Days after chancellor candidate Armin Laschet made a major contribution to climate policy, an open conflict erupted in the Union over the way forward towards greenhouse gas neutrality. Laschet’s shadow economy minister Friedrich Merz (both CDU) clearly distanced himself from an important aspect of the electoral platform and attacked …
Days after chancellor candidate Armin Laschet made a major contribution to climate policy, an open conflict erupted in the Union over the way forward towards greenhouse gas neutrality. Laschet’s shadow economy minister Friedrich Merz (both CDU) clearly distanced himself from an important aspect of the electoral program and at the same time attacked the European Commission in Brussels and his boss Ursula von der Leyen, who is also a member of the CDU. Armin Laschet’s campaign team immediately supported the President of the Commission.
The conflict revolves around plans to introduce a border adjustment to CO2 – a tax on products made in China or India using climate-damaging processes and sold in Europe. Merz said at an event hosted by the CDU’s Economic Council on Tuesday that if it was about this, “then it won’t just be the end of free trade policy, it will be the start of a new world trade conflict in which there will be only losers ”. The coming government must do everything “to prevent this absurdity which is foreseen at the European Commission – unfortunately under the leadership of a German Commission President”.
In mid-July, the European Commission in Leyen proposed a broad legislative package aimed at reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 and making the continent climate neutral by 2050. Part of this package is also a border CO2 adjustment. It aims to prevent European steelmakers from relocating their activities to countries with more flexible climatic standards or from replacing European products with more CO2-intensive imports. Climate protection and ecological transformation are the central project of the current European Commission.
The instrument of a CO2 adjustment at the borders is controversial, but the Union and its candidate for Chancellor Laschet expressly recognize it in their electoral manifesto. He said the CDU and CSU wanted to set ambitious standards in international climate cooperation with major economies. In addition, they wish to introduce “with our European partners a CO2 adjustment at the borders in conformity with the WTO”, that is to say a system in accordance with the rules of the World Trade Organization.
CDU board member Wiebke Winter, head of climate policy in Laschet’s campaign team, defended the plans on Wednesday: internationally against less ambitious competitors. Winter added that, as so often, the devil is in the details.
On Monday alone, Laschet, along with Winter and other CDU politicians, presented a concept with which, if an election wins, climate protection and the expansion of renewable energy should be promoted. Friedrich Merz, beaten by Laschet in the party leadership fight earlier this year, is also part of the election campaign team. More recently, Laschet actually offered the prospect of a ministerial post to his former rival, claiming that Merz was the “economic and financial face” of the Union, which will continue to be influential after the federal election.
Wednesday’s political competition acknowledged Merz’s statements on climate policy by shaking his head. “This is a frontal attack on Armin Laschet and Ursula von der Leyen and will certainly occupy the CDU party committees,” Green MP Oliver Krischer said. If Merz has a better idea than adjusting the CO2 frontier, “he should be happy to put it on the table.” Either way, don’t expect a trade war. “The instrument is more suited to new technologies to establish itself worldwide.