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Potential New German Coalition Government Likely to Clash on Energy

After Sunday’s federal election, Chancellor Angela Merkel is faced with political parties that disagree on key scientific and environmental issues.

Sep 27, 2017
Diana Kwon

ISTOCK, KATATONIA82

On Sunday (September 24), Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor since 2005, won her fourth term in office. Despite securing another four years as the country’s leader, her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), lost a considerable amount of power—it won 32.9 percent, down from 41.5 percent since the last election in 2013.  

Over the next couple of months, Merkel faces the difficult task of building her government. Because the Social Democrats (SPD), her party’s previous coalition partner, has pledged to become the official opposition party, the Chancellor will likely seek an alliance with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green Party in order to maintain a governing majority in the parliament. However, this so-called “Jamaica coalition,” named after the colors of the three parties (black, yellow, and green), may face challenges as they discuss whether to form a union.

While social issues, such as the refugee crisis, are likely to take center stage in the upcoming discussions, key scientific matters, such as climate policy, may also become central topics. The Green Party’s priority is climate change, and it wants to shut down Germany’s coal power plants and a switch to electric vehicles by 2030. However, the FDP, according to Nature, would rather halt subsidies for the energy sector and does not support forced cuts to carbon dioxide emissions.

“We should expect a lot of ambiguity, even hypocrisy, when it comes to climate policy,” Oliver Geden, a policy expert with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, tells Nature.

The Green Party also stands out for its stance on stricter regulations for gene editing, despite Germany’s already tight rules for the development and use of genetically modified organisms.   

Sunday’s election marked the first time a far-right party has entered the parliament in more than 60 years. The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) secured almost 13 percent of the vote, becoming the third-largest party in the parliament. Timo Lochocki, a political scientist at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, told Science before the election that AfD’s appeal comes from nationalistic rhetoric rather than its policies on science and higher education. When it comes to scientific issues, the AfD holds skeptical views on climate change and does not support Germany’s plan to phase nuclear power out of the country by 2022. 

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