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Angela Merkel’s Years in Power: Environmentalist or Opportunist?

Angela Merkel he bet during his early years on nuclear energy to the point that his first government programs included, among other proposals, the postponement of the closure of the German nuclear plants and funds to reform them so that they would gain years of useful life. At the time, he claimed that this was how he achieved important goals.

The first achievement was to depend less on natural gas imports, mainly Russian. The second is to reduce the use of coal for electricity generation, thus reducing polluting emissions.

The nuclear plant, with its 17 plants, was an essential piece in their ecological plans. In the summer of 2007, in Greenland and facing a glacier, Merkel, who had been Minister of the Environment during the years of Helmut Kohl’s rule, said that wanted to be “the chancellor of the climate”.

A tsunami wiped out their promises and German energy plans. March 11, 2011 an earthquake triggered a tsunami that washed away the Japanese shores. Among the victims was the Fukushima nuclear power plant, built on the edge of the sea. The shock was the last straw for the sector in Europe after the accident at the Soviet Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986.

Most European governments followed through with their plans. France, the leading European nuclear power, did not renounce its programs. The United Kingdom continued with its own to build new plants. Spain did not alter its closing dates, nor did countries in the same situation, such as Belgium. Angela Merkel reacted differently.

The change

The head of government knew that her political days would be numbered if she maintained her defense of nuclear energy in one society, the German one, mostly convinced of the need for environmental protection.

So Merkel reacted hotly and in 2011 she assured that in 2030 there would be no nuclear reactor in operation in Germany. In 2020 it wiped out the last coal-fired power plants after a tough NGO campaign. In the beginning, Merkel did not respond, but when the campaign began to generate interest and public support, the head of the German government set 2020 as the closing date for coal.

Merkel has been repeating for years that “Climate change threatens the well-being of all”, but his decisions did not follow his words. Germany is one of the Western European countries that has been the longest in its ecological transition and the head of the German government always defended its automotive industry.

Merkel never pushed that important industry to make the technological transition necessary to accelerate its transition to electric cars and always tried to prevent the European Commission from tightening the standards of polluting gas emissions from cars.

The German press now recalls, in these weeks of balance, that its Transport Minister, Andreas Scheuer, has met in the last four years 80 times with auto representatives and only once with an environmental NGO.

The Greens

As the Greens were rising in the polls until they arrived, last May, to lead them, Merkel launched a climate plan to face them: plus taxes on air transport, cheaper trains or a million electric car charging stations, among other measures.

She herself considered it “historical”. This year the German Constitutional Court annulled it because it considered it insufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Merkel, again, corrected the shot. The new plan, presented just a few weeks later, promises 65% reductions in polluting emissions by 2030 – until then it was 55% and carbon neutrality not by 2050 but by 2045.

Nor will there be public aid with the new European funds to buy cars with combustion engines, as the German industry wanted. They will only be electric. Another Merkelian twist.

PB

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