German Chancellor-in-Waiting Vows Fast Push for Renewables
Olaf Scholz, who aims to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor by early December, said his new government will move quickly on an ambitious shift toward renewable power.
The transition away from fossil fuels must still make sure that heavy industry has secure supplies of energy, Scholz told a conference held by the IG BCE trade union. The move is part of a pledge by Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats to accelerate Germany’s coal exit to 2030 to fight climate change.
“The new government will get going on this in its first year,” Scholz told the unionists in Hanover, Germany on Wednesday. His administration must “ensure that there is no power gap and enough electricity is produced for the industry of the future.”
The three parties, seeking a potentially contentious alliance, have set out a rigorous time line to bridge differences and draw up a detailed coalition accord before installing Scholz as chancellor the week beginning Dec. 6. They reached a preliminary pact in a little over a week, and working groups start haggling over policy details on Wednesday.
Christian Lindner, the leader of the FDP, gave a clue on how his party views the open question of financing the new government’s agenda. Rather than debt-financing within the budget, public development banks will step up state guarantees to activate private capital, especially for projects addressing renewable energy.
“There is a real leverage effect here that we haven’t used in the past, there’s a huge potential,” Lindner told the conference via video link.
Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of the Greens, reinforced the coalition parties’ urgency, saying the energy overhaul in Europe’s largest economy “won’t be easy” in the coming years.
“Our ambition from Jan. 1, 2022, must be to finally resolve the blockade against renewable energy,” she told the same conference. “That means above all a massive push for wind energy.”
The Greens secured a pledge to set aside 2% of Germany’s land for onshore wind development.
IG BCE represents chemical and energy workers, and Scholz sought buy-in for the coalition’s plans from a key constituency. While unions are a natural base for the SPD, labor-market reforms pushed through by the last Social Democratic chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, have created tensions.
Scholz, who is acting finance minister under Merkel, drew cheers by reinforcing the SPD’s main promises: a stable public pension, a rejection of raising the retirement age and a “swift” increase in the minimum wage to 12 euros ($13.92) an hour.
“We have to make sure that work and workers play a major role again in our society,” Scholz said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.