Thu. Jul 29th, 2021


Less than three months before leaving office, Chancellor Angela Merkel has openly conceded that the industrial world has failed to adequately fight climate change and that more rapid, pain-inducing steps were urgently needed.

Merkel, who has led Europe’s largest economy and one of the world’s leading emitters of CO2 for the last 16 years, reflected on her own bitter disappointments in not getting steeper cuts in emissions enacted at home and among Germany’s international trading partners in an effort to try to limit global temperature increases to two degrees Celsius.

A trained physicist who is not running for re-election in the September 26 elections, Merkel, 67, said she believes the whole world has to quickly raise its game in the fight against the perils of climate change that some experts have blamed for playing at least a contributing role in the devastating flashfloods that killed at least 170 people in Germany last week.

“I believe that I personally invested a tremendous amount of energy towards protecting the climate,” Merkel said at what was probably the last major news conference of her career before she departed for her summer holiday.

“And yet, yes, I am sufficiently equipped with a scientific mind to see that the objective realities demand that we can’t continue at this speed but rather we have to accelerate the pace.”

Merkel, who began her political career as Germany’s environment minister in the early 1990s, said there were many powerful forces in Germany and around the world that had succeeded in thwarting climate protection since the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 that envisioned reducing global CO2 emissions by 2020.

“I experienced far too many disappointments,” she said, adding it was a “mistake” to try to stick to the agreements reached in Kyoto, Japan for so many years even as many nations failed with impunity to reach emission-reduction targets.

“Germany cannot save the climate on its own, just like we won’t be able to end the Corona pandemic on our own either.”

Yet she added there were bright spots in her four-term reign: “There has been some progress. We shouldn’t act as if nothing’s happened. But measured against the goal of limiting the increase in temperatures to two degrees, then not enough has been accomplished. We have to move faster. And that may come with what are probably more profound changes than we’ve seen.”

Merkel praised the youth movement “Fridays for Future” and said climate activists such as Germany’s Luisa Neubauer were on the right track in pushing the German government to take bolder steps.

“Their demands are very important,” she said. “When Luisa Neubauer says we have to work harder, I tell her I’m working on it but it’s not easy to get working majorities together in parliament. That is my job.”

A street is flooded following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany, last week


The four-term chancellor said Germany had also been a world leader in expanding renewable energy during her years in office – an extraordinary boast considering the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) was introduced by the centre-left Social Democrat-Green government years before she took office and that her centre-right government has for years been watering down support for renewables.

“Having 40 percent of our electricity from renewable sources is not good enough,” she said. “But it’s better than the 10 percent renewables share we had at the start of my term in office.”

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