September 2, 2019 / 5:11 PM / 19 days ago

Germany's Scholz raises pressure on Merkel to think big on climate protection

BERLIN, Sept 2 (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Monday urged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives to support far-reaching steps on climate protection, warning that failure to do so would raise questions over their coalition’s right to rule.

Senior members of Scholz’s co-ruling, centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the heads of Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc were due to meet behind closed doors on Monday to prepare a comprehensive package of climate protection measures that are likely to burden the federal budget massively.

“We need a big leap in climate policy if, as a government, we want to continue to have the authority to lead the country,” Scholz, deputy SPD leader, said in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine.

“Thinking small on climate protection does not help. We have to get away from a policy where we do not dare to do the right thing just because we are too anxious about possible reactions.”

The coalition partners held off a surge in far right support in two state elections in eastern Germany on Sunday, averting an immediate crisis for the ruling alliance.

But the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) came second in both Saxony and Brandenburg as it harnessed voter anger over refugees, the planned closure of coal mines in the formerly communist east and the government’s policy in general.

A senior government official told Reuters last month that the Finance Ministry was toying with the idea of issuing new debt in the form of “green bonds” which could help finance the costly climate protection package.

The package is likely to include a pricing mechanism for carbon emissions and payouts for low-income families to cushion the effects of the new measures.

The so-called climate cabinet, including Merkel, Scholz, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, is expected seal the package and decide if the new measures can be financed without new debt on Sept. 20. (Reporting by Michael Nienaber, Editing by Alison Williams)

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