Germany's Greens want power plants shut as price of coalition

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s Greens said on Monday that closing the country’s 20 dirtiest coal-fired power stations would be a key condition of any coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives after this month’s election.

FILE PHOTO: Baden-Wuerttemberg state Premier Winfried Kretschmann of the environmental Greens (Die Gruenen) party and party co-leaders Simone Peter (R) and Cem Ozdemir (L) address a news conference at the Green's party headquarters in Berlin, Germany March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Greens co-leader Cem Ozdemir said he wanted to anchor the fight against climate change as the core “philosophy” of the next government, particularly given the backdrop of recent severe weather - from flooding in Germany to drought in southern Europe.

“It is almost as if nature is trying to speak to us,” Ozdemir told journalists on a solar-powered boat anchored in Berlin, which the Greens planned to sail past Merkel’s office later in the day.

Polls show Merkel’s conservatives are likely to win the Sept. 24 election with around 38 percent of the vote but will need a coalition partner to govern, with options including a ‘Jamaica coalition’ of the conservatives, the Greens and the liberal FDP.

The Greens, however, have raised doubts about the viability of such an alliance, as they would be reluctant to work with the FDP. Ozdemir highlighted the gulf between these two parties, noting that a leading member of the FDP had branded links between recent extreme weather events and climate change as “fake news”.

“We will talk to everybody but not about everything,” Ozdemir said of potential coalition negotiations.

Support for the Greens is on 8 percent in the latest polls but a Forsa survey showed half of Germans would welcome the Greens being part of the new government.

A study last week showed that Germany is set to miss its goal to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by a far wider margin than previously thought.

“Instead of being world champions in climate protection, we are world champions in lignite coal,” Ozdemir said, noting that Germany’s CO2 emissions have been rising for eight years.

Once dubbed the ‘climate chancellor’ for pushing other wealthy nations to address climate change, Merkel has come under fire for not moving Germany fast enough to cut its reliance on fossil fuels as it phases out nuclear power.

Merkel has suggested that Germany should eventually consider phasing out lignate coal power plants to help it cut CO2 emissions, but she is treading carefully as the move could hit tens of thousands of jobs.

Ozdemir said the Greens would demand that any government it joins must allot 1 billion euros ($1.2 bln) a year to improve public transport and cycle paths, and should push for improved CO2 emissions trading at a European level.

($1 = 0.8335 euros)

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Susan Fenton