Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, speaks during a joint press conference at Schloss Meseberg castle in Meseburg, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Merkel Balks at Tighter EU Climate Goals as Germany Faces Crunch

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected a proposal for stricter emissions targets in the European Union, underscoring the clash between climate goals and the country’s booming economy.

Merkel, who has a record of defending Germany’s auto industry against tougher EU emission rules, said in a German television interview she expects faster adoption of electric vehicles, which could help limit climate change she said was undeniable after several exceptionally hot summers. Yet she said the EU would do better to meet existing emissions targets rather than set new ones.

“This constant setting of new targets, I don’t think it makes sense,” Merkel told broadcaster ARD in an interview on Sunday. “I’m not so happy about these new proposals, since many EU member countries are already behind in meeting their pledges.”

While putting Germany at the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change, Merkel is hemmed in domestically by an auto industry that’s a major source of exports and an energy strategy that relies on coal generation to bridge the gap to a nuclear-free future.

She was responding to a European Commission plan to examine a stricter climate target that would allow the bloc to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030. The existing 40 percent target is considered too lax to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Trump’s Disruption

The EU, China and other major economies are upholding the Paris accord after Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the climate deal in 2017. Merkel and her economy minister, Peter Altmaier, also pushed back against other disruptions by the U.S. president, including his pullout from a nuclear accord with Iran.

Altmaier said talks are under way with the administration on shielding Europe against the revived threat of U.S. sanctions against companies that do business with Iran.

“We’re in talks with the U.S. government to try to reduce the impact,” though “even with all of our efforts, we can’t prevent the U.S. from imposing unilateral sanctions” if it wants to, Altmaier told a news conference in Berlin.

Merkel stopped short of backing a proposal by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who suggested last week that EU countries set up payment systems independent of the U.S.

Trust in Europe

The comment by Maas, whose Social Democrats are Merkel’s junior coalition partner, is Germany’s most specific response yet to the threat of U.S. sanctions over doing business with Iran.

“Of course the foreign minister can do something that isn’t cleared with me,” but “by and large” she’s on the same page as Maas, Merkel told ARD.

She said the broader lesson is that Europe needs to stand together and take on more global responsibility, including on defense and security policy.

“For Germany, that means placing out trust in Europe,” Merkel said. “I believe it’s important that we speak with one voice.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.