Angela Merkel visited the town of Schuld in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, one of the areas worst-affected by the intense flooding the ravaged Germany last week. The natural disaster sparked a heated debate on climate change and the response from the German Government, raising questions over the stance of Chancellor Merkel’s potential successor in the Bundestag towards the climate emergency. Mrs Merkel is due to step down in September and CDU leader Armin Laschet has been tipped to take over from her but past comments in support of fossil fuels.
Sky News’ Europe correspondent Adam Parsons said: “The question is about the political dimension.
“There’s a federal election in Germany later this year, Angela Merkel will step down as Chancellor.
“And the Green Party have had a very, very strong recently and there are expectations that their vote will increase because of their strong commitment to climate change policies.”
He continued: “Armin Laschet, the man who will carry the flag for Mrs Merkel’s CDU party, is also associated with defending fossil fuels.
“It’s going to be very important in German society to see how much Mr Laschet’s reputation has been damaged.
“And is there a chance the Green Party could actually wield significant power in this, the richest – arguably the most influential – country in Europe?”
Mr Laschet already stepped up to the role by cancelling a visit to Bavaria to head to the city of Hagen, where the flooding resulted in significant damaged.
Campaign strategist Julius van de Laar said: “A crisis is always a moment for the executive.
“Thus, the way Laschet acted on Thursday, canceling his trip to Bavaria and positioning himself as crisis manager and part of the executive, was the only right thing to do.”
However, the CDU leader attracted criticism after dismissing suggestions for a change of pace to Germany’s response to the climate emergency by speeding up the country’s coal phaseout date.
Mr Laschet said: “You don’t change policy just because now we have a day like this.”
But Mr Laschet may need to review his position as the German Greens continue to pose a significant threat to the CDU’s chances of securing a strong majority in September.
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The party has been consistently polling second in opinion polls behind the Christian Democrats but neither of the party’s co-leaders, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, visited the areas affected by the flooding.
Mr Habeck however insisted the decision was an attempt to avoid politicising the natural disaster, saying: “I would just be a politician who stands in the way and somehow wants to be in the picture
“This catastrophe — that is for many people an environmental catastrophe — is already being interpreted politically,” he said.
“Extreme weather events like these are happening more often and becoming more severe, while time is running out to tackle the issue.
“A singular occurrence is a singular occurrence, and certainly has many causes and reasons.
“The complexity and frequency of singular occurrences is a strong indication that something is changing … the number of natural catastrophes is growing, and we’re going to have to reckon with even more of them.”