­ly, to cover 80% of all energy needs by 2030.

Social policies include increasing the minimum wage to €12 (£10.07), which Scholz said would benefit 10 million Germans. A newly founded housing ministry will oversee the constructi­on of 400,000 new homes, a quarter of which are to be publicly subsidised to tackle a growing housing crisis by creating more affordable homes, in what the agreement refers to as “the social question of our age”.

An insurance policy for children, promoted by the Greens, is also to be introduced to tackle growing child poverty as well as a heating subsidy for low-income households.

But its most immediate challenge will be to control Germany’s worst wave of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, especially increasing the number of vaccinatio­ns. Scholz said he would establish a crisis management team reporting to his chanceller­y, to be made up of virologist­s, epidemiolo­gists, psychologi­sts and sociologis­ts, to advise on a way out of the emergency.

Leading economist Marcel Fratscher called the coalition deal “very very ambitious”, but “well thought through”. But he added he believed that its economic goals were “not forward-thinking enough”.

But the FDP, which is known for its fiscal caution, has repeatedly ruled out tax increases. With Lindner of the FDP having secured the finance ministry, their preference­s are likely to shape the new government’s monetary policy more than those of the Greens, after Scholz announced debt rules would not be relaxed.

Scholz said that the “traffic light”’ name given to the coalition would stand it in good stead. “In 1924 the world’s first traffic light was erected on Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz … People asked: ‘can it work?’ But now we cannot imagine life without it: it helps us to get to where we want to go in a fast and safe manner.”

 ?? ?? ▲ Annalena Baerbock of the Greens is to be the German foreign minister
▲ Annalena Baerbock of the Greens is to be the German foreign minister

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