BERLIN — The Conservative candidate to be the next German chancellor, Armin Laschet, has warned of a threat to “social peace” from pursuing green policies too quickly that threaten jobs.
Just over a month out from a national election that the polls suggest is wide open, Laschet sought to put distance on the climate issue between himself and the two other parties vying to hold the most seats in the Bundestag, the Greens and the Social Democrats.
Laschet’s conservative alliance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) has been steadily losing support, with one poll released Tuesday putting them on 22 percent, behind the Social Democrats (SPD) for the first time in 15 years.
Speaking at an event organized by the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin on Tuesday, Laschet sought to remind voters that his political group stands for economic growth and protecting jobs — aims that he said must be brought in line with climate goals.
Both the Greens and the SPD have attacked Laschet for lacking ambition on climate protection — an impression Laschet did little to dispel. He said he was “annoyed” by the Greens and the SPD “politicizing” the issue and proposing policies that they did not implement themselves when they were previously governing in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, where Laschet is currently the premier. He warned that if Germany were to phase out fossil fuel sources too quickly, it may not be able to preserve energy-hungry industries such as the steel sector.
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“Steel is responsible for 6 percent of Germany’s CO2 emissions,” Laschet said, stressing that cutting down that sector “would be good for our balance sheet, but bad for social peace.”
“Now the goal must be to formulate conditions in Europe so that steel production can continue and we can turn this process of change [of energy sources] — replacing coal and iron ore with hydrogen — into real jobs,” he added. In the same vein, he defended Germany’s coal phase-out date of 2038, which has been widely criticized for being too late. Coal is a highly carbon-intensive fuel and climate scientists say it is high on the priority list of fossil fuels that must be left underground to avoid catastrophic climate warming.
Still, Laschet said he was aware of the threat of climate change and vowed to bring “change” if elected chancellor, naming the cutting of red tape as one possible measure.
“If we want fewer people to fly, we have to push ahead with railway constructions,” he said. “With our current planning procedures, it takes 30 years to complete a railway connection. That does no longer work.”