Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany’s center-right Christian Democrats, called for a sweeping overhaul of the country’s tax system in order to better align Europe’s largest economy with its environmental goals.
Combatting climate change needed to be at the center of the government’s agenda, Kramp-Karrenbuauer, Germany’s defense minister and a leading candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, wrote together with a party colleague in an op-ed for the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. Germany should offer both private businesses and regular citizens further incentives to help reduce carbon emissions, such as subsidies for the development of climate-friendly fuels and to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, the article said.
In contrast to the Greens, Kramp-Karrenbauer does not advocate a “CO2 tax,” an idea that has gained currency in Germany’s political debate in recent months.
“Our goal is to improve climate protection, not to create more income for the state,” Kramp-Karrenbauer wrote, adding that the problem wasn’t “too few taxes,” but not enough strategic direction. She also said that Germany should anchor the principle of sustainability in its constitution by declaring it to be a “goal of the state.”
Kramp-Karrenbuaer’s initiative comes as Germans have become increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change. That worry has translated into soaring support for the Green party, which is now neck-and-neck with the Christian Democrats in a number of recent polls.
The Christian Democrats have responded to the Green surge by trying to highlight their own environmental achievements. The problem is that in the nearly 16 years that Merkel has been chancellor, the picture is decidedly mixed. Her decision to accelerate the country’s withdrawal from nuclear power, for example, has resulted in a rise in coal emissions, leading Germany to miss its climate targets.
Merkel has tried to speed up Germany’s so-called energy transformation, a sweeping plan to replace fossil fuel-based electricity generation with renewable sources, but the process has been plagued by difficulties and delays. At the same time, her government, under pressure from Germany’s powerful auto industry, has done little to realign the transportation sector, which accounts for about one-fifth of Germany’s CO2 emissions. Federal support for electric vehicles has been modest even as the government continues to subsidize diesel, for example.