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Germany: Greens set out climate-friendly vision for election

BERLIN (AP) — As it reaches for power in September’s national election, Germany’s Green party announced a program Friday that proposes speeding up the country’s exit from coal-fired power, raising carbon prices and massively increasing infrastructure spending.

The party, which has been running second in polls behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc, plans to make its first bid for the chancellery this year. It’s expected to choose a candidate — probably one of the two co-leaders, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck — in the coming weeks.

The party declared that its program would put Germany in line with the Paris climate agreement’s ambitious goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to only 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times.

“Climate protection is not a task for the future,” Baerbock said. “Climate protection is now.”

The Greens want to complete Germany’s exit from coal-fired power by 2030, moving the date up from the target of 2038 set under the current governing coalition of Merkel’s Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats.

They are calling for the price charged per ton of carbon dioxide to be increased to 60 euros (nearly $72) in 2023. Current government plans call for that charge on CO2 emissions from transport and heating fuels, launched at 25 euros in January, to be raised step-by-step to up to 55 euros in 2025.

At the same time, the Greens propose to reduce the levy used to fund renewable energy that increases Germans’ electricity bills, and give money raised from CO2 charges back to ordinary citizens, “fairly shared out per head,” in the form of an “energy bonus” that would offer relief to low earners.

The party’s program calls for an “investment offensive,” with increased public spending in everything from fast internet — an area in which Germany is notoriously weak — to emissions-free buses, improving the railway network and urban development.

“The 50 billion (euros) more we want to spend nearly doubles investment in Germany, and it is urgently necessary,” Habeck said. “Rich Germany is making below-average investments in its future in European terms.”

The Greens, in opposition nationally since 2005, have seen their support roughly double in polls since the last national election.

With Merkel not seeking a fifth term, the result of the Sept. 26 vote is very much open. And polls suggest that, whatever the outcome, the Greens may hold the key to forming the next government.

The traditionally left-leaning party has become increasingly open to alliances with center-right parties, and is currently a coalition partner in 11 of Germany’s 16 state governments. Its only state governor, Winfried Kretschmann in the economic powerhouse region of Baden-Wuerttemberg, handily won a third term Sunday.

That political flexibility has led some activists to complain that the Greens’ climate policies lack ambition.

Habeck asserted that the Greens’ program offers a “vitamin shot,” and said that “the governing parties are flagging and tired.”

Merkel’s bloc has yet to choose a candidate for chancellor. The Social Democrats nominated current Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last year and also have unveiled an election program, but have yet to see any real poll bounce.

Like the Greens, they want a 130 kph (81 mph) speed limit on Germany’s autobahn highways, many stretches of which lack any limits; and a quick rise in the national minimum wage to 12 euros ($14.50) per hour.

By GEIR MOULSON
Associated Press

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