Green demands hamper coalition talks
Environmental policy has dominated talks on forming a German coalition, as the Green Party demanded curbs on coal power.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is looking for a deal with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens but the unlikely partners have little in common.
Investment means renewable power, including wind and solar energy, provide a third of Germany’s electricity, more than double the US share. Berlin’s goal to cut carbon-dioxide emissions 40 per cent by 2020 is significantly more ambitious than the European average or the US.
Merkel called on party leaders to show more flexibility and find a compromise after three weeks of talks also failed to bridge divides on transport, immigration and eurozone policy.
Germany still gets 40 per cent of its energy from coal, a bigger share than that of any other European country, and much of it comes from lignite or brown coal: the dirtiest kind of coal.
The attempts to form a “Jamaica” coalition, named after the three party colours that coincide with the black, green and gold of the Jamaican flag, have made little progress towards completing an outline deal.
“What’s lying on the table isn’t enough for us,” said the Greens’ leader Simone Peter after a suggestion that 10 coal-fired power stations could be closed down. The Greens want carbon dioxide emissions cuts that require the closure of 20 coal plants and an 8-10 gigawatt production cut by 2020. The other parties were looking for a 3-5 gigawatt cut.
The dependence on coal is partly a consequence of Germany’s reluctance to adopt nuclear power.
Talks are also covering a possible commitment of €20 billion to a national broadband upgrade, funded by 5G spectrum auctions, budget funds and the sale of state shareholdings.
The creation of a so-called gigabit society by 2025 with glass-fibre networks is described in a report as vital to defending the competitiveness of the German economy.
All three potential coalition partners have agreed to channel revenue from 5G mobile provider auctions into digital infrastructure.
Both the FDP and Greens have called for the state to reduce its 31.9-per-cent stake in Deutsche Telekom to fund the upgrade.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) opposes selling off Telekom assets for national security reasons but is reportedly more open to cut the state’s slice of Deutsche Post, according to party sources.
Germany’s telecoms regulator has allocated frequencies for 5G auctions to be held in 2018 that would enable telecoms operators to offer services that would assist cars, automate manufacturing or provide services in smart cities.
The three parties are undecided on whether to shift responsibility for digital policy to the Federal Chancellery or to create a digital ministry, which the FDP is advocating against the wishes of the CDU and the Greens.
Germany has an over-dependence on coal. Picture credit: PXHere