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‘Climate is the Winner’ as German Election Points to Three-Party Coalition

It may be weeks before Germany knows the precise composition of its next government, but initial analysis Sunday night pointed to a three-party coalition with a strong focus on climate change and climate solutions.

With six major parties in the running, “the Social Democrats with chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz appeared to score a narrow victory,” with 25.7% of the popular vote, after “historic losses” brought the CDU-CSU, the two-party conservative union previously led by departing chancellor Angela Merkel, down to 24.1%%, Clean Energy Wire reports. The Green Party placed third, with 15%, followed by the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) at 11.5% and the far-right AdP at 10%.

“All major parties vowed to make climate action a central focus of the next government,” the news story states, with Scholz promising a climate government that speeds up the country’s adoption of renewable energy. In the first year in office, “we will have to make decisions to roll out renewables, so industry can implement investments to become climate-neutral while remaining competitive,” Scholz said.

Second-place chancellor candidate Armin Laschet expressed support for “a coalition for more sustainability in every sense, in climate action and finances.” Greens leader Annalena Baerbock asserted that “we have a mandate, not only for future generations, but one senses that this country needs a renewal.”

FDP leader Christian Lindner predicted that “the next government will be much more ecological,” while expressing an election night preference for a coalition with the CDU-CSU. “We have to take note of the Greens’ election result,” he said.

While negotiations among the parties will determine how power is shared in the country’s next government, “it’s already clear: The climate is the winner of this election,” said Kai Niebert, president of the environmental umbrella organisation DNR. “It’s no longer a green topic, but one of all democratic parties.”

The distribution of votes suggested the FDP might hold the balance of power, with the Greens forming the core of a government with either the Social Democrats or the CDU-CSU. But to make any of that happen, “the parties will have to overcome differences which could lead to drawn-out coalition negotiations,” Clean Energy Wire says. “The Greens have favoured an early deadline for the coal exit and an end date for the sale of combustion engine cars. Like the SPD, they favour large-scale investment programs, funded potentially through government debt or higher taxes. The Free Democrats have ruled out bans or tax increases, calling for technology-open, market-based solutions that are centred on carbon pricing, and like the conservatives have vowed to ensure stable public finances.”

In the immediate aftermath of the vote, economists Veronika Grimm of the German Council of Economic Experts and Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research (PIK) cited climate protection as a necessary priority for the next government, and carbon pricing as an essential tool. They encouraged the development of a “climate club” comprising Europe, the United States, and China to advance international climate negotiations.

“All of this applies regardless of which coalition is now formed,” Edenhofer said. “For all parties face the same challenge: limiting climate hazards such as floods and heat waves, and speeding up climate policy as economic policy.”